Issues of academic freedom have been very important on this blog, and current events continue to make them very relevant. Recently I have been writing about the case of Norman Finkelstein (here and here) and I have created an Academic Freedom channel in Open Anthropology TV, that heavily features Finkelstein. I have also written to Finkelstein to inquire about the possibilities of bringing him to speak at Concordia.
Ward Churchill has also been talked about previously on this blog, concerning his impending lawsuit over what many of us saw as his unfair and politically motivated firing from a tenured position at the University of Colorado (see here and here). Churchill’s case is about to go to court, finally, in just a matter of days. A blog has been created that is specifically devoted to covering that case: The Ward Churchill Trial. The trial is scheduled to take place in Denver from 9 March to 27 March. Those interested in following should visit the blog, plus the site of the Ward Churchill Solidarity Network.
The next case comes somewhat closer to home in one particular sense: anthropology. For several years, Joel Kovel worked as an adjunct professor of anthropology at the New School for Social Research.
Joel Kovel, according to news published on 19 February 2009 in Inside Higher Ed has just been effectively fired from his position at Bard College where he has taught since 1988. Unlike Finkelstein (denied tenure), and Churchill (fired from tenure), Kovel held a so-called part-time professorship (many of the part-time professors in fact teach more full-time than I do, and teach upwards of three times as many students as I do in a year, for a fraction of the salary). The statement of the firing from Bard College can be found on Joel Kovel’s website. In addition, Louis Proyect has covered this, and has written his own critical responses to Inside Higher Ed for the quality of its coverage on this issue. A Facebook group in solidarity with Kovel has also been created, with almost 250 members already. Those who wish to write letters of protest to Bard College, are encouraged to do so by writing to President Leon Botstein, firstname.lastname@example.org, and Executive Vice-President Dimitri Papadimitriou, email@example.com.
In response to the case of Kovel as outlined in the article in Inside Higher Ed, Cary Nelson, the President of the American Association of University Professors, wrote the following:
As president of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), I am concerned about the recent termination of Professor Joel Kovel from an appointment at Bard College. His length of service under yearly contracts would appear to grant him an expectation of continued employment under AAUP rules. If pedagogical issues are at stake, opportunity for remediation would be appropriate. While further investigation may be necessary, there is also reason to be concerned that politics—namely his outspoken positions and publications about the Arab-Israeli conflict—may have played a role in this decision. Given that an allegation of a violation of academic freedom has been made against Bard, Professor Kovel is entitled to a full and impartial hearing on that specific charge.
Joel Kovel himself also wrote a response, noting that a fundamental feature of fair review demands that there be no conflict of interest among the reviewers, a principle that is absolutely fundamental to any operation of academic freedom, let alone basic standards of professionalism:
There is a serious omission in [Inside Higher Ed’s Scott] Jaschik’s treatment of my being terminated at Bard College. He correctly states that the findings of the College Evaluation Committee were instrumental in Bard’s decision to let me go. However, he fails to mention that a central aspect of my complaint is that this committee was improperly constituted, in that at least one of its members was heavily involved in Zionist politics, and indeed worked on matters about which I had taken a very public, anti-Zionist stand. The Faculty Handbook of Bard states clearly that such an evaluator should recuse himself, which was not done. Therefore the findings on the basis of which I am to be let go, are to be considered bogus. The reader is urged to follow the evolution of this matter.
Regarding academic freedom Marc Bousquet informs us that we can “read Churchill’s essay on the case in a massive, just-released special issue of Works and Days, guest-edited by Edward Carvalho and available for just $12 by emailing Tracy Lassiter (firstname.lastname@example.org) or David Downing (email@example.com). The issue includes important work by a huge lineup: Derrick Bell, Joe Berry, Michael Bérubé, Eric Cheyfitz, Noam Chomsky, Grant Farred, Norman Finkelstein, Henry Giroux, Sophia McClennen, Randy Martin, Ellen Messer-Davidow, Cary Nelson, R. Radhakrishnan, Bruce Robbins, Susan Searls Giroux, Cornel West, and Jeffrey Williams, and many others, including….” Marc Bousquet.
See: Works and Days 51-54: Academic Freedom and Intellectual Activism in the Post-9/11 University. (press release)
And finally, remember: Fuck Copyright. Not I don’t mean just as a general principle, I mean the blog at http://fuckcopyright.blogspot.com/. It’s actually titled Anti-Copyright, but I think there is something more memorable about the URL itself. The point of this is that “you” can now download free audio books by some of the leading authors that have tried to create spaces for critical, free thought, from Howard Zinn, to Noam Chomsky, to Ward Churchill. Check it out.