Academic Freedom News: Ward Churchill, Joel Kovel

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, president@bard.edu, and Executive Vice-President Dimitri Papadimitriou, papadimitriou@bard.edu.

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 (t.j.lassiter@iup.edu) or David Downing (downing@iup.edu). 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.

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8 thoughts on “Academic Freedom News: Ward Churchill, Joel Kovel

  1. Further to your announcement –

    https://openanthropology.wordpress.com/2008/10/17/digitize-this-book-the-politics-of-new-media-or-why-we-need-open-access-now/

    You may be interested in the a review of the book:

    Digitize This Book! The Politics of New Media, or Why We Need Open Access Now
    Gary Hall, University of Minnesota Press

    http://hodges-model.blogspot.com/2009/01/book-review-gary-halls-digitize-this.html

    Since posting this a query prompted the finding that ‘accessibility’ is not in the index. A further post on 1 Feb includes the book’s author and addresses this:

    http://hodges-model.blogspot.com/2009/02/digitize-this-book-book-review-follow.html

    Hodges’ model also includes an Anthropology listing at:

    http://www.p-jones.demon.co.uk/links3.htm

    Kind regards,

    Peter Jones
    Wigan
    Lancashire
    UK

    http://hodges-model.blogspot.com/
    Hodges’ Health Career – Care Domains – Model
    http://www.p-jones.demon.co.uk/
    h2cm: help2Cmore – help-2-listen – help-2-care
    http://twitter.com/h2cm

  2. Excellent, thanks so much. Apologies for the mishap: WordPress automatically marks as spam any message with more than a couple of links, but I was glad to spot this and rescue it.

    Thanks again for visiting and for writing.

  3. I, particularly, appreciate the recognition of the uncertainty of the position of many of what Bosquet calls “contingent” faculty. Most of us at the Community College level operate with the knowledge that we will be “thrown under the bus” in any possible dispute–its easier and cheaper to let us go, particularly adjunct faculty. Did you see my post on the Los Angeles Community College suit filed by James Dobson’s law firm against a speech professor there? Some links to the law firm and the pdf of their filed suit are linked there. If you go to the law firm’s web site where I pulled the pdf link from, you will find the O’Reilly Factor’s story embedded. We all know what is up with that.

    Pam

  4. Thanks very much Pam,

    for anyone else who is interested, your post where you mentioned the details can be found is at:

    http://teachinganthropology.blogspot.com/2009/02/oh-dear-student-sues-la-community.html

    http://www.telladf.org/UserDocs/LopezComplaint.pdf

    There have been similar cases in Canada, on the Christian belief issue. All of last year at Concordia, several other professors and myself had serious trouble with one student whose main purpose of being in anthropology at Concordia was to argue for creationism (no matter what the course), and to insist on casting all Muslims as terrorists (she felt that Muslim bashing was a right), to praise the colonization of native peoples (because they learned to eat with a knife and fork), and the Westernization of Africa (because they lived like filthy monkeys). When challenged — and we have laws against hate speech in Canada — she claimed her academic freedom was under attack, and launched counter complaints.

  5. Hi Max,

    I’m glad to see you you’ve mentioned the Kovel affair. I was just about to send you an article.

    Never mind….

    I remember the stink that swirled out of the mouths of Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly about Ward Churchill back when he was grabbing their tawdry attentions. They likely had never heard of the man before who knows who pointed out the “controversial” passage for which they were then skewering Churchill.

    But I went to see the fellow speak at the Radical Book fair in Baltimore a couple of years ago. He was a decent speaker but I remember being struck by his command of supporting facts and research. I got his book, On the Nature of Roosting Chickens, and was stunned by the level of research in this volume. Eye opening, really, but he does write like someone who is really, really pissed off with US government policy — both historically toward the Native populations of North America and with what we might call “the new Injuns.” Same expansionist policy, different weapons and targets, i.e. people.

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