Tag Archives: academic freedom


A Response to Critics of Tenure

In the past month, I’ve been in at least four meetings in which tenure has been heavily criticized by those who do not have it or operate outside academe.

As an educational historian, I have written extensively about tenure and academic freedom, especially within the black-college environment. As a professor, I think about my own tenure weekly. I may do this more often than most professors due to the fact that I write a lot of op-ed essays and I’m fairly outspoken. I’m grateful to have tenur…


A Culture of Evasion

The dreadful scandal at Penn State reached another level on July 12, with the 250-page report of former FBI director Louis Freeh to the university’s board of trustees, culminating a seven-month independent investigation. The report makes clear the complicity of senior officials at the university in covering up convicted child molester and former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky’s sexual assaults on children. The officials include head football coach, the late Joe Paterno, university p…


Gay Marriage, Climate Change, and Academic Freedom

I oppose same sex marriage. I am agnostic on the extent to which human activities contribute to global warming or climate change and whether the phenomena themselves warrant the major economic dislocations that are proposed as remedies.

In both cases, my positions appear to be at substantial distance from the opinions that prevail in American higher education. And I hasten to add, they are my opinions, not positions taken by the National Association of Scholars. NAS has taken no position on gay …


The AAUP: Taking Its Eye off the Ball

I have been a member of the American Association of University Professors since I became a faculty member in 2000. A mentor and senior-level professor encouraged me to join during my first faculty position. In addition, my dissertation touched upon issues of academic freedom at historically black colleges and universities, making me familiar with the need for AAUP and the protection of tenure and shared governance.

As a member, I have been active over the years, serving as the chair of the Com…


What Is Advocacy?

Yesterday I had the opportunity to debate Ernst Benjamin on the merits of the AAUP’s report, Ensuring Academic Freedom in Politically Controversial Academic Personnel Decisions. The occasion was the AAUP’s annual conference on the state of higher education held this year at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC. John K. Wilson had set up the debate and served as moderator and critic of both the report and my critique of it. Peter Schmidt reported  the event for the Chronicle of Higher Educat…


Untenuring Tenure

Should tenure be abolished? Naomi Schaefer Riley argues that it should. Her new book, The Faculty Lounges and Other Reasons Why You Won’t Get the College Education You Paid For, is a Navy Seal Team Six-style assault on Fortress Tenure: quick, precise, and conducted with air of finality.

That is not to say that she overcomes all my ambivalence on the topic. The tenure system in American colleges and universities does have overwhelming faults. It forces tenure-track faculty members to concentrate …


Cronon’s Whirlwind

Last week Stephan Thompson, deputy executive director of the Wisconsin Republican Party, filed an Open Records Law request asking the University of Wisconsin to turn over copies of e-mails from William J. Cronon, a tenured professor of environmental history. The request appears to have been prompted by Professor Cronon’s political activism. On March 15, Cronon published a long blog post titled “Who’s Really Behind Recent Republican Legislation in Wisconsin and Elsewhere? (Hint: It Didn’t Sta…


Invigorating the Classroom: Ernst Benjamin Responds to Peter Wood

Ernst Benjamin, chair of the AAUP subcommittee “Ensuring Academic Freedom In Politically Controversial Academic Personnel Decisions” and former General Secretary of the AAUP:

Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars, argues in a recent blog post, “Politicizing the Classroom,” that the AAUP’s report “Ensuring Academic Freedom in Politically Controversial Academic Personnel Decisions” is an effort to politicize the university rather than to improve the quality of student l…


Politicizing the Classroom, Part Two

In Part One of this post, I began a review of the new report from the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) titled Ensuring Academic Freedom in Politically Controversial Academic Personnel Decisions. The report is, in effect, a mask for the effort to politicize the university even further. The “controversies” it would protect the university from arise not, as the AAUP would have it, mostly from the “intrusion” of outside parties, but from the attempt to use the university as a pla…


‘Potentially Evangelical’

Martin Gaskell is an astronomer who specializes in super-massive black holes, such as the one that lies at the heart of own galaxy. He recently tripped, however, and fell into a different kind of black hole — the kind reserved for academics in certain fields who are suspected of being tepid in their disdain for creationism and insufficiently hardy in their support for evolution.

Gaskell is an odd pick for this role. He is as sturdy an orthodox scientist as one might find. With a Ph.D. from the U…