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From: Len Gutkin
Subject: The Review: A Free-Speech Settlement; Policy and University Sexism; Objectivity
A few months ago, I wrote that the Steven Salaita case was “the most severe violation of academic freedom at an American university in recent years.” I still think that’s a plausible claim, but the University of Mississippi’s treatment of Garrett Felber gives it a run for its money. As
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A few months ago, I wrote that the Steven Salaita case was “the most severe violation of academic freedom at an American university in recent years.” I still think that’s a plausible claim, but the University of Mississippi’s treatment of Garrett Felber gives it a run for its money. As The Chronicle‘s Megan Zahneis reported, Felber, a tenure-track professor, was officially terminated for failing to meet with his chair, Noell Howell Wilson. The real reason was almost certainly his constitutionally protected political speech, including Felber’s criticism of his employer, which, he said, “prioritizes racist donors over all else.” (Read Zahneis’s update, here.)
Felber, represented by the Mississippi Center for Justice, has now reached an agreement with the University of Mississippi “for a confidential amount.” While I’m glad that Felber will be able to move on, a part of me is disappointed that the case never reached the courts. Are such settlements costly enough to deter universities from violating faculty speech in the future, or are they more like insufficiently stiff OSHA fines — the cost of doing unethical business? Without strong rebukes from the judiciary, there’s no reason to think that public universities won’t continue their recent assaults on faculty autonomy and faculty speech.
The Pandemic and Academic Women
“Most countries have safety nets; the United States has women.” That’s Jessica Calarco, a sociologist at Indiana University. Her epigram is a sort of slogan for a recent Chronicle roundtable on the pandemic’s inequitable impact. The problem, in other words, can’t be adequately resolved at the level of the university or the workplace because it reflects far larger deficits in social policy. This is both encouraging (it suggests that policy solutions are in theory available) and infuriating (the U.S. seems incapable of enacting them). As Robinson W. Fulweiler, another participant, put it, “We felt pretty frustrated and fired up, because these are all solvable problems. They’ve been solved in other countries; it’s not like we have to reinvent the wheel here.”
The Chronicle Review has long been covering Covid’s gendered consequences. Last August, Aurélie Vialette — who gave birth in New York City, during the pandemic’s peak there — described her university’s scanty maternity-leave policies. And in March, Rose Casey argued that the pandemic had laid bare Americans’ reliance on publicly-supported institutions like schools. “We need more of these socialized forms of care in ordinary times.”
The ReviewWomen, who were already disproportionately burdened, have been hit especially hard by the pandemic. How should institutions of higher learning respond?
- “Every country has an investment in its own mythology. But what’s so hard about the United States is that no other country was founded on these ideals of liberty.” That’s Nikole Hannah-Jones in conversation with Noah Feldman on Feldman’s podcast, Deep Background. It’s a rich and fascinating conversation about “The 1619 Project,” history and myth, journalistic objectivity, and the unique power of The New York Times. For more on these topics, see my interviews with the historians Matt Karp and Daryl Scott.
- “Is it even possible to do one’s work wholly as a reporter knowing that truth is specious, or, at best, a faulty enterprise? Speedboat is, among other things, about the tension between our subjective self, and the objective eye, the thing we see, and the stuff we feel.” At Granta, Hilton Als on Renata Adler’s Speedboat. Incidentally, I saw Adler read from Speedboat around the time of the novel’s NYRB re-release, and during the Q + A she offered a wonderful endorsement of Gabriel Garcia Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. I wish I’d written it down, but it went something like this: “For 30 years people kept telling me One Hundred Years of Solitude is a great book. I kept starting it. It was unreadable. I hated it. Then, last year, I picked it up, started reading it, and was transfixed. One Hundred Years of Solitude is the greatest novel I have ever read.”
- “Most electronic music tools (along with the guitar, piano, and wind instruments) are set by default to a tuning system called equal temperament, which is the foundation of most Western classical music from the past two centuries.” At Pitchfork, Tom Faber on Kyham Allami’s efforts to develop music software that can accommodate microtonality and other features of non-Western music.