Today, The Jewish Daily Forward published Kenneth L. Marcus's op-ed about a joint statement, which was written by Kenneth Stern, the American Jewish Committee's president, and Cary Nelson, the American Association of University Professors' president. As I describe on my blog, Marcus congratulates the AJC for retracting the statement. But the AAUP has not retracted it. The AAUP-AJC statement concerns three law suits alleging antisemitic and violent harassment at Berkeley, Rutgers and UC Santa Cruz. In it, Stern and Nelson claim that the suits are an attempt to silence criticism of Israel. But the suits allege physical violence against Jews in contexts that do not involve any sort of academic or public debate. For instance, Berkeley's Jessica Felber alleges that she was rammed by a shopping cart; Professor Mel Gordon alleges that he was beaten. In his op-ed Marcus writes approvingly of the AJC's apparent retraction of the joint statement. But the AAUP has not retracted it. Might I detect a whiff of antisemitism at the AAUP?
Inside Higher Ed interviewed NAS president Peter Wood on his thoughts on the AAUP's statement, released today, on academic freedom for professors who take sides in controversies. While NAS agrees with the AAUP on some parts of the statement, and on the importance of protecting academic freedom, we disagree on some fundamental levels. Wood said that the AAUP appears to be "trying to create a firewall around faculty" so that "no one other than faculty has a legitimate place at the table," when the conduct of a faculty member is being discussed.
Stanley Fish seems to be seeking the middle ground on revisions to Penn State's policy authorized by the faculty Senate, and now awaiting approval by PSU's president. Particularly unfortunate was the removal of a provision stipulating that academic freedom did not grant professors license to indoctrinate their students or to use their classrooms as bully pulpit for flogging their favorite political or social issues. NAS is dismayed.
David Moshman, professor of educational psychology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has an excellent article at the Huffington Post on what academic freedom means, according to the AAUP's 1915 Declaration of Principles. NAS has written frequently on this elusive meaning, and we agree with the 1915 Declaration. As one of the foremost defenders of intellectual liberty and sound practice in higher education, this is a theme close to our hearts. Moshman rebuts the common notion that academic freedom is a privilege strictly for tenured professors. Instead, he writes, the 1915 Declaration indicates that academic freedom:
(1) is intended to serve the common good, (2) relates specifically to matters of intellectual freedom, (3) applies to all teachers regardless of tenure status, and (4) applies to students as well.
Well-put, Professor Moshman. He expands on these points in his article. NAS has outlined our position on academic freedom, in which we affirm that students are entitled to academic freedom (there's even a word for this in German, Lernfreiheit). And we recently argued that anyone (including college administrators) who is committed to the search for truth through rational inquiry and dispassionate and scrupulous use of evidence deserves the protection of academic freedom.
The American Association of University Professors released its Report on 11 September 2007. In that document, the AAUP provides cover for teachers who introduce extraneous, often politically tendentious material into their classes. To rationalize such behavior, the AAUP argues that truth is whatever the members of an academic discipline say it is. In our response, the NAS executive director and president take issue with that and other AAUP contentions.