Since late summer, Daily Academic Freedom has become monthly academic freedom. Daily blogging in the first half of the year taught me a lot about academic freedom, but it took its toll on me, and I had to take a break. While I don’t often make an appearance here any more, I have continued to work on academic freedom.
Regular readers will recall that in September I launched a new monthly online column with University Affairs — Dispatches on Academic Freedom. Today, my third dispatch went live. In this latest column, I weigh the need to hold up university ideals against the reality that many university personnel work in far from ideal conditions. How best should we understand academic freedom in a context in which, according to a recent study, fewer than 47% of university professors are tenure-stream? Here’s an excerpt:
I have often been emboldened by my tenure in moments that required courage from me as a scholar. In my teaching, my research and my administrative work, when I am wavering about whether I have the nerve to say a difficult or unpopular thing, I have gotten into the habit of reminding myself that tenure is precious, and that it exists precisely so that professors can go out on a limb. The protection of tenure has made me a better scholar and a better citizen of academe.
By contrast, when contract faculty similarly waver in moments that require courage, they simply cannot afford to take the risks that I can. For instance, taking a pedagogical risk can produce bad course evaluation forms, which might disincline a department to reappoint a sessional instructor. A university might be similarly disinclined to reappoint a contract research professor who takes a public stance on a controversial issue.
Read the whole column here.
In other news, I was delighted to be able to sing the praises of Scholars at Risk’s wonderful MOOC (massive open online course), Dangerous Questions as part of SAR’s latest “Spotlight feature.” (In the screenshot below, I’m the cheerful outdoorsy person with the glasses and the big scarf.) Read more here.
As well, September’s panel discussion at Cape Breton University on equity, academic freedom and freedom of expression is in the process of becoming a special issue of a journal. I’ll share more on that as the project emerges.
Finally, I’m very much looking forward to participating in a meeting this Friday hosted by Women’s and Gender Studies, New College, U of T, “Within and Against Academic Freedom.” If you’re in or near Toronto, come and check it out!
In addition to these exciting things I’m working on, I have a ton to report to you about academic freedom and related campus free speech issues. I promise another post soon with updates on that front.