File under Academic Freedom


Inside Higher Education reports on a conference last week at the New School on Academic Freedom and the University.

“It is by no means clear how much the academic community has learned from the McCarthy years,” said Ellen W. Schrecker, a professor of history at Yeshiva University who, like O’Neil, spoke Thursday during a conference focused on “Free Inquiry at Risk: Universities in Dangerous Times,” held at The New School, in New York City.

Citing some examples, Schrecker mentioned the University of Nebraska’s recent cancellation of a speaking appearance by William Ayers, the education professor whose history with the Weather Underground has played a prominent role in the presidential campaign; the high-profile dismissal of Ward Churchill from the University of Colorado; and the tenure denial of Norman Finkelstein at DePaul University. “Universities are still accommodating themselves to the demands of politicians and other outsiders to eliminate embarrassing faculty members,” Schrecker said.

“In the name of financial exigency and market competitiveness, administrators have been subverting the autonomy of the faculty. Worse yet, faculties are disappearing,” she continued. “Two-thirds, that’s two-thirds of today’s teaching, is being done by what’s known as contingent faculty members. These people, no matter how skilled or qualified they may be, cannot provide the same kind of education as a traditional faculty.” Continue reading

Friday Morning: Spirals of Frustration


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Not to be too narcissistic, but I’m extremely frustrated. All week long I’ve been working on analyzing arguments in my Critical Thinking courses. This week the students were to complete this straightforward (as I naively thought) assignment that I’ve used several times over the last couple of years: Continue reading

Critique, Thinking and the Shock of the Encounter


Larval Subjects concludes a well thought out and interesting response/diagnosis to student malaise (as well as some of the issues raised here, here and here):

In light of the foregoing, it seems that we are faced with two possible pedagogies. If we assume that thought is a natural attribute, an innate disposition, then we will pursue a pedagogy that assumes it is sufficient to explain in order for students to engage in certain forms of intellectual engagements. This seems to lead to much frustration, for in the humanities and social sciences, at least, we discover that very few of the students seem capable of benefiting from our explanations. However, if we begin with the premise that thought is an involuntary result of an encounter that disrupts our habitudes, then we will not be surprised that students have a difficult time distinguishing rhetoric from arguments, recognizing ideology, or discerning deeper strata of texts. Such students have not made the transition from the immediacy of the being in question (language, social organization, texts), to the reflection-into-self that problematizes these phenomenon and turns them into a question.

Since I’ve been on something of an Althusser kick as of late, this kind of materialism and the suggestion that thought is an involuntary result of an encounter that interrupts our habitual formations seems by and large quite correct to me. I don’t have too much time this morning, but here a few thoughts. Continue reading