Posts Tagged ‘free speech’

Question: Randy, can you explain why the concept of tenure is so important to teachers in universities? I understand somewhat its origins in the 60s and 70s and the desire of teachers to speak freely, but what makes teachers different than other professions?

Answer: Tenure is much older than the 60s or 70s. It goes back to the teens. The troubles began in the 1890s when college faculty members were routinely fired for advocating unpopular (often new, often true) ideas. There were a number of cases, such as Sheldon who was fired from Boston University for unpopular views on the Bible, and culminating in a series of cases in the teens. The American Association of University Professors formed to advocate the value to a free society of protections for persons who were likely to be generating ideas that were uncomfortable to those benefiting from the status quo. The institution of tenure was devised to protect academic freedom. It isn’t a perfect plan, far from it. But a free society requires some ways of safe-guarding the free flow of ideas among those who have earned the right through diligence, productivity, loyalty to their institutions and students, to enjoy some protection for speaking the truth as they see it. That protection now traditionally belongs to tenured university and college faculty members, among whom I am to be counted. Assuming I live a morally acceptable life beyond the academy, and that I perform my assigned duties, I can express my opinions within my discipline without fear of reprisal for their being controversial, or threatening to the beneficiaries of current received opinion, or even if those views are radically out of line with what is now regarded as knowledge. Knowing me as you do, it may not surprise you to learn that I say unpopular things that could get me fired if I were not protected, but I do not say them to stand out; I say what I honestly believe, and I expect to have those views tolerated and never censored. I have earned the right to this protection, and unlike most people, I earned it twice, at different institutions. I do not take my speech lightly, and I intent to do whatever is within my power to insure that people like me, who have earned this kind of protection, are still able to speak their minds without fear of petty or unjustified reprisal, in the future. As Sarah says above, if they can stifle me in Illinois, at a public institution, they can much more easily stifle people in benighted places like Oklahoma. (I speak from extensive first-hand knowledge.) Our struggle here will have implications all over the nation. Illinois has the best labor law in the country, from a worker’s point of view. If we can’t protect tenure, no one can. You asked.

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Kristi Brownfield of GA United read a powerful statement in defense of free speech at SIUC at this morning’s open forum with the Board of Trustees. It concludes:

This administration seems more interested in power than people. Any policies that protect the established power of the status quo over the expressive power of a free people are policies that must be overturned. The students here recognize that. It was our voices inside the Student Center, outside of Anthony Hall and the Stone Center, throughout campus, on Facebook, and online — calling for accountability, fairness, and transparency. That is what we want from this university. That is not what we have been getting. We expect better and in the future we hope to work with the administration to ensure we get that better. Together we can heal this damage to create a better SIUC for today and tomorrow.

Read the full statement at GA United’s blog.

From a faculty member:

WBEZ, the NPR station in Chicago, ran a story today about Joe Paterno and Penn State. They have yet to run a story about SIU and the strike. So, I wrote this in response to them:

Hey, WBEZ, the last time I checked, Penn State was in Pennsylvania. Southern Illinois University is in Illinois and a majority the students at SIU are from Chicago. (How many Chicagoans are at Penn State?)

SIU had a week-long faculty strike, the first in the school’s history, and hundreds (some say thousands) of students, in three separate marches, on three different days, marched beside the striking faculty. What else happened? The university censored its Facebook page and then blocked anyone who wrote anything that challenged the Administration. Striking faculty were electronically shut out of their emails, and online sites that contained their course materials. And the administration fought furiously to undermine tenure and all that it means. But none of this is important, is it? Because it’s not about a football coach in another state. Shame on you, WBEZ. Here’s a site where you can begin your journey to southern part of the state. https://occupysiuc.wordpress.com/

The media should be reporting on the powerful actions by the students of SIUC. Let’s pressure them to do so.

meanwhile in little egypt, part 3

Posted today on Socialistworker.org:

The key issues in the strike flow from SIU Chancellor Rita Cheng and SIU President Glen Poshard’s attempts to impose a “corporate education” model on the school. As one student and Navy veteran asked in an open letter, “Is SIUC just after my government benefits after all? Like [the for-profit] University of Phoenix?”

“What is at stake here,” said striking professor Jyostna Kapur, “is the education of working class and middle class students. The administration wants to cheat our students of a good education by trying to make us work for more and more with less and less at a time when working class and middle class students are going into debt for this education.”

Read the full article.

Thanks to the QueerillaCollective for making this video that addresses current issues happening at SIUC.

CALL THE ADMINISTRATION:
Board of Trustees 618-536-3357
Chancellor Cheng 618-453-2341
President Poshard 618-536-3331

“I brought Occupy SIUC to Occupy Duluth tonight: I wanted SO BADLY to stand side by side with my professors and friends during this week’s faculty strikes that I made a sign and waived it around on Duluth’s busiest intersection all by myself ♥. DEAR ADMINISTRATION: PLEASE SETTLE. Even all the way up here in Duluth, MN we support SIUC’s professors. Why won’t you?”-Cory Hussein Dack

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

[Edit: Here is the interview referenced below ]

We just received this email:

Moments ago, I just heard Chancellor Rita Cheng on WSIU radio. I have two things I would like to request you post to your blog.

#1
Chancellor Cheng claimed that the only posts that were deleted from the SIU Facebook page were ones containing vulgar language. She then went on to say that at 3am, the one staff member who was monitoring the site had the page locked down, to prevent further inflammitory comments. She did not mention the many comments that were not vulgar, but simply asked the administration to settle, yet were deleted. Even now days later, SIUC is not being honest about what happened. Could you ask your blog readers to call Chancellor Cheng for clarification?

#2
Chancellor Cheng also mentioned that some students have started a petition stating they now prefer their faculty replacement. Could you ask your blog readers to call Chancellor Cheng to make this petition available to the public. How many students have signed it? In the interest of transparency, let us see it.

If you do wish to call the administration:
Chancellor Rita Cheng 618-453-2341
SIUC Board of Trustees 618-536-3357
President Glen Poshard 618-536-3357

Message from Randy Hughes, President of the Faculty Association:

Today, Wednesday, November 9th, we’re still on strike. But there is good news, too. In twelve hours of negotiations, our bargaining team made progress on a number of fronts. We are near agreement on language that will ensure that we retain our right to pursue our Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge concerning the unilateral imposition of furlough days last spring. And there was also some progress on countering the inflammatory and disrespectful language in the BOT back to work proposal. But at 9:00 pm the two bargaining teams mutually agreed to break off work for the night and return to the bargaining table at 9:30 am on Wednesday.

Slow progress, while better than no progress at all, is frustrating. And we all want to be in the classroom rather than on the picket line. But it’s important to remember everything that our hard work and resolve has enabled us to achieve so far. We’ve protected tenure. We’ve ensured that administrators cannot force faculty to teach distance education against our own academic judgement. We’ve strengthened shared governance by strengthening the faculty’s ability to control their own operating papers. We’ve reached a workable compromise on overload pay. And we’ve established a schedule for dealing with procedures concerning Conflict of Interest and Sexual Harassment.

Most heartening of all may well be the incredible support we’ve received from SIUC students. Their support has not only helped us achieve progress at the bargaining table, but is a victory in itself – a victory for our university, its students, and the bond between faculty and students on campus.

While we’ve made much progress, several important issues remain. The BOT proposal on furloughs, while it has been improved since the terms imposed on us in the spring, still fails to provide adequate transparency and accountability. Their back to work proposal would not provide for the make up days we would like to offer to students whose classes have been covered by unqualified substitutes. While it contains new language protecting actions taken in support of the strike, it still gives the false impression that faculty have engaged in misconduct and threats. And the administration is still unwilling to offer us the same chance for securing fair share that it has offered other locals.

These issues are worth fighting for. And if we remain united in our commitment to securing a fair agreement, we have every reason to believe that we can reach one sooner rather than later.