Editor's Introduction - Volume 3

By Cary Nelson

With this, the third annual issue of the AAUP Journal of Academic Freedom, we make good for the first time on our pledge to publish essays that carry on a debate with one another. The 2011 volume of JAF opened with two essays highly critical of the pedagogy, philosophy, and politics of the growing assessment and accountability movement—John Champagne’s “Teaching in the Corporate University: Assessment as a Labor Issue” and John W. Powell’s “Outcomes Assessment: Conceptual and Other Problems.” I suggested then that I would welcome a quality counter-argument, and now we are pleased to publish Dave Porter’s thoughtful “Assessment as a Subversive Activity.” In the intervening year, of course, the federal government has proposed to become far more heavily involved in evaluating college teacher training programs, so the relevance of all three essays has increased. We invite you to read the three essays as a group as an aid in thinking through a trend of mounting influence.

The other essay in dialogue with an earlier JAF publication is Ward Churchill’s “In Response to Ellen Schrecker’s ‘Ward Churchill at the Dalton Trumbo Fountain.’” Schrecker’s piece appeared in our 2010 inaugural issue. Churchill’s essay appears here in combination with a highly detailed “Report on the Termination of Ward Churchill” coauthored by three members of the Colorado state conference of the AAUP. Given that a significant number of scholarly essays have already been published on the Churchill case, Schrecker’s among them, it may surprise some to find that both Churchill’s essay here and the Colorado conference report contain considerable new information that has not appeared in print before. Churchill’s is the most prominent—and, with its multiple reviews by the university and the courts, probably the most complex—political firing of a tenured faculty member in more than a generation, and it is likely that it will continue to be a subject of debate and research.

Several other essays continue traditions established in our previous issues. Curtis J. Good’s “The Dismissal of Ralph Turner: A Historical Case Study of Events at the University of Pittsburgh” investigates a historical example of a fundamental violation of academic freedom and shared governance. We have been lucky to have a comparable historical study in each of our issues. We believe such research is among the most valuable kinds we can publish. Jeff Dyche’s “The US Air Force Academy: Elite Undergraduate College?” on the other hand evaluates a contemporary institution, an equally challenging and necessary JAF tradition. And Stephen Aby and Dave Witt contribute “Negotiating Academic Freedom: A Cautionary Tale,” another in a series about collective bargaining. The story they tell is but one of a series of challenges to academic freedom that have arisen at the bargaining table in a variety of states.

Finally, JAF branches out in two new directions. First, a multiple author report offers a system-wide evaluation of how California’s budget cuts are impacting curriculum, opportunity, and academic freedom, in “Cooking the Goose That Lays the Golden Eggs.” Then Ramola Ramtohul’s “Academic Freedom in a State-Sponsored African University: The Case of the University of Mauritius” and Malika Rebai Maamri’s “Academic Freedom in Principle and Practice: The Case of Algeria” take JAF for the first time to consideration of academic freedom abroad. Readers will note both similarities and differences between Africa and the US in the ways the essays’ authors negotiate the relationship between academic freedom as a social contract and a principle of university governance.

Back to contents