Monday, September 8, 2014

Free Speech? For Professors, All It Costs Is a Paycheck

The Chronicle of Higher Education - Vitae
September 8th, 2014



While many critics have framed the “Salaita Affair” as a crisis of academic freedom, I see it more as an attack on speech in general.
Steven G. Salaita was preparing to move into a tenured post at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign when its chancellor blocked his appointment because of harsh remarks he made about Israel. Any number of commentators have already pointed out that the Tweets in question had nothing to do with the subject matter that Salaita teaches or with his scholarly interests. I’ve also visited his Twitter page, and as far as I can tell he is not claiming to represent anyone but himself. In short, when he made those comments, he was speaking as a private citizen. And that is precisely the issue here.
I’m not denying that academic freedom is taking a beating all over the country. But what is even more endangered, it seems to me, is the right of faculty members to speak their mind outside of the classroom, off-campus, and apart from their contractual duties. In return for a paycheck, faculty members are increasingly expected to surrender their personal beliefs on controversial topics, lest—God forbid—they say something that might “embarrass the institution.”


While many critics have framed the “Salaita Affair” as a crisis of academic freedom, I see it more as an attack on speech in general.
Steven G. Salaita was preparing to move into a tenured post at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign when its chancellor blocked his appointment because of harsh remarks he made about Israel. Any number of commentators have already pointed out that the Tweets in question had nothing to do with the subject matter that Salaita teaches or with his scholarly interests. I’ve also visited his Twitter page, and as far as I can tell he is not claiming to represent anyone but himself. In short, when he made those comments, he was speaking as a private citizen. And that is precisely the issue here.
I’m not denying that academic freedom is taking a beating all over the country. But what is even more endangered, it seems to me, is the right of faculty members to speak their mind outside of the classroom, off-campus, and apart from their contractual duties. In return for a paycheck, faculty members are increasingly expected to surrender their personal beliefs on controversial topics, lest—God forbid—they say something that might “embarrass the institution.”
- See more at: https://chroniclevitae.com/news/693-free-speech-for-professors-all-it-costs-is-a-paycheck#sthash.wyjn0prx.dpuf

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