Friday, October 17, 2014

Opinion | Our Collective Conscience, Under Attack

Valdosta Today
October 14th, 2014


Steven Salaita was offered a position in the American Indian Studies Program at the University of Illinois. Following a slew of tweets by the former Virginia Tech professor which were overtly oppositional to Israeli military policy, the University of Illinois rescinded their offer to Salaita—which has prompted a firestorm of controversy inside higher education and in the mass media.
And rightfully so.
Salaita contends that as a scholar his academic freedom was unilaterally violated. The notion of academic freedom is the central tenant of academic life. Now, I’m not here to speak to the merits of Salaita’s argument—in fact, I may not agree with some of the things he tweeted; however, I believe that if we allow the University of Illinois, generally, and Phyllis Wise, chancellor of the university system, specifically, to debase the basic notion of academic freedom, the implications for society at-large are replete.
Academic freedom is the belief that university faculty should be free from reprisal in their academic pursuits; that if their views or research are controversial, they should be insulated from the discordant philosophies, and prevailing social and political winds of the day. Why does this matter? If the greatest minds among us feel compelled to hedge their arguments, refrain from certain avenues of inquiry, or placate to public opinion—we’re all the worse because of it.

Steven Salaita was offered a position in the American Indian Studies Program at the University of Illinois. Following a slew of tweets by the former Virginia Tech professor which were overtly oppositional to Israeli military policy, the University of Illinois rescinded their offer to Salaita—which has prompted a firestorm of controversy inside higher education and in the mass media.
And rightfully so.
Salaita contends that as a scholar his academic freedom was unilaterally violated. The notion of academic freedom is the central tenant of academic life. Now, I’m not here to speak to the merits of Salaita’s argument—in fact, I may not agree with some of the things he tweeted; however, I believe that if we allow the University of Illinois, generally, and Phyllis Wise, chancellor of the university system, specifically, to debase the basic notion of academic freedom, the implications for society at-large are replete.
Academic freedom is the belief that university faculty should be free from reprisal in their academic pursuits; that if their views or research are controversial, they should be insulated from the discordant philosophies, and prevailing social and political winds of the day. Why does this matter? If the greatest minds among us feel compelled to hedge their arguments, refrain from certain avenues of inquiry, or placate to public opinion—we’re all the worse because of it.
- See more at: http://valdostatoday.com/2014/10/opinion-our-collective-conscience-under-attack/#sthash.RuEfz4FR.dpuf

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