Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The academy’s first freedom fighters

January 6th, 2015

Last year, the treatment of three academics ignited a public debate about academic freedom.
American academic Steven Salaita hit the headlines in the summer. He had accepted a position as professor of American Indian studies at the University of Illinois and resigned his existing post, only to find his job offer had been rescinded. Reports claimed Salaita’s appointment was overruled by institutional managers once they became aware of his proclivity for sending anti-Semitic tweets. A recently published internal investigation criticised ‘the use of civility as a standard in making hiring decisions’. Salaita’s case is still under review and the university is attempting to reach a financial settlement with him.
In the UK, Thomas Docherty, a professor of English and comparative literature, and a renowned critic of government higher-education policy, was suspended from his post at Warwick University for nine months over allegations of insubordination towards his head of department. He stood accused of sarcasm and inappropriate sighing in job interviews. Docherty has since been reinstated and, although he’s faced with a hefty legal bill, all charges against him have been dropped.

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