A recent report by the American Association of University Professors shows that academic freedom is caught up in an economic and ideological Pinsar movement. This is especially bad news for academics who question diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. This is even more difficult for those who are sympathetic but have limited opportunities to promote their DEI, as they compete for short-term-track faculty lines and at the same time face new DEI requirements for terms.
According to the report, 53.5 percent of the companies surveyed have replaced the line of tenure with contingent recruitment in the last five years. Administrators do this because they see correctly that ancillary locations allow for cheaper and greater institutional flexibility. As my colleague Michael Polyakoff mentioned, the expiration method has advantages and disadvantages and it may be reasonable to reconsider. But any reconsideration must also take academic independence into account, as administrators take advantage of the ancillary agreement to get rid of professors who challenge positions that challenge campus orthodoxy.
Consider the case of Gregory Manco, a former visiting assistant professor of mathematics at St. Joseph University, where he has taught since 2005. In the spring of 2021, he was put on leave and investigated for a post on his personal Twitter account. In response to a report that the Biden administration is studying compensation for black Americans, he tweeted, “Suppose your great-grandfather killed someone. The victim’s grandchildren are knocking on your door, showing you clippings of the 1905 newspaper and demanding compensation from you. Your response? For now, get rid of this racist compensation nonsense. “
Manco’s language is clearly abrasive, and his analogy is incomplete. Compensation, however, is a highly controversial issue and inevitably the material for strong and controversial debates. But when the students complained, he was put on leave. The compulsory leave was unreasonable, and the university found no basis for further disciplining him. Nevertheless, the university has decided not to renew its contract, arguably due to its external statements. He is now suing for discrimination and the case is in court.
Nonrenewal examples to punish unwanted ideas are, of course, plentiful. In the past two years, Colin College in Texas has decided not to renew the contracts of three professors, Michael Phillips, Adra Heslip and Susan Jones, all of whom have spoken out against the college’s COVID-19 policy. In 2020, Colin College also decided not to renew Laura Burnett’s contract when she tweeted during the vice president debate that “the moderator should talk to Mike Pence until he closes his little monster mouth.” He sued and was paid 70,000.
These episodes illustrate what can happen when the contingent faculty says something that attracts negative attention. They also encourage self-censorship, as other contingent faculties see what can happen if they go out of line. Unlike permanent faculties, administrators do not need to sue and dismiss them for a reason. They can’t renew a one or two year contract down the road.
However it is the DEI initiative that presents a particularly broad challenge to the academic independence of all faculties. Even those who manage to secure a term-track position may have their academic independence threatened by DEI, as the AAUP report found that 21.5 percent of respondent organizations incorporate DEI criteria into their term criteria.
The report does not elaborate on what these standards are, nor does it recognize them as a threat to academic independence, but rather states that “the AAUP policy does not provide sufficient grounds to oppose the practice and standards that DEI promotes in general.” This is probably not surprising, since AAUP has not spoken out against the requirement for diversity statements and has defended positive steps in admissions. Consider, however, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which plans to issue a statement of diversity as part of its tenure process. A guideline for the process produced by the university states, “Given the significance of DEI to the success of the university, it is important when deciding on promotions and tenure to understand how faculty have contributed to the DEI mission – just as important as how they are in university research, teaching and service missions. You can understand that he has contributed. ” So the requirements for tenure and promotion are research, teaching, service এবং and DEI? One of them is not like the others.
Such a requirement is clearly a political litmus test. If there are almost an infinite number of subjects worth studying, it is an attempt to force each faculty member to turn his or her work towards a specific subject. It is a principle that only a university committee whose members can be immersed in their own ideology. Do we really have to make every political scientist in a university work in DEI somehow? Should mathematics professors be concerned about how they can firmly claim that when they are advancing the DEI cause for the term?
Academic independence demands that such requirements be removed from the tenure (and recruitment) process. It also requires finding ways to protect those who do not have an expiration date. Until we make these changes, the AAUP report suggests that the next generation of scholars will find themselves increasingly stuck in the insecurity of panic and the orthodoxy needed for the term.