Category Archives: What Is A Scholar?

On academic freedom

This study explores the history of academic freedom in America through the focus of three interpretive models–the Gentleman Scientist Model, the Liberty Model, and the Professional Model–to show how the concept evolved over the past century. It examines violations of academic freedom, AAUP statements, and debates about the meaning of academic freedom to show how it remains a contested concept. It concludes that by studying the origins and changes in the idea of academic freedom in America, current controversies can be better understood.

That is a dissertation abstract, and the dissertation is fascinating.

During the Great War, the AAUP decided the concept of academic freedom did not apply, and condemned rather than support the many faculty dismissed for their antiwar beliefs. The Nation was appalled.

The Nation magazine criticized the AAUP report as “a serious disappointment” arguing that “By rejecting this principle, the committee, for the period of the war, hands over the keys of the castle to the enemy…” and “jeopards the very conception of a university” (“The Professors in Battle Array,” 1918). The Nation argued, “surely the university, as the home of freedom, should not go out of its way to impose on its members, in addition to these, other restrictions that are not laid on other members of the community” (“The Professors in Battle Array,” 1918).

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Cannibalizing

Working at a university that is cannibalizing itself, in department that is, and a state that is, is disheartening and it is hard not to feel downhearted, not to feel joy. I used to be energized by work and inspired by what happened on campus — it was why I liked school — but here I only feel sad and ashamed.

Earlier on my poststructuralist education was disconcerting to me, being who I was. The messages I received were: you must not trust yourself, but decenter yourself; you should not trust your thoughts; and your words cannot mean what you believe them to mean. I was arguing against these ideas in my beautifully written, yet malformed dissertation and it was very visceral.

These topics are still hard to write near. To write, you must trust yourself and your words to some degree, and you must place your voice in your work. It is not enough just not to yell at yourself. You also have to trust yourself. You have to believe you are real. You also have to believe you do not deserve destruction. You have to believe you have value of at least some kind.

I would like to believe I had some sort of value. Once I did not question my own value. Questioning of the value of people was not part of the world then.

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Non-pecuniary

After I finish “Language and the entrepreneurial university” I will write a piece on the non-pecuniary benefits of learning, and some of the beginning ideas are here.

I am working on these ideas in part because somehow I do not feel NOT authorized to do so. I struggle with problems of authority when I author.

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Botones de pensamiento que buscan ser la rosa

* The thing is that the very idea of the public, the commons, is what have come under attack from Reagan forward. Now these foundations are trying to rebuild it under their own sign. It all seems cozy, the way working for Apple does while you are under their bubble in the U.S., but … even if the government withers away … these corporations are still ideological state apparati, and only shareholders can vote.

* Also just the way in which universities have gotten more authoritarian. Meetings are no longer held. All conversation is one-on-one. That creates an unprofessional situation with energy-draining gossip, since one there is no straight answer on what priorities are or any group decision on this. This is very manipulative. It is said to be corporate-style management but my friends in business seem to be allowed to talk to each other in a way the way the university no longer wants us to. I learned to be faculty back when there was shared governance, so I am still in the habit of asking questions one could ask back then, as in “Are we planning to…?” Now, these questions are no longer understood as mere requests for information. Instead, they’re hostile questions: how dare a mere professor think about planning, the future, the program, or expect to speak collegially with an administrator?

* The real question here is not who did what but whether in cases of abusive faculty and/or chairs there are systems in place to protect students, academic programs, and institutions of higher ed in general. Having a strong faculty voice in the evaluation and retention of chairs and deans seems like a key element that’s missing, according to this account. I have no idea how that works at NYU but this article leads me to think that is not the case.

* I was troubled that the author of this piece seems to accept that universities operate without shared governance. (“The university belongs, like the church and the military, to the social institutions that are situated at a considerable distance from democracy and adhere to premodern power structures.”) Thanks but no thanks. This is why I’m committed to AAUP and fighting to protect the role of the faculty in governance and within this issues such as academic due process, a recognition of academic freedom in governance speech, etc.

* Right, although I don’t think we succeeded everywhere in doing away with feudal underpinnings. This appears to be the case particularly at private schools and in the more insular regional places. The corporatization seems to really exacerbate the feudal elements, and in grotesque ways too, since in actual feudalism the lord had obligations to the vassal!

* Agree with you both! I remember when the phrase on my campus was “FACULTY governance.” Then it became “SHARED governance.” Then presidents became CEOs and provosts became CAOs, and the “governance” piece apportioned to faculty were limited to curriculum only, with first deans and then provosts deciding on most other issues (such as positions and position descriptions).

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A comment on my once and future book

For the new year (this is the Jewish new year) I had hoped for a new beginning and I got, by random chance, comments on the blocked book manuscript that wrought such havoc on my life.

I confess to just having looked it up and skimmed a bit — you write well. For your conceptual blockbusting: deconstruction, à la Derrida, relies on a reified Cartesian self that can be sullied and broken (= Freud). Most of Latin america does Lacan, not Freud, which has the notion of a plural and situated self (see Kristeva and Black Sun). It’s also a Catholic thing and a Marxist thing, neither of which fits Derrida. Look at Deleuze — What is philosophy. The subject does not exist, it arises from being a position in (there) a discipline or a symbolic order (Lacan’s version). Thus subject POSITIONS are critical, not SUBJECT. If Vallejo ventriloquizes different subjects, it’s because he’s interested in post-Marxist concepts of plural subjects. I’ll stop now. I don’t know Vallejo but have worked with enough LA-ists to ask pointed questions. It’s not non-Western, it’s collectivist Western, which lost in Europe and Anglo-America (Calvinist countries all – “all about me”) which half of France (Deleuze/Foucault/Bourdieu half) remembers, too.

This is Vallejo.

Graniza tánto, como para que yo recuerde
y acreciente las perlas
que he recogido del hocico mismo
de cada tempestad.

No se vaya a secar esta lluvia.
A menos que me fuese dado
caer ahora para ella, o que me enterrasen
mojado en el agua
que surtiera de todos los fuegos.

¿Hasta dónde me alcanzará esta lluvia?
Temo me quede con algún flanco seco;
temo que ella se vaya, sin haberme probado
en las sequías de increíbles cuerdas vocales,
por las que,
para dar armonía,
hay siempre que subir ¡nunca bajar!
¿No subimos acaso para abajo?

Canta, lluvia, en la costa aún sin mar!

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Pushkin House-Musuem 23.VIII-16.IX

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Here is the poster for my cousin Alexei Aizenman’s centenary exhibit at the Pushkin House-Museum on Arbat, in Moscow. You should really go if you are in town.

In other news Gukira is a good blogger with an interesting post on Freire; I am told he is also the author of the best piece on Avital Ronell. A good writer and courageous.

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More for “Language and the entrepreneurial university”

Last year, the state moved for dismissal, arguing that the 14th Amendment contains no reference to literacy. Then, last week, U.S. District Judge Stephen Murphy III agreed with the state. Literacy is important, the judge noted. But students enjoy no right to access to being taught literacy. All the state has to do is make sure schools run. If they are unable to educate their students, that’s a shame, but court rulings have not established that “access to literacy” is “a fundamental right.”

“The deeper implication that the judge is tacitly admitting that it is all right to gut all of the public functions of government while leaving them nominally intact,” my friend said.

These ideas are key and they are for my next article (not the one I am working on now).

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