by David Brodsky
NOTE: This report is a triply expanded version of a talk presented to the Kansas Conference AAUP Meeting, October 18, 2003, University of Kansas (KU), Lawrence, Kansas. It is meant to serve as a short reference work on the state of education today, in the US and around the world.
Copyright 2003 David Brodsky. On condition that the author is credited and informed about republication and quoted excerpts are accurately contextualized, permission to republish is granted all AAUP chapters, state conferences, and the national organization, as well as progressive non-profits.
Good afternoon. I would like to thank Donna Potts, Ray Pierotti, and Bill Scott for inviting me to speak about academic freedom. I am pleased to have the opportunity to address members of the Kansas Conference on an issue of urgent importance for all of us. I have titled my talk "The Broad Perspectives of Academic Freedom" in order to deal both with academia and the world beyond its confines and immediate problems.
At the start I should say a few words about myself. I am not a faculty member but an independent scholar. I have given academic and public presentations in my discipline, Slavic cultures, and have also made a heavy time investment in the University of Missouri Kansas City (UMKC) chapter of AAUP: as a member, manager of its web site, writer and editorial assistant for its newsletter, The Faculty Advocate, and founder of the Education for Democracy Network, a regional and national network defending public education.
An independent scholar is defined as someone who has no institutional affiliation. In practice it means payment for work performed is low and rare, and access to research materials is limited. The silver lining of independent scholarship is its independence, which may make it easier, and also obligatory, for the scholar to exercise his uninstitutionalized academic freedom and free speech rights as a citizen. In fact, it was resistance to the McCarthy period witch hunts by an independent scholar named Paul Sweezy, a Marxist economist who was prosecuted for giving an invited lecture at the University of New Hampshire, that resulted in the only Supreme Court decision upholding, or even bearing on, academic freedom during the decade of the 1950s.
Thus I am going to exercise my academic freedom in this talk by presenting ideas and arguments that may be novel, unfamiliar, and controversial. Controversy, disagreement, and debate, of course, are the essence of education in a democracy, and of academic freedom and free speech. If you disagree with something I have said, I only ask that you hold your remarks until after I have finished.
In academic culture, disclosure of one's political viewpoint is a "norm of academic inquiry", in the words of Robert Post, a member of AAUP's Committee A, which deals with academic freedom issues (Post, 18). The arguments I will give in this talk are organized around a perspective that is marginal within the academy and generally unknown in public discourse. This is the perspective of the political left, broadly defined.
But what about the objection that if my presentation is partisan, it can be faulted for lacking balance? The requirement of ideological balance for all utterances is a rhetorical trick to maintain a double standard. In practice balance applies only to the side out of power, which is hobbled by timid and ineffectual discourse. The side in power remains free to exercise carte blanche in its expression, and indeed does so with impunity.
The current crisis in the academy and in education overall is a direct consequence of the fact that the right-wing holds a near monopoly on public discourse in the US. The scales measuring the range of political opinion are so heavily weighted to the right that they register the center as the "left" and the traditional left as off the scale. Corporate monopoly power over the mainstream mass media has been well documented. For a recent study, see Rich Media, Poor Democracy by Robert McChesney, a professor at the University of Illinois. Likewise, the left perspective in higher education is quite marginal. Thus right-wing claims that the left (or the "left") dominates the media and academia are pure nonsense. These claims do reveal, however, right-wing dissatisfaction with its monopoly, because it is not yet total.
John K. Wilson, an AAUP graduate student member researching academic freedom, writes: "No college can or should enforce demands for 'equal time' for every view at every event." Princeton economist Paul Krugman noted: "the right is still calling names and smearing; it wants to prohibit rude behavior only by liberals." W. J. T. Mitchell, a professor at University of Chicago, wrote in his obituary of Edward Said: "He was constantly being accused of lacking 'balance' in his political writings,... as if any polemicist worthy of the name has ever been known for balance." A progressive professor once told me that when a conservative dean berated him for teaching a politically "unbalanced" course and for neglecting "the other side," he retorted: "what I am teaching is the other side."
For the purposes of right-wing propaganda, "balance" is no longer a choice but a duty. Thus the "obligation of balance" has become a bludgeon to force extreme right-wing opinion on the academy. Stanley Kurtz, a Research Fellow at the right-wing Hoover Institution and contributing Editor of the right-wing National Review Online, wielded the club of "balance" in his testimony to the House Subcommittee on Select Education on June 19 of this year. He claimed that Middle Eastern Studies departments lack ideological "balance" because they are indebted to Edward Said's "post-colonial theory." While giving lip service to "standards of free speech and academic freedom" and to "vigorous and open debate," he categorically declared: "Free speech, however, is not an entitlement to a government subsidy. And unless steps are taken to balance university faculties with members who both support and oppose American foreign policy, the very purpose of free speech and academic freedom will have been defeated" (Kurtz).
Daniel Pipes, one of Kurtz's powerful colleagues in the right-wing networks, is more forthright about the right-wing purge agenda. He stated: "'I want Noam Chomsky to be taught at universities about as much as I want Hitler's writing or Stalin's writing. These are wild and extremist ideas that I believe have no place in a university'" (Goldberg).
In the context of the actually existing, unbalanced world, the right-wing opinion monopoly cheerleads for right-wing government policies at home and abroad. It controls public discourse in the mainstream media, where "vigorous and open debate" is wholly absent because strictly excluded. Thus calls by the right-wing for "balance" and a "vigorous debate" in academia simply serve its campaign to intensify its monopoly and eventually silence the voices of "the other side," the side unheard by society at large. The "other side" is already pushed to the margins of public discourse and can be heard almost exclusively in the foreign press, on the internet, and in US publications with a small circulation.
Kurtz clarifies the right-wing intent of capturing and destroying whatever tenuous base the small academic left has secured in higher education. The billions invested by the corporate right in financing right-wing think tanks and publications equal or surpass government appropriations for international studies, a meagre proportion of which benefits the academic left.(1) Kurtz's proposals to deny even this funding on ideological grounds, and to impose right-wing faculty on the disciplines targeted for capture, is intended to undermine and eventually eliminate free speech and academic freedom for the non-right-wing. Opposition voices can't be heard if they are starved out of the debate (Brodsky, "HR 3077").
Thus, when we restore a broad perspective and context, the apparently reasonable idea of "balance" and the democratic ideal of vigorous debate are channeled by right-wing rhetoric into very serious attacks on academic freedom and free speech. That the House passed a bill incorporating many of Kurtz's recommendations, with a few cosmetic changes and some small bones thrown to academia, indicates the danger of right-wing ideology wrapped in feel-good "reasonable" packaging (see below for more on the "International Studies in Higher Education Act of 2003" passed by the House in October).
PROFESSIONAL AND LEGAL APPROACHES TO ACADEMIC FREEDOM
What exactly is academic freedom? First, it is a American concept developed by the AAUP. It covers the areas of teaching, research and publication of results, deliberation of institutional policies, and citizenship outside the academy. Tenure, or job security, is proposed as the most effective way to protect faculty rights and responsibilities. Due process signifies agreed on procedures for making and appealing decisions. And shared governance, which is rather complex, calls for faculty control of curriculum and faculty affairs, such as hiring, promotion, tenure, and dismissal of faculty. In addition, shared governance assigns major responsibility to faculty for the hiring of administrators and for general institutional governance and budgeting.
While academic freedom traditionally applies to tenure-track and tenured faculty, there is an irrefutable argument for extending it to non-tenure track faculty: they now constitute the majority of teachers in higher education. If the majority of faculty lack academic freedom protections, then sooner or later the minority will lose them as well.(2) Although the professional argument for academic freedom does not apply to students and staff, they should enjoy the exercise of all civil liberties and rights on campus, and should have some say in the governance of the institution in matters that directly affect them.
The AAUP principles of academic freedom, tenure, due process, and shared governance are based on professional criteria, that is, they are necessary conditions for the faculty to be able do their job. Over the years AAUP policy statements have demonstrated the multiple connections between academic freedom and these other principles.
Professionally based AAUP principles have analogies in US constitutional law, international human rights theory, and progressive theories of democracy. Academic freedom is related to first amendment rights of free speech, press, and assembly. Due process is related to the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Tenure, or job security, can be associated with the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (article 23 on work) (UN Universal). And shared governance is related to the basic democratic principle of popular sovereignty.
The Constitution, however, has jurisdiction only over employment in public institutions, not in the private sector. Legally, most employees in a privately owned workplace have zero freedom of speech, press, assembly, or due process, since labor laws asserting these rights are spottily enforced. But the AAUP definition of academic freedom, based on professional criteria, applies in all institutions regardless of mode of ownership.
The First Amendment protects expression on all sorts of topics and in all sorts of settings, not just academia. Professionally defined academic freedom, on the other hand, writes AAUP counsel, Donna Euben, "addresses rights within the educational contexts of teaching, learning, and research both in and outside the classroom" (Euben, "Academic").
In addition, there are limits to free speech under the Constitution, since some speech can have harmful consequences. What is contested is the definition and scope of "harm."
The concept of academic freedom was originally developed to protect individual faculty from administrative arbitrariness. But the courts have also established academic freedom for institutions, derived from the same Sweezy decision mentioned above. Institutional academic freedom was originally meant to shield academia from the likes of Senator McCarthy, and is supposed to be limited to protection of a university's educational functions, rather than its commercial dealings.
The main problem with institutional academic freedom is that it leaves undecided who represents the institution: faculty, along with students and support staff, on the one hand, or the administration and governing board on the other. Many legal scholars argue for the former, but because the law remains unclear, sometimes individual and institutional academic freedom come into conflict.
One consequence of the corporate takeover of education is that university administrations now view their institutions as corporations. Thus institutional academic freedom is coming to resemble corporate privilege. The judicial decisions establishing that privilege have a long history. The legal expropriation by powerful interests of rights intended to protect powerless and oppressed classes of persons is evident in the 1886 Supreme Court decision declaring corporations to be natural persons under law and entitled to the protection of the Bill of Rights and the 14th amendment. The 14th amendment was intended to grant newly freed slaves legal personhood and thus constitutional protections. A 1976 Supreme Court decision, by declaring money to be speech protected under the First Amendment, has permitted corporations and the rich to monopolize the electoral process, since limitations on campaign contributions now qualify as a constitutional violation.
Over the years the faculty's legal academic freedom has been gradually reduced by judicial decisions affirming corporate ideology. An early example is the 1968 ruling restricting faculty at public institutions from speaking in the classroom on "matters of public concern." The principle of an "efficient academic workplace," on which the decision is based, is meant to "balance" (read: shrink) academic freedom. The corporate doctrine of "efficiency" was adopted by the courts precisely during the campus rebellions of the late sixties against US foreign and domestic policies. Corporate efficiency was a pretext to quarantine the classroom from debates that properly belonged there.
Another restrictive judicial principle states that classroom conduct is protected only if it is "germane to the subject matter." It typically prohibits religious proselytizing and sexual harassment, but it can be used to suppress other subject matter as well. For example, a class discussion of changes in institutional policy, or events of great import, like war or domestic repression, which will have a significant impact on academia, will not be germane to most disciplines. But faculty have the right to speak out on institutional and public policy, particularly policy that affects them directly, and students have that right as well, since the instructor's teaching conditions are the student's learning conditions. Some later decisions, recognizing the threat to academic freedom, reject these restrictions as unwarranted.
A 1987 Supreme Court decision applied the same "efficient workplace" argument in order to weaken personal privacy protections derived from the Fourth Amendment. This decision, and the gutting of the Fourth Amendment by the Patriot Act, set the stage for an unrestricted surveillance regime in the workplace, including e-mail and internet use. A recent case involved confiscation by campus police of a Womens Studies professor's computer and the copying of her entire hard drive, whose files clearly aroused their prurient interest. The professor correctly understands she has been victimized by the "new McCarthyism" and has left that university (McCaughey, 42).
Otherwise sensible AAUP recommendations protecting e-mail privacy are flawed, because they accept the principle of surveillance in the first place. Under surveillance, free speech is automatically chilled, since faculty will tend to behave with extreme caution to avoid being victimized. Widespread use of surveillance in private businesses, buttressed by laws that deny an employee's privacy rights, is intended to have just that effect, to intimidate the workforce into compliant silence (Scharf).
A 1978 ruling struck down the use of academic freedom to justify employment discrimination policies, stating that there exists no "'freedom to discriminate'."
However, discrimination in the form of racist and hate speech is encouraged when protections against such expression are dismissed as "political correctness." Likewise, the standard libertarian recommendation to respond to racist or sexist hate speech only with tolerance and with more speech is clearly inadequate. If the 1978 court decision denied the right to discriminate against minorities and women in hiring on the basis of academic freedom, there should likewise be no academic freedom to abuse minorities and women when they are faculty, students, or staff. Thus 200 students were justified in protesting, when a campus newspaper questioned the validity of Black History Month. One said: "If I pay to go to school here, I should not have to read a newspaper that degrades me, my culture and my heritage" (Wilson).
The Supreme Court upheld the principle of affirmative action in admissions to the University of Michigan Law School, but struck it down for undergraduate admissions, replacing it with vaguely defined "diversity" and practical obstacles, narrow legal standards which are beyond the resources of most schools to implement. The consequence of this decision will be to slightly delay the termination of affirmative action for graduate and professional education. For if minorities and women are denied admission in significant numbers as undergraduates, the proportion of minorities and women in the pool of applicants for graduate and professional education will likewise be small. Self-deluding "relief" and "celebrations of victory" for affirmative action failed to acknowledge this obvious fact.
A thoroughly corporate-biased judicial decision emerged from the Fourth Circuit Court in June 2000. It granted public institutions a monopoly on academic freedom by eliminating the faculty's legal rights to individual academic freedom. Faculty at public institutions in in the Fourth Circuit--Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina--still, apparently, possess professionally based academic freedom.
Many have criticized the Fourth Circuit Court opinion, including one of the concurring judges, who wrote: "I fear the court forgets that freedom of speech belongs to all Americans and that the threat to the expression of one sector of society will soon enough become a danger to the liberty of all." The judge's reasoning that an injury to one will become an injury to all is impeccable. Nevertheless, this opinion has established a judicial precedent which has not been struck down by the Supreme Court and therefore remains in force.
A Supreme Court decision in July of this year, which limited corporate free speech by excluding corporate lying in advertising from first amendment protection, may or may not apply to academic freedom law (Cobb).(3)
A GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE
Before we look at the situation of academic freedom in the US, I want to review the state of education in the world.
Article 26, paragraph 1, of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights reads: "Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit." Paragraph 2 begins: "Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms" (UN Universal).
The corporate model was imposed on US higher education at the turn of the 20th century, at the inception of the US empire, and at least in part original AAUP principles were developed in tacit opposition to it.(4) Today corporatism and imperialism are again working in tandem. The reactionary global war against the public domain cuts across apparently partisan boundaries. While it is known under the misleading label of neo-liberalism, it is pursued with equal enthusiasm by neo-conservatives and social democrats. Neo-liberalism in practice means liberalizing privileges for corporations and the wealthy, and ending rights and entitlements for most people in the world. To understand the corporate assault, we must ignore current party labels and look at policy implementation.
The first victims of neo-liberalism have been the poor, working people--and they include three billion peasants in the third world, about half the world's population--and people of color, both abroad and at home. The collapse in September of this year of the recent World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial in Cancun, Mexico, reveals the harm which these policies are intended to perpetrate. Global resistance to neo-liberalism by the peripheral, underdeveloped poor nations is motivated by unfavorable terms and trade policies, especially in agriculture, that benefitted the corporate elites of the rich developed nations. However, the ordinary people of the privileged core, primarily North America, Europe, and Japan, have likewise been harmed significantly by neo-liberal policies. A familiar recent example is the ruin of the proletarianized and pauperized middle class in Argentina, and the broad popular protest movement that arose in December 2001. Economic meltdowns in Russia, and in Korea and other "Asian tiger" economies, have had similarly devastating effects.
Neo-liberal education policy is derived from a comprehensive ideology which might be best described as anti-social. Consider Margaret Thatcher's dictum, "There is no such thing as society." It rejects the natural instinct of social solidarity, of responsibility toward one's neighbor, in favor of individual self-interest and privatization, and relegates all social services, which benefit the great majority of the people, to the trash heap.
Public social institutions that provide for people's health, education, employment benefits, unemployment support, retirement, transportation, communication, housing, utilities, food, even water, are to be terminated, and the costs borne solely by individuals. Those who can't afford privatized services--the vast majority--will have to go without them.
Privatization is a euphemistic way of describing expropriation (theft) of public property, at bargain basement prices, and the provision of inferior services using primarily exploited labor. Cutting wages, benefits, and services and increasing the pace and duration of work are traditional ways of increasing profit margins. Privatization results in the radical shrinking and eventual disappearance of the public domain, while public monies are diverted to the private sector. For example, as of this writing, major battles are being fought in France and Italy over government attempts at weakening the retirement system.
Neo-liberal education policy has three related goals: 1) to privatize the public domain as a lucrative source of corporate profit (the "education market" was valued at 2.2 trillion dollars in 1999); 2) to seize ideological control of the doctrinal system (the media and education) in order to promote the corporate agenda and reproduce corporate structures; and 3) to discard whatever does not serve either profit or corporate ideology. Elites everywhere will still receive a good education, while most people in the first world will undergo a degraded version. But because the bulk of the education sector cannot be made profitable, education will be terminated for the majority of the world's people.
These destructive goals may sound like a dystopian fantasy, but neo-liberal documents copiously support such conclusions.(5) A report from the International Conference Against War and in Defense of Public Education, held in Paris, June 2003, argues that the economic motive, which until now has received most of the attention, may actually be a secondary factor. "The processes of decentralization/privatization aren't fundamentally about 'transforming education into a commodity'; first and foremost, they are about destroying public education as an institution on a world scale. Only a small part of the education market--that which deals with solvent clients--can be profitable for the private organizations" ("Report").
Another conclusion drawn at the conference was that financially starved and decaying public institutions in the third world will educate poorer students and drive affluent ones into private foreign colleges. Degraded public institutions in the first world will be maintained for political and electoral reasons.
The main instrument of neo-liberal policy has been international trade agreements, which supersede the authority of all governments. The document most relevant to education is the General Agreement on Trade in Services, or GATS. The so-called service sector, a vast, ungainly, and ill-defined miscellaneous category, refers more or less to everything in the world that is not manufacturing or finance.
GATS rules require equal treatment for foreign as well as domestic service providers, such as public education systems. Governments cannot require foreign multi-nationals to hire locally, or to conform to national or local standards, such as using the native language for instruction.
The World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) require "'drastically reducing public investment in education through privatizing and breaking up school systems, and nullifying teachers' contracts'," according to a professor at the University of Buenos Aires. "The World Bank advocates reducing all investment in education that does not generate direct income or cannot be recouped right away" (Neff). The European Union White Book on Education similarly recommends "Organizing the school and the business sector, the first as a function of the second" (International Conference ... Bulletin).
The results of neo-liberal education policy in Argentina were clear by the mid-1990s: "'Education levels across the region have declined. Illiteracy is making a comeback in countries such as Argentina and Uruguay whose literacy rates were traditionally as high as those of developed countries'." The same was true of exam results (Neff).
Most of the testimony from the Berlin education workshop and the Paris conference focussed on damage to pre-college education in Europe. But its consequences certainly will be felt in academia around the world.
Nearly all European education is public, teachers are highly unionized, the state maintains national standards, and qualifications attested to by diplomas and degrees have legal force in job placement and in collective bargaining contract negotations. These factors help explain why up to now education at all levels in Europe has been free, and pre-college education has been universally accessible. Since all of these components are being assaulted at the same time, the consequences of dismantling public education in Europe are potentially even more devastating than in the US.
A background statement from the Berlin workshop warned of attacks on guidelines that ban child labor under school-leaving age. The workshop concluded that privatization would effectively liquidate public education, the right to an education, and the profession of teaching. Professionally trained tenured teachers at all levels in all countries are being replaced by insecure contingent labor. A 1999 World Bank document titled "Education in a changing world" declares that the requirements of capital investment in education are "a well-educated, productive and cheap labor force" (International Confeence ... Bulletin ).
A French teacher unionist reports that professional education is to be entirely deregulated, so-called "competencies" are to replace formal qualifications, the state will no longer have a role, NGOs will be substituted for public services, education markets will be developed, and stable salaried employment will be replaced by "atypical forms of work" (Ibid).
These combined policies entail multiple destructive consequences. Compulsory, full-time, formal schooling provided by professionally trained teachers is to be replaced for most students by so-called non-formal and informal education. Non-formal refers to knowledge picked up in the workplace, and to schools run by businesses and churches. Since it does not confer diplomas, degrees, or certificates (that is, formal qualifications), a student is left with nothing to show for his efforts.
Informal schooling "corresponds to daily life," is "represented by ordinary social life," "the knowledge one acquires at home, at the workplace, in the bosom of the community, in the society in its entirety." In other words, no education at all. An EU memorandum states: "The urban environment abounds with the widest range of possibilities for educating oneself through life in the street," and recommends that professional education take place "where city dwellers gather, not only scholastic institutions but also municipal centers, commercial centers, libraries, museums, places of worship, parks, public squares, bus and train stations, medical centers, amusement places and cafeterias in the work place" (Ibid).
The absence of formal schooling, of course, prevents the transmission of a common body of knowledge to new generations. The uneducated will be disoriented and more easily manipulated by official propaganda, and common reference points will vanish between the generations, and between the educated and the uneducated.
Modes of education also correspond to modes of employment into which students are to be tracked. Degraded education leads directly to degraded jobs.
Formal qualifications are replaced by so-called "competencies," or "'qualities, skills, savoir-faire, attitudes toward work' that the employee has to prove daily and that can be called into question at any moment." They are defined as traits "unique and specific to each individual" and are attested to by "certificates of skills acquired by experience," a "system of credits," or "a personal card of capacities" (Ibid).
Extreme fragmentation into individualized study programs and personal certificates destroys the possibility of maintaining national or disciplinary standards. When standards are eliminated, so are professional qualifications, professionals, and professional organizations, such as teachers unions, or the AAUP, for that matter. Likewise, the entire argument for academic freedom grounded in professional qualifications evaporates.
Because competencies are vacuous concepts, they reveal the neo-liberal intent to deeducate and deskill the population, and to further degrade the workforce. Because qualifications are linked to good jobs, diplomas and titles are being destroyed in order to end the expectation of stable employment and a decent salary, and to anticipate frequent unemployment and job change, with the burden of survival placed on individual workers. Competencies permit hiring unqualified teachers at lower pay, and result in the destruction of teachers' unions, whose members possess qualifications. The EU tells workers to "cross national frontiers looking for work and better opportunities for themselves and their families" (Ibid). That is, workers are forced to join a permanent migrant labor force, easily intimidated, vastly underpaid, disposable, and deprived of the most basic legal protections. European migrant intellectual laborers correspond to part-time and contingent faculty in the US.
The EU calls for "a system of perfect competition among scholastic establishments," as in the US. The ideology of "perfect competition" also establishes the basis for mandatory testing, likewise a US policy.
The slogan of "lifelong education," frequently paired with "continuous apprenticeship," signifies a lifetime of impermanent jobs, retraining, and searches for new work, and an end to normal life patterns of schooling, work, and retirement. Education, then, prepares people for very little. Such extreme labor flexibility entails the cheap and quick training of interchangeable workers for interchangeable and insecure, low-skilled, low paid, temporary and contingent jobs. And because workers are no longer entitled to retirement, they are expected to work until they drop.
"Lifelong apprenticeship" implies workers can never advance to journeyman or master. They are always under the gun to prove themselves, through a permanent testing regime. Employers can use the endless certification process to maintain the whip hand. Constant testing instills constant insecurity in employees, while making big profits for the testing industry. And since non-formal certification is free of enforceable standards, it opens the door to massive arbitrariness and corruption, a regime of favoritism and bribes.
The burden of funding is shifted from public tax monies onto the backs of individuals and local communities, whose share is expected to keep increasing. Education is to be subcontracted out to the private sector, and private education companies are to be given tax advantages. New financing methods include vouchers, tax deductions, and subsidies. Even more absurdly, in place of public accreditation agencies and professional oversight by the faculty, the responsibility for quality control of education is placed on each student.
The co-optation of so-called civil society--such as unions, local government bodies, community groups, local chambers of commerce, religious organizations, parents' associations, and NGOs--into supporting neo-liberal plans is crucial for their successful implementation. Teachers are to be bribed or punished for cooperation or non-cooperation with the demise of their profession. In the US local school systems bribe students to interest them in test preparation (Mathison).
Neo-liberal institutions have even publicized their public relations strategy. One article states: "'one can recommend ... numerous measures that don't create any political difficulty.... One can, for example, reduce the funding of schools and universities, but it would be dangerous to reduce the number of admissions. Families would react violently if their children were not admitted, but would not oppose a progressive degradation of the quality of teaching [emphasis DB]; and the school can obtain monetary contributions from the families, both by progressive increases and by extracting occasional contributions for special expenses; or the school can eliminate certain subjects. These actions are carried out in one school after another, but not simultaneously in neighboring schools, to avoid a generalized discontent in the population" (Christian, quoted in International Conference ... Bulletin).
A later report on the savage neo-liberal assault on higher education comes from Germany (Hawley), where enormous funding cuts are being imposed by the social democratic government as part of its overall campaign to privatize public services. The war on the public domain in Germany includes cuts in unemployment payments, medical and retirement benefits, libraries, and pre-college schools. Closely following the neo-liberal script written in the US, the federal and state governments in Germany are citing rising public debt and falling tax revenue as the familiar pretexts for their war on higher education. Excuses specific to German conditions are falling enrollments and dropping graduation rates, the former attributable to impoverishment of the population, the latter to a rising unemployment rate that encourages students to stay in school.
Familiar destructive policies in Germany include mass elimination of teaching positions, the closing of departments and programs (predictably concentrated in the arts, humanities and social sciences), and the introduction of high tuition fees in place of the right to a free education available for the past 80 years. Degraded US models are being inflicted on the German system, such as a "bachelor's" degree attainable in three years. This inferior diploma (cf non-formal and informal education) will be used to track all but the elite (the most successful and usually most affluent students) into inferior jobs, cheapening the value of higher education in Germany, where a master's has been the lowest university degree awarded. The stated reason for the new bachelor's is punitive, to "help winnow out students who stay in the university system for up to a decade without completing their studies" (Ibid. The foreseeable consequence is to flood the shrinking job market with new graduates forced to accept menial employment, thus greatly expanding the pool of semi-skilled, vulnerable, and probably non-unionized labor.
The corporate bias typical of the mass media is also evident in the smaller pseudo-independent press. For example, the Christian Science Monitor report on the German situation unquestioningly accepts the neo-liberal point of view. Human rights are mocked as "the caretaker state," the assault on the public domain is called "reduc[ing] public expenditures" and the assault on education is named "reform," "belt-tightening," and "overhaul." The inferior bachelor's degree is alleged to be "more compatible with international standards" ("international" refers not to many nations, just the US), the high tuition fees are minimized as "modest by US standards," and the court ruling overturning the free tuition law, which has yet to happen, is regarded as a fait accompli. Neo-liberal quotes are longer and more numerous than opposing opinions, and standard cliches--such as "universities" must "completely reconceptualize their curricula" and "reinvent themselves," and "the universities have to make their contribution to the removal of [the] debt"--are repeated without criticism. Finally, the few quoted voices of opposition are defeatist, while government officials are presented as hard-nosed (Ibid).
Beyond Europe, the conference reports that the current state of education in the third world is already disastrous. "Currently there are 250 million child workers (under the legal minimum working age) ... Half of them, that is to say 125 million children, have never seen a classroom. This situation even reaches the developed countries.... According to official statistics, nearly a billion human beings are deprived of the right to read and to write" ("Report"). In addition, "in certain countries the public education system has been completely destroyed (Bangladesh, Mali). In Haiti education and all public services have been replaced by NGOs, which have no responsibilities and are totally unaccountable. In Mexico, where education is public, mandatory and free, successive budget cuts have reduced the portion dedicated to education to 0.5% of the GDP" (Ibid). The University of El Salvador is being destroyed "through massive budget cuts, thereby driving both students and professors out of higher education" ("Appeal"). A report from Burundi, a small country in central Africa on Lake Tanganyika, reports similar damage (International Conference ... Bulletin).
It should come as no surprise that destructive educational policies being implemented in Europe were first formulated for application in the Third World. "Non-formal education," for example, was tried out in Latin America in the 1970s, with predictable results. One report stated: "'it is likely that nonformal education will do little more than prepare non-elites to be more productive workers while relegating them to relatively inferior status positions.... nonformal education is unlikely to have a significant impact on socioeconomic status without concomitant changes in the values and institutions which support the stratification process'" (Berman, 206-207). In Europe, the introduction of non-formal education is intended to destroy relative equality of access to learning, with the goal of restratifying European societies by eliminating social mobility and relegating the non-elite to a permanently inferior status.
The Paris conference declared that "Public Education Is Not a Rescindable Right." It also designated a conference continuations committee to publish a bulletin and a Black Book documenting global attacks on public education.
THE STATE OF ACADEMIC FREEDOM IN THE US
If education globally is under siege, the precarious state of academic freedom in the US is a given. This was already the case before 9/11, and after that date the situation has deteriorated rapidly. The immediate context is the Bush administration engineering of its global and domestic War on Terrorism. But the groundwork for its policies was laid during the Clinton presidency by the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. It "granted the executive the authority, based upon secret evidence, to designate any foreign organization a terrorist group and to deport noncitizens as terrorists" (Stein, 126).
The most serious crisis of academic freedom in US history occurred during the McCarthy period, described by one observer as a "purge against militant trade unionists, opponents of the Cold War, and the remnants of the New Deal coalition which burgeoned at the end of the Second World War. Thousands of careers were destroyed; institutions and movements of the left were marginalized" (Simon, 36).
The right-wing purge of the left in American life was comprehensive. Targeted sectors, besides education at all levels, included electoral politics (the Communist Party and the Progressive Party), the federal government (civil service, the military, the State Department), state and city employees, labor unions, journalists, librarians, non-academic scientists, and the entertainment business. Hundreds of left-wing teachers in schools and universities were fired from their jobs. Many faced an employment blacklist, and careers were ended, or interrupted for long periods. Some victims became refugees, seeking political asylum abroad. The weapon of choice was termination of employment, and some had to take menial jobs to survive.
Stephen F. Cohen describes, for example, the "chilling impact on university Soviet studies" of the "poisonous atmosphere of witch-hunt in the educational profession that included HUAC's investigation into 'Communist Methods of Infiltration' in 1953, the firing of at least six hundred professors and teachers across the country, disloyalty allegations against many more, and, closer to home, the attack on established colleagues in China studies. Lower-level teachers of Soviet and other Communist affairs particularly felt the need to conform; their syllabuses were scrutinized by vigilantes, and many materials were 'considered too risky to use'" (Cohen, 18).
As Ellen Schrecker, past editor of Academe and author of three books about the McCarthy period, demonstrates, civil liberties and academic freedom suffered a major setback during the McCarthy period. The majority of faculty and the AAUP itself acquiesced to the right-wing campaign that imposed a political test on faculty employment. It specifically barred the left from the academy, starting with communists, and it eventually ensnared socialists, social democrats, and liberals as well. Liberals who had disassociated themelves earlier from targeted colleagues often came under attack later on.
The national ACLU office was even more ideologically compromised than the AAUP. It not only did little to defend the victims, it actively collaborated with the perpetrators. Besides making anti-communism official organizational policy and purging a Communist board member as early as 1940, about half its governing board--Morris Ernst, Irving Ferman, Patrick Malin, Herbert Monte Levy, Arthur Garfield Hays, and Ernest Angell--consisted of anti-communist informants for the FBI and "consultants" with HUAC and other right-wing investigating committees (O'Reilly, 82, 142-145, 180-190, 194, 212, 256). Due to this sabotage of the ACLU's mission, another board member, Corliss Lamont, founded the Emergency Civil Liberties Committee in 1951 to take over the responsibility which the ACLU had abdicated.
Joining the inaction of AAUP and ACLU were the NAACP, Americans for Democratic Action, and the American Committee for Cultural Freedom, among others. Schrecker argues that enthusiastic collaboration by a number of liberal individuals and organizations with the anti-communist hysteria, and the failure of the majority of liberals to oppose it, was a tactical error. "Because the left had been destroyed, when liberals came under attack, they had to defend themselves from a more politically exposed position." Since they "were now on the left of the political spectrum, instead of at its center, they had less room within which to maneuver" (Schrecker, Many are the Crimes, 412).
By aiding and abetting the amputation of the left-wing, US liberalism helped establish the center-right consensus which dominated US politics for the second half of the 20th century. The civil rights and anti-Vietnam war movements and the campus uprisings of the 1960s were notable, if short-lived, exceptions. In the 21st century, the center has been discarded as well, and a right-wing consensus reigns, irrespective of the political labels worn by the actors in power.
Fallout from the McCarthy period was responsible for the two most important Supreme Court decisions strengthening academic freedom. The 1957 Sweezy decision declared government investigation of a lecturer's subject matter a violation of academic freedom and political expression. The subject matter in question was Marxism. The 1967 Keyishian decision, where the Court found that academic freedom was "a special concern of the First Amendment, which does not tolerate laws that cast a pall of orthodoxy over the classroom," concerned "professors' rights not to sign a loyalty oath" (Euben, "Academic"). Loyalty oaths were another McCarthy period tactic, in which an alleged pledge of fidelity to the US signified approval of the purge.
Our current period has been named aptly the New McCarthyism. While political purges of academia so far have been limited, starvation budgeting is being used to achieve similar ends. We should also keep in mind that we are still in the early stages, while the McCarthy period had a decade to accomplish its dirty work.
Today national security is again the overriding pretext, and xenophobia the driving force. Thousands of foreigners, including students and faculty who are Arabs or Muslims, are being treated as criminals, "constructed as an enemy" (Stein), subjected to surveillance, political interrogation, harassment, detention, torture, and deportation (Dohrn, Engler, Harrington). So-called "voluntary interviews" with the FBI include questions probing their political affiliations. Over 1200 Arabs and Muslims were still in detention as of summer 2003 and thousands more have been detained for various periods. "Only a tiny percentage of the detainees have been charged with having any relationship with 'terrorists'" (Harrington, 17). Over 16,000 face deportation proceedings. The drop in acceptance of visa applications from Arab and Muslim countries is 50%. In addition, the southern borders of the US are being patrolled not only by the INS but also by right-wing vigilante militia groups to keep out Hispanic immigrants (Engler).(6)
The national security pretext is also forcing universities, both administrators and faculty, to become federal police agents and spies reporting on foreign students; to impose ROTC programs and military recruiters on campuses using denial of federal funding as a bludgeon; to require security clearances for high administrative officials (e.g. candidates for president of the University of New Mexico); and to restrict targeted foreign students from certain fields of study (Acuna). (7) Testimony to Congress by Shirley Tilghman, the President of Princeton University, reveals that State Department and immigration policies are playing havoc with science education, research, and conferences in the US by delaying visa approvals for months ("International Access").
The Bush regime doctrines of US imperialism, endless war, disempowerment of labor, and repression of domestic dissent ("for us or against us," "watch what you say") revive McCarthy era formulas almost intact. While terrorism has replaced communism as the crusading pretext, and the Middle East and Central Asia have replaced the Soviet Union and China as the designated enemy, the scapegoats of choice, perhaps not coincidentally, remain culturally Semitic. The American left had a high Jewish membership, and many of the current targets are Arabs.
The major differences between now and then are the state of the US economy and US military power. The US emerging from World War 2 had the strongest economy in the world. Today's economy, by contrast, is in severe crisis. The US military at the start of the Cold War faced a serious rival, while today it is unchallenged. The unstable and shrinking economy, combined with an aggressive and compensatory military policy, distracting attention from economic hardship and corporate corruption, is propelling the US into a situation perhaps even more dangerous than the mutually assured destruction of nuclear holocaust during the Cold War. And the nuclear threat has escalated because the Bush regime has announced its intention to use nuclear weapons offensively.
That the right-wing fully understands and is promoting these historical analogies can be seen in the best selling book by Republican media pundit, Ann Coulter, entitled Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terror, which celebrates Senator Joe McCarthy and his era.
McCarthyite anti-communism is trying to make a comeback. "Communist" is still a generic term of abuse for dissenters (Wilson). Right-wing media stars are also mounting a campaign against "Cultural Marxism, a conspiracy theory with an anti-Semitic twist," writes Bill Berkowitz (who, incidentally, is a KU graduate) (Berkowitz, 15). Their target is the Frankfurt School of philosophy, a group of German Jews including Walter Benjamin, Herbert Marcuse, Max Horkheimer, and Theodore Adorno, which "is being blamed for the destruction of American civilization" (Ibid, 16). Right-wing students at the University of North Carolina described Barbara Ehrenreich's book, Nickel and Dimed, about the lives of the working poor, as "'a classic Marxist rant' that portrays business people as exploiters of working-class Americans" (National Coalition), and objected to its inclusion in a summer course.
North Carolina is one of the most under-unionized states in the nation, due inter alia to vigilante action by armed right-wing terrorist groups. The most notorious example is the Greensboro massacre in 1979, when five textile and hospital worker organizers were killed. The massacre involved collaboration between the Ku Klux Klan, US Nazis, local police, the FBI, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, evidence of which was unearthed in a civil rights trial in 1985 won by survivors (Greensboro).
Police suppression of the left, as in the McCarthy period, is once again official policy. It has become routine for police and the military to spy on, harass, disrupt, intimidate, suppress, assault, injure, jail, and torture protestors, almost all of them peaceful, when the targets of protest are neo-liberal globalization and political conventions of the corporate Democrat and Republican parties. Police terrorism has been carefully planned and coordinated, as well as publicized and approved in the mass media, in Seattle, Washington DC, New York, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Miami, Montreal, Prague, Genoa, London, and many other cities.
Likewise targeted are the millions of participants in the peace movement, as reported in a November front-page New York Times article, "F.B.I Scrutinizes Antiwar Rallies" (Lichtblau). The FBI's purpose in reporting peace movement activities to its Joint Terrorism Task Forces is to criminalize peaceful left dissent protected by the First Amendment. Local police have also conducted "political interviews" of arrestees. Such tactics revive the notorious COINTELPRO [Counter-Intelligence Program] pursued by J. Edgar Hoover from the 1950s to the 1970s (Churchill).
The New McCarthyism is generating a campaign for right-wing ideological control of education, and the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act provides an opening (Brodsky, "HR 3077"). Right-wing forces are using "national security" as a whip to harness education to the "war on terrorism," which in turn serves US imperial expansion. In October the House passed the "International Studies in Higher Education Act of 2003," which places international education under a newly established, ideologically driven International Advisory Board. The mandate of the Act is to subordinate international education at all levels, from graduate programs to elementary schools, to "national security needs" (the American empire), and the Board is its ideological watchdog.
Token revisions in the Act state that the Board cannot meddle in instruction and curriculum, but this grudging concession to academic freedom does not eliminate the "national security" and "patriotic" ideological basis of instruction, which of itself will pressure curriculum to conform to official policy. Two places on the Board are permanently reserved for representatives of national security agencies (Pentagon, CIA, Office of Homeland Security, etc.), and the Board is given unrestricted investigative powers reminiscent of the HUAC and Senate Internal Security Subcommittee during the McCarthy period. In addition, the Act obligates institutions to provide campus access for recruiters of these agencies, who are to target the widest racial and ethnic cross-section of the student population.
Congressional hearings and press releases by the House Subcommittee on Select Education clarify that the purpose of the legislation is to impose right-wing control over national education policy. To carry out the "homeland security" mission of the legislation, the Board can pressure institutions to hire right-wing operatives in area studies programs; require International Education Centers at universities to generate propaganda materials hewing to official doctrine and to disseminate them to pre-college students and the general public; require military and intelligence recruiter access to campus to lure students into "security" jobs; and purge, marginalize, or silence dissenting faculty, ideas, and programs through inquisitorial public hearings and unrestricted access to information of all kinds ("108th Congress Report," Goldberg, Prashad).
The "International Advisory Board" (also called "the Committee") is a new departure that goes beyond the mechanisms of the McCarthy period. Back then right-wing inquisitors on Congressional committees could count on institutions of higher education themselves to suppress and purge dissenters. The innovative nature of the Board is acknowledged by Martin Kramer, member of the right-wing think tank Middle East Forum and the ideological author of the Act. His book Ivory Towers on Sand states that "Title VI was, from its inception in 1958, 'administered as a no-strings-attached benefit.' Back then, though, the leaders of the field were people 'of a patriotic disposition, who could be counted upon to help out' ... This, he makes clear, is no longer the case. Thus the time has come to attach strings" (Goldberg). (8)
The Pentagon already runs one of the largest educational enterprises in the US. Thanks to computer and education industry lobbying, it became the "largest broker and customer of distance learning in the United States" (Noble, 86), by providing at taxpayer expense an artificial market for a failing industry. The budget totalled "almost a billion dollars over five years," its targets were "active-duty personnel (and eventually their families as well)" (Ibid, 85), and free education was regarded as an "incentive for recruitment" into the military (Ibid, 86).
The replacement of standard face-to-face instruction with distance education not only accomplishes the goals of degrading or eliminating quality public education for the majority, as demonstrated by European neo-liberal policies. It also gives administrators at US institutions "a relatively disarming way to restructure their institutions to their managerial advantage" (Ibid, 83). Thus the Pentagon continues its long tradition of hastening the deskilling of the workforce, and subsidizing the profitability of private enterprise, by supporting the radical mechanization of "instructional technologies" (Ibid, 85).
Placement of courses online also typically involves the faculty's loss of intellectual property rights. Its most serious consequences are the replacement of tenured academics by underpaid contingent instructors and faculty dispossession of professional control over the content of courses. Corporate intellectual property rights likewise violate academic freedom in scientific education and research by means of proprietary information secrecy that prohibits normal collegial communication (Dajkovic).
Besides mechanizing, regimenting, and deprofessionalizing the delivery of education, military sponsorship entails ideological command of the curriculum. "Course content, curricula, and teaching methods ... will all be subject to military prescription, monitoring, and review and, hence, to implicit ideological censorship and a routinized abridgement of academic freedom" (Noble, 87), as well as lowering of academic standards (Ibid, 88). Finally, the post-9/11 regime of universal surveillance makes online courses easy targets for government inquisitors.
However, "some members of Congress representing the interests of black constituents" insist that the Army must "continue using traditional classroom instruction in a training program for students at historically black colleges and universities" (Ibid, 90).
The second largest "recruiter" of youth, after the military, is the prison system, which incarcerates a very high proportion of young men, and increasingly women, from among the working class and communities of color. Schools in their neighborhoods prepare students for prison by teaching them as little as possible, and by fostering a prison environment in the school building itself. Following 9/11 students of color are also being targeted as "terrorists." Education is generally denied to the incarcerated, since punishment rather than rehabilitation is the ideology governing US prison policy, resulting in the evisceration or closing down of correctional education programs. Finally, state prison budgets typically surpass education budgets, sending a message to citizens about ruling class priorities (Dohrn, McCormack). (9)
Reallocation of resources (and control) to the military and the growing homeland security and prison-industrial complex, in the midst of an economic downturn, has manufactured budget crises that justify slashing higher education funding, course offerings, programs, departments, fields of study, and faculty, including full-time tenured positions, and cost shifting from the public domain onto the backs of students and families. A New York Times article in August documented drastic cuts around the country, as well as plans to turn away students or keep enrollment stagnant, "despite a projected boom in the college-age population over the next decade." Students and administrators complain of rising costs and lowered quality (Winter).
Rising tuition, up this year an average of 12.5% nationwide but reaching 100% at California Community Colleges, is predicted to deny a post-secondary education to as many as 200,000 low and moderate income students. Federal government defunding of social services, through reducing grant amounts, replacing grants with loans, and privatizing the student loan agency, has encouraged the states as well to default on their own responsibility for public higher education funding ("Slamming"). Thus, "state schools are ... decreasing the percentage of grant aid given to low-income students, according to the College Board," while financial aid for the affluent is growing. The needs of low-income students are likewise marginal in the federal Pell Grant program (Pandya).
Due to miserly grants, two-thirds of all students are forced to take out loans--their debt averages $27,600--and because many good jobs have vanished, 40% of graduates have difficulty paying off their debt. Many students additionally work over 40 hours a week. Loans have been replacing grants since 1992, and the privatized student loan company, SLM (known as Sallie Mae) is eagerly anticipating big profits from increases in the number of borrowers and the size of loans. "Wall Street positively salivates over the escalating costs of college tuition" ("Slamming," "Vultures").
The Campus Equity Week website (http://www.cewaction.org) accurately warned that assaults on education would be a major component of Bush's re-election campaign. Thus in September of this year Congressional Republicans released a report blaming public universities for steeply rising tuition (Selingo) and drafted the House "Affordability in Higher Education Act of 2003." The "Affordability" Act is yet another weapon in the campaign to defund public education and starve it into hostile privatized takeovers, since "almost a quarter of all institutions would be ineligible today if the bill were in effect" ("AAUP Recent News").
As an alternative Senate Democrats Ted Kennedy and Hillary Clinton "proposed punishing states that reduce spending on higher education ... by more than ten percent in one year" (Office). But both political parties are passing the buck, since higher tuition costs and state budget cuts are a direct consequence of federal defunding of education (a self-evident truth which Republican PR impudently denies). Federal and state defunding plays into the hands of corporate university administrators, who seek private sources of support (perhaps involving lucrative kickbacks) instead of demanding adequate public appropriations (from which they cannot personally benefit).
Answering Republican blame-the-victim charges in the New York Times, Stanley Fish, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago, wrote: "If the revenues sustaining your operation are sharply cut and you are prevented by law from raising prices, your only recourse is to offer an inferior product. Those who say, as the state has said to the University of Illinois, 'We're taking $200 million from you but we expect you to do the job you were doing and do it even better,' are trafficking either in fantasy or hypocrisy. I vote for hypocrisy" (Fish, "Colleges"). An accurate assessment of Bush administration policy could be found in Fish's op-ed in the Chronicle of Higher Education, with the title "The War on Higher Education" (Fish, "The War").
Attacks on public education have predictable effects on its quality, and the current deficiencies of the US education system are beginning to receive a public airing. Shirley Tilghman, President of Princeton University, stated in her testimony to Congress that "non-U.S. nationals" receive "science, math, and technical preparation superior to that of many Americans" ("International Access," 49). A "non-US national" from the third world writes: "The poor quality of general education and training in the United States, the product of a deep-rooted prejudice in favor of the private to the detriment of the public sector, is one of the main reasons for the profound crisis that U.S. society is currently going through" (Amin, 20-21). The crisis is exemplified by the values US students internalize. Tilghman noted, "American students know that professional careers in basic science and mathematics require considerable preparation and effort, while salaries are often more lucrative in areas requiring less demanding training" ("International Access," 49).
The reduction of US intellectual life, including education, to lucre is the underlying issue. All professions are being commercialized and corporatized. Knowledge and understanding are assigned value chiefly as commodities, and academic success is measured through earnings. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that "four presidents of private universities earned more than $800,000 in the 2002 fiscal year" ("Pay escalates"). Lucre also undermines intellect and education through corporate monopolies, the concentrated ownership of book and journal publishing, of the mass media, and of megabookstore chains (Schiffrin), and the demolition of library budgets and collections of books and journals. Overpriced and fetishized computer technology steals resources from print media, which are additionally saddled with inflated prices set by their multi-national publishers, particularly for scientific journals. The crisis in scholarly publishing is another consequence of the profit motive, which has become the chief or sole criterion for viability, including at academic presses, thereby eliminating from consideration most scholarly books, which have a small readership. Academic freedom shrinks when the supply of and access to knowledge (course books, specialized studies, news, and culture) is narrowed.
Given the neo-liberal agenda to destroy public education around the world, budget shortfalls must be regarded as one more golden opportunity. Generally, the neo-conservative war on terrorism is a means to promote and accelerate the neo-liberal war on labor unions and social programs, as well as its own pet projects of racism, misogyny, homophobia, environmental destruction, and Christian right theocracy.
Federal breaches in the wall separating church and state did not begin with the Bush regime. Clinton's welfare package, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, gave religious groups the right to proselytize in programs supported by federal funding. Bush expanded the breach by establishing the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, with offices in five cabinet departments, including the department of education (Platt, 22). (10)
Such intiatives prepare the way for the religious right to fight for the spoils of eventually privatized public institutions. The religious right will probably face stiff competition, e.g. from the military, intelligence and police agencies, and from private education companies. But privatized institutions controlled by the religious right face no wall of church-state separation. Unlike most mainstream religious institutions, the right will seek to control the curriculum and research and to exclude targeted groups from campus, such as qualified biologists (evolutionists), secularists, feminists, couples that are childless and/or unmmarried, and non-heterosexual individuals (see below the policies of the Baptist Conventions of Missouri and Georgia).
Because the US has a dual private and public system of higher education, the neo-liberal plan is to widen the gap between elite, usually private institutions, and mass, usually public, ones. The elite will continue to be trained for affluence and influence, they will become the managers, while the majority will be trained for lower level jobs, menial mental drudgery, requiring miminal and preferably zero critical thinking and skills.
A survey of free speech and academic freedom violations since 9/11 shows that, as might be expected, the periods with the greatest concentration of reported incidents were the last three months of 2001 and the months of the Iraq war.
Academic freedom violations in the US demonstrate the following tendencies.(11) The vast majority have been perpetrated by the political right against liberal and left targets, and their main weapons have been racism, sexism, and xenophobia. The clear pattern of bias among various authorities is to protect right-wing forces and discipline left-wing ones. Political bias in legal decisions is somewhat less pronounced than in the case of violations and enforcement, but the tilt of judicial opinion is clearly to the right.
Starting with cases where the right-wing was targeted, even stretching the category to the limit, I can find only 31 out of a total of 214 listed in John K. Wilson's report, or under 15%. Counting more strictly, there were 25 anti-right-wing actions, one promise of action, one action not by the campus community, and four expressions of opinion. 19 were by the campus community, while the six others involved theft or vandalism, perhaps by students, perhaps by off-campus individuals.
The remainder, or over 85% of the cases, concerned right-wing ideological, verbal, or physical assaults, or administrative, faculty, and student protection of right-wing organizations and individuals. When off-campus incidents and repression of high school teachers and students reported by other sources are added, the scales tip even more heavily to the right. There is no left-wing counterpart, for example, to right-wing mob action, including climbing onto the stage, that cut short Chris Hedges' antiwar speech at Rockford University. Nor to the Rockford College president's public objection several days later, not to the mob but to the speech. Similarly, the Chancellor of North Carolina State University supported the disruption of an antiwar commencement speech there. Protestors at Smith College, on the other hand, who objected to Madeline Albright's speech, tried to approach the stage but did not get close. The absence of effective security measures to protect Hedges in itself reveals political bias.
Anti-terrorism is the all-purpose justification for suppressing anti-right-wing dissent in many cases, particularly those involving police and civil authorities. Targets were dissenters against the war in Iraq, and often critics of Israeli policy toward Palestinians.
The University of California Berkeley first suppressed and then released a mailing with antiwar quotes (referring to World War I) by anarchist Emma Goldman, distributed, appropriately enough, by the Emma Goldman Papers Project at the same university.
The Berkeley English Department also censored a course description written by a graduate student on "The Politics and Poetics of Palestinian Resistance." Besides removing the student's warning that "conservative thinkers are encouraged to seek other sections," it also rewrote the description to estheticize and depoliticize the course, and, under the pretext of protecting academic standards, placed a tenured faculty member in the classroom as ideological enforcer (Post).
Such a move reflects the doctrine of depoliticization imposed by the New Criticism on the teaching and criticism of culture during the McCarthy period, and maintained since that era as the dominant canon of US culture. But the New Critics, as Professor Gene Bell-Villada has pointed out in his study, Art for Art's Sake and Literary Life, were hardly neutral, as their writings claimed. Rather, they were cosmeticized makeovers of the former Southern Agrarian Critics, who celebrated the Confederacy and slavery.
One source of graduation disruptions is the organized right-wing. Wilson reports: "Several conservative groups," such as the Young America's Foundation and the Cardinal Newman Society, "have launched pressure campaigns aimed at disrupting graduation ceremonies with speakers deemed too 'liberal' or heterodox." The right-wing also practices bait-and-switch, and then objects when the tactic is used by its opponents. Wilson reports that "Cardinal Francis Arinze, speaking at Georgetown College's commencement, was asked to talk about Christian-Muslim relations, but instead he discussed the decline of the family, which he said was 'mocked by homosexuality'." Likewise, when a graduate student tried to stop a left bashing speech at Michigan State, which was falsely advertised as something else, the speech was not cancelled. But the right objected loudly "after an April 23, 2003 speech by Francis Boyle of the University of Illinois Law School on 'Iraq and Israel: A Legal Double Standard'," allegedly due to Boyle's "'bait-and-switch in the titles'." It also pressured Loyola University in New Orleans, where Boyle spoke, claiming that at least one member of the Loyola administration has been responsive to its objections (Wilson).
Right-wing student organizations are increasing their presence on campuses, with the help of student governments and administrators. Student governments at two universities recognized right-wing organizations, including one that violated the college's non-discrimination policy. Chapters of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, the largest student organization in the country, discriminates against gays, but is winning recognition at universities with similar non-discrimination policies. Baylor, meanwhile, refuses to recognize any gay student groups. By contrast, Donna Shalala, President of University of Miami, overruled a student committee that refused recognition of a conservative student organization on grounds that it duplicated other organizations. On the other hand, there is no relief in sight for the Progressive Students for Justice at Fordham, whose recognition has been denied on similar grounds. Shalala's reasoning was the protection of academic freedom (Ibid). But academic freedom, as usual, generally protects the right, not the left.
The religious right is making headway in universities and in the courts, where right-wing administrations and judges are ruling in their favor. Separation of church and state in public institutions is routinely breached, and the teaching of Darwin is being successfully challenged.(12) Suppression of sexual material is likewise routine at many religious schools. A preacher accused of disorderly conduct and hustled off campus by a policeman received a nice settlement and an apology from the university, treatment never accorded to left dissenters when harassed by police. A Freedom from Religion Foundation meeting was suppressed on one campus, and Catholics for a Free Choice on another (Ibid).
Corporate violations of academic freedom proceeded as usual, whether under tyrant John Silber at Boston University, or in the case of possibly denied tenure of a professor who criticized the Novartis deal at Berkeley, or at a school without tenure, where a 16-year teacher was fired for "defamatory and misguided speech" that was provoking "the student body to a point of volatile and rebellious behavior." That is, she wrote an anonymous e-mail resolution critical of the administration and a student circulated it to 60 other students (Wilson). "The College of Southern Idaho cancelled a lecture to be given by Jeremy Rifkin," a critic of biotechnology applications, "after cattle industry executives threatened to boycott the event" (Euben, "Academic").
Several institutions cancelled lectures by a British theologian, Michael Prior, because of his criticism of Israeli policy. One professor who objected to Prior wrote: "Colleges should not invite Nazi speakers in to extol the virtues of Hitler, or David Duke to speak about certain religious groups that are inferior. Prior falls in that category" (Wilson). The principles are sound, but the professor has miscategorized Prior. Judged by his writings, Prior appears to be a mainstream progressive, a liberation theologian, and an anti-colonialist, to whom the theory and practice of racial superiority are alien. There have been no comparable cancellations of pro-Israeli academics, who deny or overlook Israeli racism.
Likewise, there is no left-wing counterpart to pro-war male students breaking and entering an antiwar woman student's suite at Yale and leaving obscene messages (Wilson, Rothschild). Nor to the numerous death threats that dissenters have received. Nor to police harassment, violence, and arrests of non-violent progressive activists, including student journalists and legal observers at a mass rally. Nor to heavy-handed legislative and administrative reprisals against faculty and students with a non-right-wing orientation, including a candidate for state office in Texas. One of the crudest was by the President of St. Xavier University in Chicago, who forced the professor to apologize, suspended and reprimanded him, and imposed post-tenure review. As John Wilson comments: "To put it in the simplest terms, a tenured professor was suspended for responding rudely to an unsolicited email and expressing his view that killing is wrong." In my view, he was disciplined for lese majeste toward the military.
Law school deans at NYU and Stanford overruled students and faculty respectively, who intended to award special distinctions to Lynne Stewart, a progressive attorney prosecuted for "terrorism," whose fifth amendment lawyer-client confidentiality rights were violated through secret government surveillance. A judge in California declared the law under which she is being prosecuted unconstitutional on first amendment grounds. The Stanford dean argued that Stewart has "expressly supported the use of violence to achieve social change." Wilson comments: "By Sullivan's logic, anyone who supports the American Revolution, the War on Iraq, or the death penalty--all of which use violence to achieve social change--cannot be allowed at Stanford Law School."
In addition, right-wing Jewish organizations, unable to ban the holding of a National Student Conference on the Palestine Solidarity Movement at University of Michigan last year, succeeded in having Rutgers cancel the already scheduled conference this year. The conference did take place on schedule, but had to be moved to a motel north of town. Rutgers, meanwhile, is sponsoring a year-long celebration of Israel, with the express purpose to "neutralize the Palestinian movement." Among speakers scheduled for the Israel celebration are right-wing luminaries Richard Perle, former CIA-director James Woolsey, and the president of the Hudson Institute (International Liaison Committee, International ANSWER).
Universities have established so-called outdoor free speech protest zones, under a variety of pretexts, and some have banned chalking on sidewalks. The protest zones appear to mimic police lockdowns on rallies against neo-liberal trade meetings and US political conventions, where protestors are confined in protest pits so distant from the people who need to hear them that their very existence can be denied, as is regularly done by the mainstream media. The administration of UC Berkeley is attempting to turn the clock back 40 years to pre-Free Speech Movement days by banning punished student groups from tabling on campus (Wilson). That the FSM archive is housed in the university library, and a plaque commemorating FSM and Mario Savio is set in the famous Sproul Hall steps for nostalgic tourists to admire, seems to provoke no cognitive dissonance in the current administration.
Threats, penalties, censorship, and lock-outs were imposed on student newspapers, and faculty advisers were disciplined for refusing to censor them. Censored contents often concerned sexual issues, but also included articles critical of the administration and of Israeli policies. There are no left-wing counterparts to administrative inaction when a right-wing student made a proud public confession that he and his friends had stolen and destroyed an issue of a progressive weekly at Illinois State University (Wilson). Defense of right-wing speech through administration inaction also occurred at the University of Oklahoma, when a professor of geology abused in extremely insulting terms a syndicated woman columnist, whose essay in the student paper argued for gun control (Euben, "Academic").
Donna Euben's review of court cases is equally sobering. There are many academic freedom cases in the courts not directly associated with the war on terrorism. But undoubtedly many decisions reflect the pathological environment the war has engendered.
Federal civil rights laws are under attack. The Supreme Court, reviving the "sovereign immunity" clause of the Eleventh Amendment, is preventing enforcement of already enacted federal legislation by granting "sovereign immunity" to states. One consequence is that states and state institutions cannot be sued by individuals or groups for violations of federal civil rights laws. The only exception is legislation dealing with "existing rights under the Fourteenth Amendment, such as the prohibition against gender and race discrimination" (Euben, "Annual"). Suits concerning discrimination by disability and age and family and medical leave are vulnerable to dismissal. In essence, the decision empowers states' rights to supersede federal authority.
Several cases attempt to extend the prohibition against sexist harassment into a ban on sexual content in general. Two decisions ruled in favor of faculty and two against. AAUP guidelines head off this tactic by suggesting that "anti-discrimination policies should regulate conduct, not the content of speech." Even classroom language exercises examining rather than encouraging offensive speech are being used as a pretext for firing non-tenure track faculty.
For example, an English instructor was fired because the topic of sex, chosen by the students, was used for an in-class word association exercise. Students called out words related to the topic and grouped similar words into clusters. While "none of the students or their parents complained," the administration rationale for firing him was the pretext that the classroom exercise "'could be considered sexual harassment, and could create liability for the college'." A federal appellate court found a technical reason to rule against the instructor's "'First Amendment academic freedom rights'" (Euben, "Academic").
A right-wing Board of Education and legislature collaborated to eliminate certain faculty controlled research grants at Idaho State University, the pretext being the topic of homosexuality.
The right of faculty to determine curriculum is also under attack, again usually due to sexual content. Two rulings were in favor of the faculty and one against. However, the strategy of faculty self-policing to head off possible legislative interference may be self-defeating, as it was in the McCarthy period, when acquiescence only encouraged the right-wing.
Two political cases concerning corporations and the environment were decided on the basis of right-wing judicial, legislative, and administrative biases. The Tulane University law clinic was enjoined from representing certain community clients, like the group it helped successfully fight environmental racism. The decision upheld a state law which had been passed earlier specifically targeting legal help for progressive organizations. The Pennsylvania state legislature and the University of Pittsburgh administration ganged up on the "Pittsburgh Environmental Law Clinic" for "represent[ing] ... opponents of an expressway and logging project." After a faculty committee declared a violation of academic freedom, the administration found private funds to continue operating the clinic. Nevertheless, the clinic was successfully cut off from state funding (Ibid).
Corporate privilege was also served when a judge ruled in favor of the recording industry oligopoly to suppress public discussion of studies of decryption software. This oligopoly, we should remember, was achieved through corporate hijacking of the principle of copyright, which was originally meant to protect the individual creative artist, not distribution mega-businesses. In rendering his decision, the judge expressed his undisguised contempt for academic freedom, "opin[ing] from the bench that the computer scientists 'liken themselves to Galileo,' but they are really 'modern-day Don Quixotes threatened by windmills that they mistake for giants'" (Ibid). The judge's sophistry cannot obscure the analogies between today's corporate censors and the monopolistic orthodoxy of Galileo's day. Several other decisions protect large industries in the same way.
A faculty member was stripped of her administrative duties and prohibited from speaking about her research findings at state seminars due to pressure from the Montana Tourism Industry, which disliked the results of her research. It "found that 48% of state residents thought the hotel tax should be used to support environmental efforts, and only 14% thought it should be used to promote tourism, although approximately 87% of the tax currently goes to tourism promotion" (Ibid).
Three court decisions indicate that grading is not protected by first amendment academic freedom. One argued that a professor may not be compelled to change a grade by the administration, but that the administration may do so by itself. The decision provides a platform for grading corruption, typical in the cases of athletes whose eligibility to play depends on maintaining a minimum grade point average. Given the huge corporate investment in college sports, the profit motive may have also played a part in this ruling. A second judgment decided in favor of the administration on the assumption that the term "university" refers solely to the administrative component. Robert O'Neil wrote in the Chronicle that this assault on faculty governance "is a frightening prospect, at which all parts of higher education should take alarm" (O'Neil, "Free Speech"). The decision in a third case approved administrative violations of the faculty's professional responsibilities.
Two right-wing court decisions affirming the suppression of sexual content deny faculty the right to access certain web sites. At the same time, a right-wing lawsuit is challenging a progressive Minnesota state policy "that allegedly prohibits the use of computer equipment for the '[r]eceipt, storage or transmission of offensive, racist [or] sexist . . . information'" (sexual content is not identical to sexism) (Euben, "Academic").
Northwestern University defended the free speech rights of a far right engineering professor who posts holocaust denial information on his university website and has published a book with the same claims. Though the professor states that these views are not aired in his classes, Professor Robert O'Neil argues that "'when one encounters Holocaust-denial on a professor's Web page ... there is at least an inference of attribution or complicity [by the university]'" (Ibid).
Five court rulings deny privacy in internet use. One decision upheld the institution's "'right to access all information stored on [the college's] computers'." Another stated that computer users have "no generic expectation of privacy for shared usage on computers at large" (Ibid). That is, if no privacy policies are posted, the governing assumption is that privacy does not exist. In other words, on computer networks the fourth amendment is a dead letter.
The right-wing is also trying to force concealed weapons onto campus, since the most likely beneficiaries would be right-wing military and paramilitary forces. The administration of the University of Utah "is suing the state of Utah in response to a legal opinion issued by the state attorney general that the university is violating state law, which allows those with permits to carry concealed weapons. The university bans the possession of firearms on campus. The university's faculty senate approved resolutions to support the concealed weapons ban. The state gun law exempts courts, prisons, airports, and mental institutions, but not higher education institutions. The administration argues that the presence of concealed weapons would have a chilling effect on the intellectual marketplace of the university, and that the state's regulation of the campus on this matter violates the institution's academic freedom (Euben, "Annual").
Turning to five local academic freedom cases, the chief issues appear to be corporatization, sexual politics, racism, and administrative impunity. I must insert a disclaimer here. I am not discussing these cases at the request of the faculty involved (none asked me to do so), but because local cases illustrate national trends.
The academic study of pedophilia was the excuse for right-wing state legislators, first in Missouri and later in Kansas, to target professor Harris Mirkin at UMKC and professor Dennis Dailey at KU. These assaults occurred a year apart, in April of 2002 and 2003 respectively. Right-wing state senators raised loud objections to sexual content as pretexts for punitive budget cuts by the legislature, thereby jump starting the process of massive public defunding of higher education under the guise of moral outrage. Since public education serves the taxpayers, who fund it, the public must be given a rationale to mobilize against its own interests. Thus the guardians of the new world order deploy tactics sanctified by ancient Athenian tradition, such as denouncing teachers as corrupters of youth.
Despite their shared foundation, the cases turned out to be rather different. Mirkin was assailed for his academic research, which reaches a limited audience, while Dailey was blamed for a course he was teaching, which reaches a large student population. Although only one very small component of Dailey's course treated pedophilia, the presence of a student audience offered a convenient justification for more intrusive right-wing intervention. The student who filed the complaint was a legislative intern for Senator Wagle, who led the charge, and the senator also hired a private detective to spy on Dailey. By contrast, Missouri State Senator Loudon used pedophilia as a springboard to launch an ideological attack on the entire university, ranting that Mirkin was not "some Berkeley professor. It's someone from the heartland using the state's flagship university to promote disgusting views" (Kansas City Star, 4/26/02). The hoary stereotype of the corrupt outside agitator from the coasts invading the innocent puritan heartland revives the crude pastime of McCarthyite spectre slinging.
The diametrically opposed outcomes of these cases resulted from the contrasting politics of the states' Democratic Party governors. Missouri Governor Holden (a UMKC graduate) compounded the legislature's punishment of the university, while Kansas Governor Sebelius vetoed the funding cut and made a public statement defending academic freedom. Finally, the Missouri debacle was aided and abetted by the grossly biased Kansas City media. They provided ample exposure for right-wing opinion, openly sided with it, and, with one minor and belated exception, suppressed news of widespread local and national support for Mirkin's academic freedom (UM President and Curators, UMKC Chancellor, UMKC Academic Senate and AAUP chapter, New York Times, New Yorker, etc.). In this way they created the false impression of unanimous public opinion at the far right end of the spectrum.
The AAUP "Statement on Professors and Political Activity" (1990) declares that faculty are citizens and "should be free to engage in political activities," so long as they do not interfere with their academic obligations (AAUP Policy, 33-34).
Valdinia Winn, an African-American professor of history with a PhD from the University of Kansas and 30 years of service at Kansas City Kansas Community College, gave public testimony about her case at the Education for Democracy conference at UMKC in March 2001, sponsored by the AAUP chapter. The title of her talk was "Gender and Racial Bias at Kansas City Kansas Community College." Violation of her academic freedom to engage in political activities occurred in the fall of 2000, after she was elected to the Kansas House of Representatives, running as an independent representing a neglected constituency. Members of the Board of Trustees had backed the two candidates opposing her. In addition, the President of the College was taking reprisals for Professor's Winn's protest to him ten years earlier, when he was Vice-President, about his inaction to condemn racial slurs made by the basketball coach, who was later promoted to director of athletics.
The President told her that the members of the Board did not want her to teach while she served in the Legislature, but that she would be permitted to take a leave of absence without pay. Her name was removed from the already prepared schedule of classes, and her students were told she was unavailable. No such teaching restrictions had ever been placed on white faculty, including elected officials, nor were white faculty disallowed from negotiating their own teaching schedules. In other words, she was singled out for discriminatory treatment based on race.
Because the legislature was in session only during normal working hours on weekdays, she was free to teach evenings and weekends. One of the courses she was not allowed to teach was a weekend continuing education course for working adults. The students in that course attended the Education for Democracy Conference, which was their only opportunity to meet her. Even though the administration claimed her legislative duties would interfere with her academic ones, she was allowed to spend considerable time on campus writing a proposal for a large grant. Thus the administration's actions were clearly motivated by partisan politics, racial bias, and personal animosity.
Returning to Ellen Schrecker's argument that the AAUP failed to do its job during the McCarthy period, I would like to mention two recent cases of AAUP failure. They concern Fred Whitehead, formerly at KU Medical Center, and David Ormerod, formerly at UM Columbia. Neither is young, and both have left the profession.
Whitehead, an untenured associate professor with 21 years of service at KU Medical Center, or three times the AAUP minimum for de facto tenure, was arbitrarily fired in 1999, allegedly for budget reasons (his salary was $37,000, while the Dean who fired him was making about $250,000 at the time). In fact, his job was collateral damage from the privatization of the Hospital, when the Department of Family Medicine, where he worked, was "moved out to make room for a large group of cardiologists from St. Luke's Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri" (Whitehead, K.U. Confidential).
Whitehead has documented his case in a book entitled "K.U. Confidential." The book is chiefly a history of the University of Kansas and academic freedom, and chapter 11, on the AAUP, is of special interest. Since I was involved in his case, I can vouch for the restraint, accuracy, and careful documentation of his account. Among his findings is that AAUP support at the campus, state, and national level was at best half-hearted, and promised reports on investigations of his case were never published. The pretext for denying him assistance was the AAUP acceptance of the KU administration claim that he was not a member of the faculty but an administrator, a claim that the facts do not support.
David Ormerod was an assistant professor at the University of Missouri Columbia Medical School and a practicing opthalmologist. He argues that his dismissal was a result of malfeasance by a supervisor and complicity by the upper administration that cost him not only his academic job but also his medical career. He has left academia, the medical profession, and the state of Missouri. He is now preparing for work in a different field and has taken a job unconnected with his former professions. He also has a legal case pending against the university. Ormerod has documented some aspects of his case in articles published in the Faculty Advocate ("It Could Happen," "Unless Legal").
The larger context of his case is the ballooning of the administration at UM Columbia, massive replacement of tenure-track with contingent positions, erosion of faculty governance and flagrant disregard of faculty governing bodies, and the denial of due process to non-tenured faculty. As in Whitehead's case, the support Ormerod received from the national AAUP was limited and half-hearted.
I have a few practical suggestions: increase the national dues level to hire more staff, and perhaps also increase the size of Committee A, so that AAUP can handle a greater caseload. If the campus chapters were to recruit a large and active membership, they could deal with and promote academic freedom cases locally, as well as on the state conference level. However, I have some doubts as to the political will of some national staff to make such changes. During the McCarthy period the AAUP General Secretary cited understaffing as a justification for inaction. One national staff member recently argued in public that that AAUP defends principles and not people. Ellen Schrecker writes of the early AAUP, which had yet to establish itself and its principles, "the AAUP's preoccupation with developing principles instead of helping individuals simply reinforced the standard practice [of political firings and professional blacklisting]" (Schrecker, No Ivory, 19).
Reforms aside, the basic principle is simple: in order to retain legitimacy and members, the AAUP must walk its talk, act on its principles, defend them when under attack, and staunchly represent ALL persons whose academic freedom is assaulted.
The most famous casualty of the New McCarthyism is Professor Sami al-Arian, the first tenured academic of the post-9/11 era to be fired from his position. He has also been incarcerated on terrorism charges, allegedly accused of fund-raising for terrorist organizations. His dismissal, however, was triggered by extra-mural speech, which is protected under professional academic freedom. The University of South Florida faculty senate and faculty union, and the national AAUP condemned the administration's actions. Committee A should be commended for breaking with tradition. It pursued active public intervention intended to be preventative rather than solely remedial, by investigating and issuing interim reports before the case was completed. However, its reluctance to recommend censure, pending the outcome of the university grievance appeal procedure, which may never take place, was compensated for by the condemnation vote of delegates to the national convention. Committee A did argue that "the principle of 'innocent until proven guilty' ought to be observed in our institutions of higher learning no less than it is in our courts."
Al-Arian's persecution closely resembles McCarthy era purges, in which government at various levels, the FBI, right-wing forces outside the academy, the right-wing media, and academic administrations collaborated in order to victimize a representative of the currently scapegoated group. Since Professor al-Arian had recently been a guest at the Bush White House, his appearance on the O'Reilly Factor talk show looks very much like a set up initiating the purge. O'Reilly's public apologies and disclaimers notwithstanding, he played the role of unofficial public prosecutor, denouncing al-Arian for alleged statements made long ago, the role once played by Congressional investigating committees and their myriad local clones in the fifties. Thus it may be accurate to refer to Professor al-Arian as a political prisoner, incarcerated for his political opinions and his community leadership.
It should be added that even if the charges of raising money for Islamic Jihad are substantiated by publicly exhibited evidence, the long and well-documented tradition of US government and FBI malfeasance in political cases, including fabrication of evidence, and perjured, coached, and intimidated witnesses, particularly in show trials like that of the Rosenbergs, does not arouse confidence. It took four decades and the Freedom of Information Act for some of the government lies from the McCarthy period to be exposed (Carmichael; Churchill; Kovel, 271-2, FN 1; Meeropol; O'Reilly; Schneir; Schrecker, Age, 139-140). Given the current legal environment, where secret evidence and secret trials are recommended as standard procedure in terrorism cases, it might take even longer to learn the partial truth about today's pogrom against Arabs and Muslims
In 1997 Schrecker clearly saw the potential for the dangers we are facing today: "when the anticommunist crusade petered out, no barriers were erected to prevent its recurrence.... the process through which McCarthyism came to dominate American politics is infinitely replicable. The demonization of politically marginalized groups and the use of state power to repress them goes on all the time, as does the willingness of so many important individuals and institutions to collaborate with the process" (Schrecker, Many are the Crimes, 415).
CRITIQUES OF ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND PROPOSED EXTENSIONS
The concept of academic freedom has changed over time and was contested and debated from the start. Today's debates are no different. They focus on the shortcomings of its current scope and application. And they call for extensions of the concept to protect vulnerable constituencies, and to fight effectively for genuine democracy and against the anti-democratic agendas of neo-liberalism and neo-conservativism.
The May-June 2003 issue of Academe carries three critical essays. Erica Rand wonders whether hate groups, meaning neo-fascist and neo-nazi organizations targeting a wide variety of minorities, deserve the protections of academic freedom. "I was hardly eager to support the articulation of white supremacy. I couldn't imagine how an environment made friendly for WCOTC [World Church of the Creator] supporters wouldn't negatively impact the academic freedom of people in their targeted groups" (Rand, 31).
Eric Marshall proposes the extension of the principle of academic freedom beyond the issue of tenure and beyond due process rights. It should protect not only the speech but also the professional standards of contingent faculty, and therefore the quality of education students receive. He argues that the miserable wages and working conditions of contingent faculty violate their academic freedom to perform at a professional level, a prerequisite to meet their responsibilities to their students.
Balakrishnan Rajagopal treats academic freedom from an internationalist perspective, by proposing that it be regarded as a human right. His aim is to protect the foreign born in academia, many of whom are now targeted by xenophobic government policies, not only in the US but in many other countries as well. Faculty in the US private sector, who lack constitutional protections, could seek refuge under human rights, which are universal. Rajagopal cites the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (freedom of opinion and expression) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (education). Additionally, in 1999 the UN recognized academic freedom as part of a human right to education. Finally, he reminds readers that the US has not ratified most human rights treaties, and that "U.S. administrations have contested the existence of economic, social, and cultural rights as human rights" (Rajagopal, 28).
The historical inadequacies of academic freedom are reviewed by Ellen Schrecker in No Ivory Tower . She argues that as they developed over time, definitions of academic freedom were changed ex post facto in response to crises. In addition, these revisions were expedient, that is, they accommodated, rather than resisted, the reigning political dogma of the moment. Thus academic freedom did not protect the people who needed it most. Although she does not draw this conclusion, the evidence she provides indicates that the expedient definition during the McCarthy period reflected the anticommunist biases of AAUP leaders like Arthur O. Lovejoy, General Secretary Ralph Himstead, and William Laprade, long-time chair of Committee A (Schrecker, No Ivory, 323, 328, 330, 332).(13) She does argue, however, that due to Himstead's inaction, the national AAUP office did not publish any academic freedom reports or censure any institutions for seven years, 1949-1956, the height of the McCarthy purges, thus paralyzing the organization and costing it authority, legitimacy, credibility, and effectiveness.
The most radical critiques of academic freedom are by Marxists, and not only because they were the main unprotected targets, resulting in their exclusion from or marginalization in the academy and in US society. More important, they argue that an inadequate notion of academic freedom serves to maintain inequality and injustice, and to obstruct realization of the full potential of democracy. Class is the analytical category most denied in US discourse, because it is a defining characteristic of capitalism. But the presence in academia of self-identified working class faculty is infinitesimal. Renny Christopher writes in ACADEME about the hidden and unacknowledged injuries of class, and its exclusion and marginalization in higher education. But the working class is not a special interest group in the US. Vicente Navarro, a professor at Johns Hopkins, writes: "Clerical, manufacturing, and service workers, individuals who are supervised, who work at repetitive jobs, and are paid by hourly wages ... represent around 60% of our population," that is, they are the majority (Navarro, 59).
Charles Reitz, a professor of philosophy at Kansas City Kansas Community College, does not directly address academic freedom, but critiques its underlying libertarian philosophy. He adopts Herbert Marcuse's critique of pure tolerance--which Marcuse named "repressive tolerance" in a 1965 essay--to argue that right-wing hate speech is truly destructive and should not be protected.
As a refugee from Nazism, Marcuse wrote: "'if democratic tolerance had been withdrawn when the future leaders started their campaign, mankind would have had a chance of avoiding Auschwitz and a World War'" (Reitz, 277). Thus he argued that pure tolerance cannot protect dissent, as liberals claim it does. In addition, he "believed that the doctrine of pure tolerance was systematically utilized by reactionary and liberal forces to abuse equality guarantees and derail or destroy the possibility of democratic egalitarianism" (Ibid, 275). "Authentic democracy," Reitz states, "presupposes an educational and cultural context that facilitates autonomous and rational discourse" (Ibid, 277). But that very context, he asserts, is lacking in the US today.
Claims that the state is neutral and that society is free and democratic are pretenses, argues Reitz. Thus the United States, wrote Marcuse, "'has destroyed the basis for universal tolerance. The conditions under which tolerance can again become a liberating force have still to be created'" (Ibid, 277-278). In this way, Marcuse makes "crucial analytical distinctions between the emancipatory and the repressive use of tolerance" (Ibid, 278).
Reitz regards "the resurgent doctrine of pure tolerance" as "sheer capitulation to ideologies of oppression and as a subversion of the authentic defense of human rights and liberty" (Ibid, 279). He juxtaposes "the inadequacy of the abstract liberal-process-in-a-content-free-vacuum approach" to the principle of universal human rights, which can "suggest effective remedies against discrimination" (Ibid, 279). He conceives of universal human rights as follows: "a specifically enumerated set of economic and social rights for all, which define general and enforceable conditions of justice, in terms of parity, reciprocity, antisubordination, and equal dignity" (Ibid, 279).
Bertell Ollman, a professor of political science at NYU, implicitly agrees with Marcuse that academic freedom has served as a tool of repression in the US. More radically, he argues that the ideal of academic freedom itself serves the ideology of academic repression.
This is because the university does not exist in splendid isolation but in capitalist society. He argues that "as long as the capitalist class controls the universities, which is to say as long as capitalism exists, the gap between the ideal of academic freedom and its practice ... is more or less fixed" (Ollman, 127). The actual functions of academic freedom under capitalism are ideological, for example, "promoting belief in the existence of a real equality of opportunity" (Ibid, 124); economic, providing "capitalists with a reserve army of low paid, nonunionized, part-time workers, while at the same time offering a kind of custodial care for young people who cannot find jobs" (Ibid, 124); and repressive, "a kind of policing mechanism" (Ibid, 126) operated by government, administration, and faculty.
Because government purges are expressed in political terms, "the ideological work of the university, which relies so heavily on the assumption of tolerance, is seriously jeopardized" (Ibid, 126). This work is better outsourced to administrations and the faculty. Politicians and other outside forces tend to get involved only when administrations and faculty are perceived to have abdicated their policing function. Administrations likewise interfere when faculty are derelict in their policing duty. Thus, he argues, "a kind of academic freedom already exists. It takes the form of a three-tiered mechanism of academic repression" (Ibid, 127).
Consequently, "the ideal of academic freedom is the ideology that both permits and provides a cover for" repression (Ibid, 128). In the university, "as throughout capitalist society, a commitment to freedom in the absence of a equally strong commitment to social justice carries with it the seeds of even greater injustice" (Ibid, 129). Hence capitalist society "needs its universities to help reproduce and rationalize existing inequalities" (Ibid, 129).
Nevertheless, he concedes, "a critically constituted ideal contains within it the conditions of its own misuse as well as the structural changes necessary to reverse this process" (Ibid, 130). The ideal of academic freedom "opens up a little space and provides some justification for the presentation of critical opinion" (Ibid, 129). "Rhetorically and occasionally procedurally, it also serves as a modest defense for radical teachers who avail themselves of this space" (Ibid, 129). The ideal often appeals to youth, and "with the help of the few real exceptions, liberals who try to incorporate their beliefs into their daily lives ... the ideal of academic freedom sometimes plays a progressive role in the struggle to extend the boundaries of what can be studied in our universities" (Ibid, 129). In addition, "the ideal of academic freedom ... also exercises ... a very general restraining influence on what the perpetrators of academic repression are able and even willing to do" (Ibid, 129).
In this way, he ends, "we are freed to work for academic freedom by helping to build the egalitarian conditions that are necessary for it to exist. This includes a demand for academic freedom not just for teachers and students but for workers and others who today are penalized for freely expressing their opinions. In developing this expanded understanding of the ideal of academic freedom ... we are beginning the work of putting it into practice" (Ibid, 130).
Marcuse, Ollman, and Reitz are in agreement then, that in order to maintain the legitimacy of academic freedom, it must be grounded in a universal liberatory project.
Rajagopal and Reitz both suggest a promising solution. They focus on a sore point of US law and society, the absence of constitutionally guaranteed social, economic, and cultural rights. Generally, we can classify political rights in the category of democratic process, while social, economic, and cultural rights can be classified as democratic outcomes. US law and society are heavy on process and procedure, but very weak on outcomes. Similarly, a focus on freedom to the exclusion of justice results in a one-sided and stunted society.
Not surprisingly, academic freedom reflects the limitations of US law and social practice. Most of its components deal with democratic process. Only tenure, which is job security, breaks out of the box and affirms an economic right, a democratic outcome. But this exception is promising, because it sets a precedent which may open up academic freedom toward embracing other social, economic, and cultural rights, those which reside in the realm of democratic outcomes and basic justice. If academic freedom is to have true efficacy, then the ideal and practice of academic freedom need to be extended to include the principle of academic justice. Academic justice and democratic outcomes, based on universal social, economic, and cultural rights, are crucial if the US and its higher education system are to overcome the impairments of de facto inequality.
Marcuse and Ollman wrote in an earlier historical period. Today we are faced with open aggressive intolerance. Thus it is a matter of common sense to find effective ways of defending democracy and opposing right-wing aggression. The argument that libertarians refuse to make against the right today--tolerance has limits when democracy is threatened--is the same one both libertarians and the right-wing used against the left during the McCarthy period.(14) Bias against the left remains consistent under all pretexts.
We can justify intolerance for the right-wing agenda because it is anti-democratic to the core. Furthermore, it projects its own anti-democratic agenda on the left in order to distract attention from its own schemes. For example, the right-wing claim that that the small American communist party after the Second World War was poised to take over the country was as absurd as its recent claims about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. These were both manufactured threats, grossly exaggerated in order to mobilize the population through fear. But unlike the left then and now, the right-wing today factually holds power, is setting the national and global agendas, and in terms of domestic repression is doing everything and then some that it falsely accused the left of planning to do back in the McCarthy period.(15)
As today's constitutional crisis reveals, if an artificial separation is maintained between democratic process and democratic outcomes, the first protected by the constitution and the second banished outside its gates, then eventually democratic process will be deported as well. If we are serious about defending democracy, whether viewed as process or outcomes or preferably both together, then we should consider adopting the very principle that fundamentalist libertarianism strenuously rejects. Namely, democratic process and procedures must not be used to restrict civil and human rights, or to enable or further undemocratic outcomes.
FASCISM AND THE ANTI-FASCIST RESISTANCE
Fascism is an appropriate and historically precise term to describe and summarize what appear to be the disparate and apparently irrational policies enumerated above. Fascism is not a generic synonym for repression, dictatorship, or authoritarianism, but a very concrete and historically specific phenomenon. Like democracy, its opposite, it can be understood in terms of both process and outcomes. Fascist "process," or dictatorship, is familiar from popular representations of its history. What remains generally unknown (aside from racism and ethnic genocide) is the fascist social, economic, and cultural agenda as observed in its practice, that is, fascist outcomes.
The undemocratic outcomes mandated by neo-liberalism and neo-conservatism adopt policies of historically fascist regimes, particularly those of the Third Reich. A system that prioritizes endless war, global conquest, empire, a militarized society and a police state, to which all forces and resources are devoted, where elite education serves regime propaganda, the military and intelligence sectors, and colonial administration; a system that scapegoats labor and the left, divides humankind along basically racial-class lines, and tracks the majority of people into inferior or no education (learning from "daily life," "life in the street", etc.) in order to channel them into menial jobs, uprooting and coercing the least fortunate into joining a super-exploited migratory labor force, repeats the historical policies and practices of the Nazi empire. In addition, aside from everyday exploitation, today literal slave labor has reappeared on a large scale, including in the US, in the agriculture and prostitution industries (Bedoya, Bales, Cockburn).
While the defining characteristic of the Third Reich has been intentionally reduced in mainstream Anglo-American discourse to the Holocaust, the central place of capitalism--as financier and beneficiary of fascist power, and in its crucial role in the inception, formation, and operation of the Nazi regime--is acknowledged by objective historians and theoreticians (Parenti, chapter 1). Nazi racial-eugenics policies were a means to an end, world conquest, continental and global empire, and enslavement of subjugated populations (mostly eastern and southern) for the economic benefit of privileged (primarily northwestern) European elites, above all Germanic ones (Mayer). These historical facts, along with Mussolini's definition of fascism as "the corporate state," indicate that terms current today such as "corporate fascism" are actually redundancies. (16)
Because the concept of fascism in the US has been popularly equated with dictatorship and authoritarian behavior, that is, with a mode of government, while the US has maintained a formal electoral process, popular ideology rejects the notion that fascism can apply to mainstream US society. Only marginal (though growing) neo-nazi and other historically based fascist groups are permitted to be so designated. But the peculiar style of fascism in the pre-9/11 US is its achievement of fascist domestic outcomes through primarily manipulative rather than repressive means, that is, without establishing a formal dictatorship (Gross)(17).
The predominance of manipulation as opposed to repression, however, depends on class and race. The lower classes and people of color receive a much higher dose of repression, while the middle classes and white people are controlled primarily through ideological manipulation. Third world resistance and independence movements, like the domestic lower classes and people of color, are dealt with primarily by means of repression, in the form of US military intervention and support for dictatorial regimes (Blum, Chomsky).
Following 9/11, fascist process and government have replaced manipulation as the preferred form of dealing with resistance by the US middle class and white people, while repression has been intensified against traditional working class and racial targets. The thorough abrogation of civil liberties, the Bill of Rights, and the Constitution declared in the autumn of 2001 was identified as fascistic by historically informed observers describing the police state under construction (Brodsky, "Teaching Tolerance"). Belatedly, awareness of fascism is seeping into mainstream sources. A union official commented on police behavior at the November 2003 protest against the FTAA meeting in Miami: "here in Miami this is not democracy. This is a police state" (Brigham). Objecting to "Gestapo tactics" in an alleged drug raid on a South Carolina high school earlier in November (the majority of students were African-American, no drugs were found or charges filed), an editorial in the conservative Augusta Chronicle [Georgia] stated: "This raid was un-American. We do not want to live in a country in which storm troopers are liable to swoop down on us at any time to demand we prove our innocence" ("Editorial").
Corporate monopoly control of the mass media, the electoral system (through financing of candidates), and the health care system, and current campaigns to extend corporate control to education and the retirement systems, describes a society ruled by a near dictatorship of monopoly capital. Politically, labor, which includes the vast majority of the population (wage workers as well as most salaried middle-class professional workers as well), is deprived of a voice (mass media blackout) and a policy-making role in government (the right-wing consensus). The dictatorship of monopoly capital was an early definition of fascism, perhaps even more apt in today's US than in 1935, when it was formulated to describe the ruling systems of Italy and Germany (Dimitrov).
Fascism also is a major component in the family histories of several leading politicians. Bush's grandfather, Prescott Bush, and great grandfather, George Herbert Walker, financed the Nazi Party, starting as early as 1924 and continuing well into the war years (Fitrakis, Tarpley, Loftus, Kranish, Simpson, Splendid). "Karl Rove's grandfather allegedly helped run the Nazi Party, and helped build the Birkenau Death Camp. Arnold Schwarzenegger's Austrian father volunteered for the infamous Nazi SA and became a ranking officer" (Fitrakis). Karl Rove is the Bush regime's main strategist, responsible behind the scenes for the election of Arnold Schwarzenegger as the new Governor of California.
Bush family Nazi ties did not end in 1945. "John Foster Dulles, who had worked with the Bush family in the Harriman Company in laundering money for Nazi Germany, was Dwight Eisenhower's Secretary of State. His brother Allen became CIA director.... American intelligence recruited numerous top Nazis to spy on the Soviets during the Cold War. Many established connections to the Bush family that had helped finance their original rise to power" (Fitrakis). George Bush senior's election committee recruited former Third Reich Nazis to campaign for him in 1988 (Bellant, Lee). George the First's declaration of a "New World Order" is a slightly camouflaged Nazi slogan, "The New Order in Europe."
Likewise, Schwarzenegger publicly declared his great admiration for Hitler in a 1977 interview. To counter bad publicity, he "has made substantial donations to the Los Angeles-based Wiesenthal Center, which tracks down ex-Nazis ... [he] has also renounced Hitler. But he has not renounced his friendship with fellow Austrian Kurt Waldheim, the one-time head of the United Nations with known Nazi ties" (Fitrakis).
The Bush family, Union Banking, and Harriman Company were hardly alone among the US corporate elite in providing material and propaganda support for, and deriving large profits from, the Third Reich. A who's who of US big business aided Nazism, including Westinghouse, IBM, ITT, RCA, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Standard Oil, GAF, SKF, and Chase National (Higham, Black). There was also intense collaboration between US eugenicists and the Nazi regime (Kuehl). After the war the US recruited many Nazis to work for the government, including in scientific research and intelligence (Simpson, Blowback, Splendid ).
Following the US invasion of Iraq, comparisons of the Bush regime to the Third Reich have become commonplace in the independent progressive media, and have even surfaced in the mainstream media as well (Stille, Blumenfeld). Aside from family and corporate connections, there are convincing analogies between US history since the 2000 election and German history from 1932. We see in both cases: 1) an unelected leader whose cadres physically intimidated voters, and who required elevation into power through non-electoral means; 2) 9/11 as the US counterpart to the Reichstag Fire, a perfect pretext for an unpopular minority government to consolidate its power and implement its reactionary policies; and 3) the regime's avid pursuit of global imperial aims through endless wars and the establishment of a domestic police state.
Camp X-ray at Guantanamo Naval Base, as sparse reports indicate, is a concentration camp for political prisoners, similar in its torture techniques to well-documented practice in the control units of US super maximum security prisons (Dohrn). As a torture chamber for political prisoners, it bears some comparison with Buchenwald.
The Buchenwald Report recalls Nazi history: "Nearly all concentration camp prisoners were being held under 'protective custody' (Schutzhaft) provisions. As early as Februrary 28, 1933 [the day after the Reichstag Fire], an emergency decree allowed the Gestapo to imprison for indefinite periods persons deemed dangerous to the state. They were not permitted a trial or access to the court system [emphasis DB]. A more detailed and comprehensive set of regulations in April 1934 further expanded police powers in this area [cf PATRIOT II], thus making possible the concentration camp system described in this report" (Hackett, 29).
Other structural analogies between the Third Reich and the Bush regime include: a single "non-partisan" political program (Washington consensus), the mainstream mass media as a propaganda organ, the deployment of euphemistic language and big lies to mask and justify murderous policies, xenophobic scapegoating justifying emergency measures cancelling the constitution, attempts at homogenization, regimentation, and the purging of pluralism and multi-culturalism, contempt for international treaties and institutions (League of Nations, UN), and an organized right-wing mass base.
Nevertheless, since the US does not (yet) have fully developed fascism--a formal dictatorship and a population firmly committed to fascist social, economic, and cultural outcomes--some room remains for free speech and academic freedom, and for organizing an anti-fascist resistance.
In order to highlight the theme of resistance, I was tempted to subtitle this report "or what we did last summer." For many years my wife, Pat, and I have been researching the anti-fascist resistance, particularly in Germany and Austria, where only a small part of it has received wide exposure. Pat's course, the Anti-Fascist Resistance in German Letters, which she is offering for the fourth time in Fall 2004, is probably unique in the US, where fascism receives obsessive attention, to the general neglect of the resistance.
Why study the resistance? Bluntly, because fascism is depressing, while the resistance gives some hope. Last summer we visited the Buchenwald concentration camp memorial outside Weimar. Buchenwald was a slave labor camp for political prisoners where over 50,000 people were murdered. But what was unique about Buchenwald was its highly organized and durable secret organization of inmates. The inmate organization took control of much of the everyday administration, helped save many lives, and liberated the camp before the arrival of the US army (Hackett). The Buchenwald resistance movement indicates what was possible even under the grimmest of conditions.
Passing on to civilian resistance under a relatively mild military occupation, our all too brief visit to the Dutch Resistance Museum in Amsterdam raises issues relevant to the defense of academic freedom. Other than the story of Anne Frank, the Dutch had a reputation of being conservative accommodaters and collaborators rather than resisters, since they were regarded by the Third Reich as "brother Aryans" worthy of privileged treatment. The Amsterdam museum, however, opened our eyes to the broad, varied, and often effective resistance mounted by the Dutch people, with participation across the political spectrum.
Aside from the capital crime of hiding Jews, the Dutch organized labor strikes, practiced mass non-compliance with Nazi orders, and found many other ways of making life difficult for the occupiers. But what struck us as perhaps the most characteristic and widespread form of Dutch resistance was the underground newspaper. So far over a thousand have been identified, an astounding number for a country with a small population. Most were ephemeral, but the imperative to publicly counter Nazi propaganda appears to have been nearly universal. The same kinds of skills practiced in resistance journalism are also standard professional requirements for all academics.
RECENT FIGHTBACKS, RESISTANCE, VICTORIES
The neo-liberal assault on education worldwide, and the neo-conservative campaign in the US, have not gone unanswered. In Europe the inclusion of education in GATS was condemned by university presidents in Scotland, by the European University Association, which declared, "higher education exists to serve the public interest and is not a 'commodity'," and by the World Congress of Education International, a body representing 309 national teachers' unions from 150 countries, including AFT and NEA in the US ("Education Workshop").
In October 2002 a strike in Portugal was called by the main union of educators against budget cuts by the Portuguese government, which threatened to remove 30,000 teachers from the Civil Service. On the same day a general strike in all the sectors of education in Spain united all the unions against the so-called "Quality Law" of the Aznar government, which privatized secondary education (International Conference ... Bulletin). In France "education workers are fighting for the janitorial and support staff, which the government wants to remove from the civil service rosters" (Report). Also in France, "university students protested a reform that would have given regions more autonomy to run universities, which some thought was a prelude to privatizing them. The government backed down" (Hawley). There have been protests in Britain over large tuition increases and a doubled interest rate on student loans. In Germany during autumn 2003 "hundreds of protests--ranging from handing out informational leaflets, to the blockading of university buildings, to huge public rallies ... spread across Germany." At the end of November "two demonstrations, with an estimated 20,000 protesters each, were held in Berlin." The "Free Alliance of Student Bodies, a nationally active student group ... designated Dec. 13 as a national day of protest" (Hawley).
Mobilizations outside of Europe occurred in Algeria, where "virtually the entire public education sector of the union participated" in a general strike; "in Peru, [where] a strike by education workers initiated a "massive movement of the entire working class"; and in Brazil, where "mobilization of the education workers ... is playing a strong role in opposing the Lula government's projected reform of the retirement system" (Report).
In the US the reason that the early offensive against civil liberties and academic freedom directly following 9/11 did not escalate into full-blown neo-McCarthyism was effective public opposition, including by 300 law professors opposing military tribunals. In a February 2002 article, I listed about twenty significant examples of early popular resistance to Bush's war on the American people (Brodsky, "Teaching Tolerance").
Since that time, over 150 cities and counties plus three states have passed resolutions condemning the government's assault on civil liberties, and hundreds more are working to have their communities pass similar resolutions (including in Lawrence, KS and Kansas City, MO).
In contrast to the purge of al-Arian, the provost and dean of the faculty at Columbia University strongly defended Edward Said's right to throw a rock into Israel. He said: "there is nothing more fundamental to a university than the protection of free discourse of individuals, who should feel free to express their views without any fear of the chilling effect of a politically dominant ideology" (Euben, "Academic"). The President of Columbia even defended the academic freedom of professor Nicholas DeGenova, who called for an Iraqi victory over the US, in the face of 104 Republican members of the House demanding he be fired (Wilson).
A rare victory against corporatization was reported by a mostly Hispanic organization in Los Angeles. It successfully challenged the California High School Exit Exam as a standard to award high school diplomas. The stand taken by the Board of the Los Angeles Unified School District "influenced discussions on the future of the Exit Exam in Sacramento" (Caputo-Pearl).
A corporate SLAPP suit (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) against Professor Kate Bronfenbrenner of Cornell claimed "defamation allegedly caused by her testimony at a 'town hall' meeting called by legislators." After she provided evidence that the company, a national nursing home chain, was "one of the nation's most notorious labor law violators, it demanded to see her "confidential research data, including personal interviews," a demand that AAUP argued violated her academic freedom. "The court dismissed the suit on the grounds of legislative immunity, and [the company] appealed, but then withdrew that appeal" (Euben, "Academic").
The company's behavior was predictable, since the SLAPP suit had achieved its main goal of harassment. States like California, however, have passed anti-SLAPP suit legislation, allowing counter-suits by victimized parties. A similar victory in an academic freedom case, involving company demands to see confidential information, was won at Laney College in Oakland, California in the late 1990s. Student and community organizing made the difference, influencing court decisions and persuading the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) to drop all charges (Starbird).(18)
A victory against xenophobia was recorded in 2002 when the right-wing failed to suppress a book on the Koran at the University of North Carolina. The university President, who convinced the Trustees to take a strong stand to head off possible legislative interference, was awarded the AAUP Meiklejohn Award for Academic Freedom. The attempt to ban the book attracted record numbers of incoming students to participate in the non-required course ("Twenty-first").
An encouraging court decision in favor of academic freedom ruled against an attempt to shut down production of a play that deviated from right-wing religious dogma. Because Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne is a public institution, the plaintiffs tried to argue that the play was violating the separation of church and state. But in public education only religious proselytizing is prohibited, and the establishment clause of the Constitution does not prohibit non- or anti-religious expression. If it did, non-believers and secular humanists would be unprotected from silencing and persecution. While the court affirmed academic freedom, it refused to comment on the plaintiff's attempt to invert the establishment clause.
Close to home, William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri left the Missouri Baptist Convention, because, as it explained, it refused to allow its academic freedom to be violated. The Convention attempted to interfere in governance, campus codes, confidential personnel information, and a theater production, as well as impose fundamentalist religious dogma on the school ("William Jewell College Responds"; "Baptist College Chooses"). A similar victory occurred at Shorter College, which broke away from the Georgia Baptist Convention after it tried a hostile takeover of the Board of Trustees (Wilson).
Outside academia The Labor Party, a political party representing workers, including teachers and academics, and supported by progressive unions, has been mounting a campaign that calls for tuition free college education for everyone, based on the precedent set by the GI Bill of Rights passed in 1944. The campaign has been endorsed by numerous academic and labor organizations ("Free," "Light").
Employer surveillance, mandated by the Patriot Act and state laws and protected by judicial decisions, has been fought successfully in the workplace through union intervention. For example, "the Communication Workers of America has developed contract language on working procedures in its call centers. The language prevents managers from using monitoring [i.e. surveillance] to discipline workers. Recordings are to be used for training purposes only" (Scharf, 37).
Despite these hopeful signs, it would be premature to fall prey to complacency. Ashcroft stumped the country to whip up enthusiasm for Patriot II, which extends government terrorism to citizens, who can be stripped of citizenship and imprisoned or deported without a trial or access to counsel (Pratt, 4). Already enacted laws plus the expanding machinery of repression are still in place, and can be implemented at any time.(19) And the all-out coordinated war on US higher education began in earnest in the autumn of 2003. Besides state budget cuts and the reauthorization of Title VI with its ideological policing Board, there have been several versions of the "Academic Bill of Rights" that sabotage the very academic freedom they falsely claim to honor, federal school vouchers that weaken public education, and the "Affordability in Higher Education Act of 2003" which punishes public institutions because they are underfunded.
What, then, should faculty do? First and foremost, they should organize in self-defense. Organizing begins at home, because activism requires intimate knowledge of the local conditions in their institutions and communities. Organizing also starts small and, depending on conditions, proceeds with varying degrees of caution. And organizing typically starts with education and persuasion, to win over colleagues to a pro-active position. Activism plays a crucial role, since people naturally gravitate to organizations that are willing to fight back, and whose stated goal is to win gains for their constituency. Political influence depends on a large membership and a high rate of participation by faculty. As the UMKC chapter has discovered, a newsletter is also a good organizing tool, read far beyond the confines of the membership.
Public activism is also necessary: writing, speaking, letters to the editor, op eds, and lobbying state representatives (Lawrence faculty live only a half hour from the State House in Topeka). If the mainstream media seem daunting, there are always professional publications in your discipline. The number of voices dissenting from official policy is crucial.
Naturally, there is no guarantee of success. Witness the failure to stop the invasion of Iraq by tens of millions of protestors on the planet, who were dismissed as a minor irritation. Nevertheless, if the faculty do not become active in their own defense, they pretty well guarantee that they and what they believe in will go down faster than the Titanic. And with fewer survivors. Strong faculty activism, on the contrary, is capable of forcing the right-wing to slow or suspend its drive to dominate education. And earlier intervention can minimize damage.
Resistance journalism in Nazi-occupied Holland involved the activities that academics pursue for a living (granted the much lower risk factor in today's US): research, thinking, writing, argument, and debate. While US academics are cautioned to avoid proselytizing in the classroom, they are always engaged in persuasion, on behalf of ideas and practices they regard as better or more convincing. And there is no need to avoid or apologize for strong arguments, partisanship, or intolerance (i.e. proselytizing) against fascism. The alternative is to insure a fascist monopoly on proselytizing.
However you may regard the destructive agendas and assaults documented in this report--as neo-liberal, neo-conservative, anti-democratic, fascist, or other--there are ample reasons for academics to become political activists, and to join the resistance to barbaric policies that menace not only their profession but also the future of anything resembling a civilized world. While the mainstream media, in order to promote hopelessness, regularly suppress, minimize, or discredit reports of organized opposition, evidence of a resistance movement is plentiful in the alternative progressive press and on the internet, and new activists will discover they have many like-minded colleagues.
But self-interest is not the only ground for activism. There is also the motive of social solidarity. My own personal reasons are secular and progressive, a decent life for all in a fully democratic world. But since the left perspective is marginal in academia and unknown in US society at large, I must also acknowledge that there are convincing ethical and religious arguments and models of human solidarity that have great resonance for religiously based individuals. They can be found in all major creeds and probably most smaller religious communities as well, west and east, immigrant and indigenous.
In addition, civil liberties arguments are beginning to speak to the convictions of many on the non-fascist right. Soon after 9/11 ultra-conservative columnist William Safire had been alone on the right in denouncing Bush's military tribunals. But an ACLU forum in April 2003 calling for revision of the Patriot Act and opposing its extension as "Patriot II" attracted representatives of both the left and the right. Among the latter were the American Conservative Union, Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum, Americans for Tax Reform, the National Rifle Association, and former Republican Congressman Bob Barr (Hentoff).
An exemplar of a religious figure who began not merely as a conservative but an ultra-reactionary, but who is remembered today for his anti-fascist words linking self-interest to human solidarity, is Pastor Martin Niemoeller, at first a supporter and later a victim of the Third Reich. An enthusiastic soldier in World War One, in the early postwar period Niemoeller joined the Freikorps private militias in their massacre of the left, and he later backed Hitler's New Order in Europe. But after publicly criticizing the Fuehrer in 1937 for subordinating the Lutheran Church to the regime, Niemoeller spent eight years in a Nazi prison, where he rethought his previous convictions.
In 1946 he toured the US, and his now famous aphorism, which he frequently repeated before numerous American church congregations, has become almost a cliche (at least among the US left, often in versions distorted by identity politics). Niemoeller's actual words, historically precise and attested to by an American church companion who toured with him, read as follows (Littel, 9):
"They came for the communists, and I did not speak up because I was not a communist; They came for the socialists, and I did not speak up because I was not a socialist; They came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist; They came for the Jews, and I did not speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak up for me."
Niemoeller's aphorism is clearly rooted in Christian teachings. But given the Holocaust, there may be a Jewish religious component as well. Rabbi Hillel, born a generation or two before the founder of Christianity, renounced his inherited wealth to live in poverty as a woodcutter. One of his most famous sayings is: "If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?" Another famous saying of his reads: "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary." Besides the Rabbi's "golden rule," Niemoeller could have incorporated Hillel's words--particularly "who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I?"--with little difficulty, as a gesture of ecumenical solidarity based on the historical continuity between radical Jewish and Christian ethics.
Escalating right-wing intimidation since 9/11 has produced widespread fear in the population and among academics. Nevertheless, many academics and intellectuals have been speaking out as usual, and most of them are still here to tell the tale. While there is still time, organize resistance, educate yourselves and others, and become activists. No one else will do it for you. You have to do it for yourselves.
The question which concerns us all is: will academic freedom advance and expand, or, on the contrary, retreat and shrivel? Its fate, as always, is bound up with the fate of democracy in the US and in the world at large, and depends on the actions of its practitioners, starting with ourselves.
(1) For example, total outlays for the years 2005 to 2009 projected by the Congressional Budget Office for Title VI programs supporting international education amount to $522 million ("108th Congress Report"). In the 1990s alone a billion was invested by the top twenty right-wing funding foundations to disseminate their own agenda (Johnson). [back to text]
(2) See AAUP Policy Statement adopted November 9, 2003, "Contingent Appointments and the Academic Profession." http://www.aaup.org/statements/SpchState/contingent.htm [back to text]
(3) Commercial speech still has less protection under the First Amendment than that of nonprofit advocacy groups and media companies. [back to text]
(4) The first era of corporatization was coterminous with the first era of US imperialism, starting with the Spanish-American War and seizure of the Philippines. The corporate model taught educated elites to support the imperial project as a patriotic duty, to train a docile workforce, and to control subject populations abroad as well as at home. [back to text]
(5) See Neff; "Education Workshop;" "International Conference;" and "Report" (preliminary and revised versions). The education workshop was held in Berlin February 2002, the International Conference Against War and in Defense of Public Education in Paris June 2003. The International Liaison Committee of Workers and Peoples (ILC) sponsored both conferences. The Paris report is posted on the website of Campus Equity Week, http://www.cewaction.org, an organization promoting the interests of part-time and contingent faculty and supported by the AAUP and many other faculty unions and organizations. A revised Paris report was distributed several months later. A longer discussion of the corporate takeover of education and of regional examples can be found in my introduction and the collected essays of the "Education for Democracy" cluster (D. Brodsky, P. Brodsky, A. Zaidi, eds). [back to text]
(6) "On Arizona's border with Mexico, a new wave of vigilantism has risen since 9/11. Increasingly large groups patrol the desert suited in camouflage, vowing to take homeland security into their own hands. Organizations like the Civil Homeland Defense militia have ties to white supremacists and are suspected by immigration rights advocates of involvement in the murders of undocumented Mexicans, but have thus far escaped serious scrutiny from local authorities. In response to these gangs the White House has taken a frighteningly ambiguous position." Bush's statements have been taken by many as barely veiled support for vigilante action (Engler, 9). [back to text]
(7) The author is a Professor at California State University Northridge. [back to text]
(8) The national AAUP office issued a legislative alert the day before the House Education and the Workforce Committee voted on the bill, and stated its opposition to "the creation of a Board that oversees international education centers and represents a threat to curriculum independence of higher education ("AAUP Legislative"). But the AAUP made grave tactical errors by delaying its alert to the last minute, and by not informing and mobilizing the entire membership (e.g. through e-mail) well ahead of the vote. These errors apparently were uniform across the entire spectrum of education advocacy organizations. It was an e-mail alert circulated by a graduate student after he found out about the vote that informed the profession of the dangers that lay in store (Bednar, Prashad). The present moment is the time for education advocacy organizations to start mobilizing a mass based movement to oppose the establishment of the Board in the Senate. [back to text]
(9) "Prison construction and staffing has become the largest sector of state budgets, [and] the fastest growing major on college campuses is criminal justice" (Dohrn, 131). "Schools in America have become barricaded places of fear.... You can't get into a school and you can't get out. Surveillance is pervasive. There are lock downs, body searches, and dogs. There are armed guards. And all of this in schools that have never seen a violent incident. The fear of violence and the notion that it is likely to come from anywhere ... has been the precusors and the trial run for what's now happened in all of our public spaces and airports" (Ibid, 132). "The Patriot Act created a new federal crime of domestic terrorism.... young students, of course primarily African-American and Latino youth, [are] getting expelled from school for 'terroristic' threats" (Ibid, 132-133). [back to text]
(10) Platt is emeritus professor of social work at California State
at Sacramento. [back to text]
(11) My main sources are Wilson, who catalogues over 200 cases, pertaining to both faculty and students, Euben, Rothschild, and Academe. [back to text]
(12) Left critiques of Darwin, by contrast, do not deny the theory of evolution, nor attempt to replace it with supernatural explanations, whether overt (Creationism) or camouflaged (Intelligent Design). The left aims at balancing Darwin's essentially capitalist theory of competition in nature with Kropotkin's field research into social cooperation among animal species as well as humans, which he called "mutual aid," as an equally strong factor in natural selection. [back to text]
(13) While maintaining the facade of civil libertarianism, the revised AAUP definition contained a condition that automatically condemned communists and others who resisted McCarthyism through non-cooperation with inquisitorial bodies. Namely, one's political affiliations had to be confessed publicly, otherwise AAUP protection was denied. The AAUP knew very well that confession of membership in the Communist Party was suicidal, for without exception it entailed immediate loss of one's job and blacklisting from the profession. Because the inquisition was later applied to non-cooperating non-communists, the rigged AAUP redefinition of academic freedom had the effect of excluding everyone else from protection as well. The civil libertarian argument, writes Schrecker, should have been that an academic's political affiliations are none of anyone's business. [back to text]
(14) I am not recommending here the amusing and self-defeating paradox of intolerance for the intolerant. That paradox is self-defeating, because it is confined to the vicious circle of process excluding substance. It vanishes once we return to the solid ground of content, which orthodox civil libertarianism and conservative US legal doctrine arbitrarily exclude from their purview. [back to text]
(15) Nor was there evidence that American Communists would have used that power as the right traditionally has done. There was merely innuendo. The few communists that had been elected to office in the US before the McCarthy period pursued a social democratic reform program, since it met the needs of their constituency. Their record of honoring campaign promises broke with standard electoral practice, where betrayal of ordinary people is routine. [back to text]
(16) Policy disputes within the Nazi regime between racial ideology and labor needs (racially mandated mass murder versus economically required slave labor to maintain the war effort) are less absolute than they may appear. The postwar agenda of the Nazi regime, for example, as suggested by the General Plan East and the General Settlement Plan, treated subjugated peoples (primarily in the East) as a bottomless pool of expendable slave labor. So bottomless that 31 of the 45 million people (mostly Slavs) settled between the German Reich and the Urals were to be "expelled," that is, liquidated (Madajczyk). The Nazi approach to the work force is an essentially capitalist one, whose first priority is to minimize labor costs. Wage slavery can produce working and living conditions as degraded as those under chattel slavery (Bedoya). [back to text]
(17) The title of Bernard Gross' book, "Friendly Fascism," was unfortunate, since fascism is anything but friendly to its broad range of victims. The title, however, was intended to describe a style of hidden dictatorial rule which maintained a benevolent facade, including democratic forms emptied of substance, and in which violence was not foregrounded as a method of control. Perhaps "Smile Button Fascism" would have been a more apt title. [back to text]
(18) As an epilogue, the PMA took revenge after the Bush administration entered office. Clearly supporting PMA against the International Longshore Workers Union, in September 2002 the Bush regime invoked Taft-Hartley, using security on the waterfront and in the economy as a pretext for union busting following 9/11. One of the few times Taft-Hartley had been used previously occurred precisely in the McCarthy period. [back to text]
(19) Even if Bush is defeated in the next election and replaced by a Democrat, the situation is not likely to change significantly. Democrats since 1993 have overwhelmingly supported neo-liberalism, and more recently the majority of Democrats in Congress voted for the Patriot Act and gave the President a blank check to wage war. Tom Engelhardt, a Teaching Fellow at UC Berkeley, recently wrote, apropos of the end of the Roman Republic: "whoever replaces [Bush] will have to deal with the Pentagon, the military-industrial complex, our empire of bases, and a fifty-year-old tradition of not telling the public what our military establishment costs and the devastation it can inflict. History teaches us that the capacity for things to get worse is limitless. Roman history suggests that the short, happy life of the American republic is in serious trouble--and that conversion to a military empire is, to say the least, not the best answer." [back to text]
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