Monday, June 26, 2017

What to do when the Dean cancels your courses

Jay Smith, history professor and thorn in the side of his employer, the University of North Carolina, explains what to do when your university decides to censor your courses.

Smith: First bit of advice: Get tenure. No, in all seriousness, I was blindsided by this experience, genuinely shocked to see the lengths to which administrators would go to silence a perceived gadfly. Perhaps it was naive of me, given UNC’s actions over the past six years, but I trusted the administrators’ basic commitment to free speech and critical discourse. I thought that by having my course considered for inclusion in the university’s listing of permanent courses, and by submitting it for review by all of the College committees that routinely carry out such reviews, I was gaining all the protection for the course that I would need. I was clearly wrong. So my serious advice is twofold. Do not underestimate administrators’ willingness to engage in unethical and offensive behavior in pursuit of their own short-term political goals. Expect the worst. Crucially, however, I would say that the proper response to this situation is not to acquiesce but rather to plan for battle. Anticipate the sorts of arguments your opponents will make. Find likely allies across the campus and beyond. Network with them. At the first sign of trouble, reach out to your discipline’s professional organization and to faculty coalitions like the AAUP. Then, take the fight to the public arena. What administrators dread more than anything is bad PR. So give them some. As much as you have the energy to give. You may not win. But you will have fought the fight that needs fighting. If faculty do not stand up for academic freedom, what will become of academic freedom? We represent the last line of defense. I think we have a moral obligation to resist unethical administrators and uninformed governing boards. So fight, but take care to form alliances first.

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