[Marxism] blog post: the blighted groves of academe

MICHAEL YATES mikedjyates at msn.com
Thu Apr 2 14:30:55 MDT 2009

Full at http://blog.cheapmotelsandahotplate.org


The more I read about the state of our colleges and universities, the more thankful I am that I quit my job at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown (UPJ) in 2001, after thirty-two years of teaching. I wrote the following essay a dozen years ago, and since then, matters have gotten progressively worse, not just where I worked but at nearly every school in the country. At least I did not have to face the nasty right-wing students who spy on their professors and do the bidding of the professional witch hunters who spew hatred on radio talk shows, and television programs like those hosted by Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck. Nor did I have to witness the craven capitulation of college administrators to the thought police that we have seen recently. One of the most outrageous cases was the firing of Professor Ward Churchill by the University of Colorado. I was living in Colorado a couple of years ago when he was dismissed. The talk radio shows attacked Churchill every day for at least a year. The alleged reason for the professor’s discharge was academic dishonesty. He was found guilty, for example, of claiming that there was documentation for some things he said in his books when there was not, most notably his charge of intentional genocide perpetrated by the colonists and the U.S. government on American Indians. The administration’s handpicked committees searched through his published works, including the footnotes, to uncover what to me seemed like, at best, academic misdemeanors, such as could be found in nearly every academician’s works. The real reason for going after Churchill was in retaliation for remarks he made after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, in which he referred to some of the financial workers in the Twin Towers as "little Eichmanns." Remarkably, these comments went virtually unnoticed for several years, until a few little-known academics and well-known witch hunters went on a rampage of public assaults on Churchill’s 9/11 essay and on his academic integrity. Once this orchestrated war got underway, all hell broke loose. The governor of Colorado even phoned the university’s chancellor and demanded that Churchill be fired. After this, a chain of events took place that made a mockery of due process. Right now, Churchill’s civil suit is winding down in a Denver courtroom. There is a good chance he will win, and I hope he does. But imagine the chilling impact of this case on the willingness of professors, especially those without tenure, to speak truth to power.

One thing I did witness before I retired was the unwillingness of tenured faculty to put up much resistence to what was happening in their workplaces. To maintain their often considerable privileges, (so considerable that many of them have continued to "teach" into their dotage, cheating their students and denying young scholars employment), they kept silent while their administrations hired horrendously exploited adjuncts and graduate students to teach most of the classes. They refused to join hands with the part-timers when the latter tried to unionize. They agreed to every effort by their superiors to operate universities as if they were capitalist business enterprises, which, unfortunately, in practice, they often were. They agreed, as well, to allow the most demeaning kind of student and administrative oversight of what they did, and they ran roughshod over their untenured colleagues, always under the guise that they were maintaining "standards." Tenured faculty have left those who will follow a university system in which tenure has been gutted, faculty speech sharply curtailed, and business interests firmly in command.


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