Roundtable Higher Education Today: The Academic Community in an Uncertain Time

AHA Session 113
Saturday, January 7, 2012: 9:00 AM-11:00 AM
Chicago Ballroom D (Chicago Marriott Downtown)
David A. Hollinger, University of California, Berkeley
Faculty Governance and Academic Freedom
Sarah J. Deutsch, Duke University
Contingency Is the Problem, but the Faculty Are the Solution
Joe Berry, Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor
Financial Conflicts and the Integrity of the University
Van Gosse, Franklin & Marshall College

Session Abstract

Session Abstract:

The contemporary scene within the academic community is hardly encouraging. Money – or the lack thereof – is the greatest challenge. As the traditional sources of income from state legislatures shrink in response to the current fiscal crunch, institutions are confronting serious budgetary constraints and demanding cuts that threaten academic programs and the quality of higher education. Under pressure from students, parents, and outside political forces, many schools are also increasing their emphasis on vocational education rather than the traditional liberal arts. At the same time, faculty members often find themselves unable to assert their traditional responsibilities for maintaining that quality – in part because administrations have been nibbling away at shared governance and in part because so many of the nation’s instructors no longer have full-time tenured and tenure-track jobs. Many of these problems originate off-campus, the product of more than thirty years of financial pressure and the growth of a bottom-line, neoliberal mentality within the rest of society. Meanwhile, traditional threats to academic freedom have not disappeared, intensified in many instances by the so-called "War on Terror" and the Israel-Palestine conflict.

This panel addresses some of the key problems that this situation has imposed on higher education. Joe Berry, a long-time activist and expert on the academic labor market will assess the impact of the increasing percentage of part-time and temporary instructors on the nation’s faculties. Amy Gadja will explore the different (and often surprising) ways in which legal issues are transforming and deforming higher education, from affirmative action to libel suits. Although the media has recently been paying attention to the conflicts of interest that arise within the scientific community, the impact of that entrepreneurialism in other fields has largely been overlooked. In his presentation, Van Gosse plans to remedy that omission by looking at how the academy deals with (or does not deal with) conflicts of interest among social scientists. Finally, Ellen Schrecker will examine the recent challenges to faculty governance and academic freedom. Members of the audience will be encouraged to enter the conversation and contribute their own views on the situation within higher education and the current state of the academic profession. (This panel has been organized in response to a request by Jacob Soll, co-chair of the 2012 Program Committee)

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