Academic Freedom and the Historical Profession

AHA Session 283
Monday, January 6, 2020: 11:00 AM-12:30 PM
Beekman Room (New York Hilton, Second Floor)
Carmen V. Harris, University of South Carolina Upstate
Henry Reichman, California State University, East Bay
Joan Wallach Scott, Institute for Advanced Study
Jay M. Smith, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Session Abstract

In the wake of the 2016 election, challenges to academic freedom have intensified, higher education has become a target of attacks by conservatives, and issues of free speech on campus have grown increasingly controversial. Historians in particular have been attacked for advancing interpretations -- in both scholarship and teaching, as well as in their expression as citizens -- that some influential figures find threatening or inappropriate. As a result, some have faced harassment and even institutional discipline. This roundtable will explore issues and controversies in academic freedom involving historians. Three panelists are members of the AAUP's Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, two of whom have this year published books on academic freedom. Another panelist has resisted efforts to limit his academic freedom to offer courses in history at a university where issues of shared governance and free expression have dominated campus discourse. Another brings the perspective of faculty members of color, especially at primarily teaching institutions, who have, especially women, been disproportionately targeted by those who would limit free expression. Among the issues to be addressed are the growth of teaching positions off the tenure track and the decline of tenure, the rights of student protesters and outside speakers, the relationship between collective bargaining and academic freedom, the influence of external donors, curricular interference by trustees and politicians, and targeted harassment on social media. In recent years historians of all sorts -- including scholars of the ancient world as well as specialists in such controversial areas as gender, race, and contemporary politics -- have seen their academic freedom imperiled. Hence we expect a diverse and broad audience for this program, including scholars of all periods and geographic areas and from a variety of institutions, from community colleges to research universities.
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