Change At The AAUP?

Peter Wood and Ashley Thorne write on the upcoming AAUP Presidential Election at the NAS site. Cary Nelson, the current President, is facing Tom Guild, a professor emeritus of legal studies at Oklahoma State University. Guild is railing against the organization’s fiscal troubles under Nelson’s leadership, and “insider” posture. Thorne interviewed both candidates; here’s a sense of the field of disagreement:

Guild maintains, “On matters of politics, religion, or other matters of opinion, there should be no orthodoxy imposed in the name of free speech,” but it’s difficult to determine exactly where Guild stands when it comes to academic accountability. The main clues to his posture are his distaste for Nelson’s conduct and his desire to break up the “closed club.”

When asked about the label, Nelson did not deny that the AAUP is a closed club. He claimed instead that Guild is posing as a newcomer when he is really an inside club-member. “He’s a bit like one of those Washington insiders who claim to be from the Fiji islands. He is in fact an insider and nothing more or less than that.”

Who to trust? The NAS is not taking a position, but wishes sorely for a shift from the organization’s current posture, which, of course, licensed the alarming “Freedom In the Classroom” statement last year. This, remember, asserted, as Peter and Ashley write, that “truth is nothing more than what is found by agreement within an academic sub-discipline.” A bland assertion, but unsettling as the central statement of a work on academic freedom; as Wood and Thorne observe:

De-centered, deconstructed truth necessarily accompanies the new AAUP version of academic freedom. Faculty members accountable to no one will believe and declare that truth is what they say it is. Thus it is that academic freedom becomes a cudgel to beat anyone who criticizes – a license to intellectual mobbing.

Read the full account.

Anthony Paletta

Anthony Paletta is a freelance writer.

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