The key pieces of the report are: Continue reading
Why Worry About Online Media and Academic Freedom? Um, because academic administrations have lousy instincts? I have gotten involved in this whole online media intersecting with academic freedom mostly by accident–the ISA mess last year. I am not an expert on academic freedom, nor am I an expert on the use of online media. So, I could imagine a university representative being upset at me as an employee trashing their academic freedom/social media politicies and it not being entirely illegitimate (however, I would still do it and expect to be tolerated…).
On the other hand, observing a university that hired someone who specializes in the organizational dynamics of diversity and gender that then tried to silence that person who happened to comment on that university’s organizational dynamics of diversity and gender does make me want to comment about academic freedom and be glad that I am involved in an organized effort (the ISA’s Online Media Caucus) that aims to improve the climate for those who use online media.
Over the weekend news came from Ecuador that Dr Manuela Picq of Universidad San Francisco de Quito, had been beaten and arrested while participating in a legal protest over indigenous rights as a journalist. Initially hospitalised as a result of injuries sustained at the hands of police, she was informed that her visa had been cancelled due to her having engaged in “political activity” and that she would be deported from Ecuador, where she has lived and worked for the past eight years. She is currently being held in a hotel that is used to detain illegal immigrants until her case is heard this afternoon.
[UPDATE: Manuela has been released after the judge ruled that her arrest was not justified and detention unreasonable.]
Once news had broken, the reaction has been swift and condemnatory from activists and academics alike. A petition on Change.org calling for Manuela’s deportation to be halted has gathered more than 6,000 signatures at the time of writing, letters of support are being sent to President Correa and his government, and a protest has been held in Ecuador.
Dear Kansas Board of Regents,
Greetings. I don’t know if you received my first open-letter to you in December. My parents have pretty slow Internet in central Kansas so maybe the page is still loading. Hopefully, you’ll read the letter once you get it.
In December, I wrote about your proposed social media policy and how it really would scare me if I was still faculty at Kansas State University or any of your other Kansas institutions. Of course, I know not to post things that would go against existing federal laws (FERPA) and know not to incite violence in my social media posts. However, like most young academics, I use Twitter and Facebook, mainly just as ways to promote the research which universities hire me to do. When I wrote you in December, what really bothered me was the little bit of your policy about not putting anything on social media that was “contrary to the best interests of the employer.” Sadly, I learned today that this little gem was left in the revised policy, just surrounded by flowery but utterly meaningless words about your support of “academic freedom.”
This is a scary policy in a very scary time. Just yesterday, a tenured professor at the University of Saskatchewan was “fired, stripped of his tenure, had his retirement benefits revoked and was escorted off campus by security” for a letter he had sent criticizing his university (Alamenciak May 14, 2014). Regardless of your cheery faces during the Regents meeting, my former colleagues should be scared. Proposed restrictions on the free speech rights of academics seem to be coming from all sides.
In my opinion, Kansas has a real problem attracting and keeping top academics. As Kirk McClure of KU’s Department of Urban Planning recently was quoted, this policy will hurt your universities even more:
“The social media policy makes it even harder to sell KU to top faculty candidates. A new faculty member can be disciplined, even terminated for a tweet” (quote in Rothschild, LJWorld.com May 6, 2014).
I’m hoping – really hoping – that my former students at Kansas State University listened hard when we discussed nonviolent dissent and advocacy in the courses I taught for you. I’m hoping my former colleagues, mentors, and friends continue their fight. I’m hoping all of them are far less disillusioned with Kansas than I am and are willing to stay in your state. I’m hoping they give you hell. And, I’m hoping they tweet about it every step of the way.
Dr. Amanda Hilley Murdie
Kansas State University ’03 BS and ‘05 MA
Kansas State University Assistant Professor, 2009-2012
 That and, of course, to post pictures of my kids and various cute animal pictures. Is that ok? Having a life outside of academia could go against the best interest of my employer.
 Although, given the recent downgrade by Moody, I’m not sure where any of my former students will work in your state.
I might have to re-think this whole life choice. Tenure is supposed to mean more than just job security–that it is about academic freedom. To teach and research in ways that may not always be popular and certainly in ways that are not politically desirable. Yet in the past couple of weeks, we have seen that tenure may not be all that it is cracked up to be.
Chen Guangcheng, the Chinese dissident who found refuge last year in the United States with a fellowship at NYU is now claiming that he is being pushed out of NYU because his human rights advocacy and criticisms of the Chinese government is upsetting NYU’s relationship with China. From the NYTimes:
In a statement released Sunday, Mr. Chen said university officials were worried that his outspoken criticism of the Chinese government might threaten academic cooperation. N.Y.U. recently opened a campus in Shanghai, and a number of professors are involved in programs and research projects here that could be harmed if they were denied Chinese visas.
“The work of the Chinese Communists within academic circles in the United States is far greater than what people imagine, and some scholars have no option but to hold themselves back,” Mr. Chen said. “Academic independence and academic freedom in the United States are being greatly threatened by a totalitarian regime.”
According to the story, NYU “strenuously denies” the accusations. But, it does seem clear to me that neither this story, nor stories like it, are likely to go away anytime soon. Continue reading
Apparently, the Arab Spring will not come to the UAE this weekend. Planners of an LSE conference on the implications of the Arab Spring set for this weekend in UAE have cancelled the event after efforts by senior UAE officials to control the content. From the BBC:
A senior LSE academic told the BBC he had been detained at the airport in Dubai on Friday.
Dr Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, who is the co-director of the Kuwait programme at LSE, said immigration authorities had separated him from his colleagues and confiscated his passport before denying him entry and sending him back to London.
In an earlier statement given to the BBC, the university said:
“The London School of Economics and Political Science has cancelled a conference it was co-hosting with the American University of Sharjah on The Middle East: Transition in the Arab World.
“The decision was made in response to restrictions imposed on the intellectual content of the event that threatened academic freedom.”
It did not say who had placed restrictions on the conference but a well-placed source told the BBC pressure had come from “very senior” UAE government officials.
To date LSE has received £5.6m ($8.5m) from the Emirates Foundation, which is funded by the UAE government, but the institution denied that the foundation was involved in placing the restrictions.
I am guessing we’ll get more details about this specific event in the days to come. But, here are a couple of quick thoughts: