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New Volume of the Journal of Academic Freedom

Dear Colleague,

I’m pleased to let you know that Volume Four of the Journal of Academic Freedom has just been published. This issue of JAF is focused on the globalization of higher education and its impact on academic freedom. Our intent with this issue is to spark a broad conversation about when and how the AAUP should respond to violations of academic freedom and faculty rights beyond US borders.

The bulk of this year’s issue of JAF consists of a roundtable discussing the issue of academic boycotts in general and the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) in particular. AAUP policy opposes boycotts because of “the Association’s long-standing commitment to the free exchange of ideas.” Marjorie Heins opens the volume with a restatement and defense of that policy. Heins argues that, when aimed at colleges and universities, boycotts will tend to “deprive these institutions of needed resources and undermine the ability of the scholars who work there to study, teach, and exchange ideas with colleagues.”

Bill V. Mullen curates a series of essays on the topic of the Palestinian boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign. In his contribution, Mullen covers the history of the AAUP’s 2006 decision against academic boycotts and argues that political events since then warrant a reconsideration of this decision.

Next, Omar Barghouti argues that the AAUP’s definition of academic freedom implicitly privileges the nation state; ignoring the rights of occupied people. He suggests that by privileging academic freedom, AAUP policy ignores other questions of human rights and the obligation to respect the rights of others.

Malini Johar Schueller and David Lloyd’s essay expands on some of these ideas. They discuss the thorny case of granting rights to people who inhabit a country under occupation. In such conditions, they argue, the AAUP’s tacit policy of letting all sides speak ignores that fact that what they see as a settler colonial state cannot be equated with the inhabitants of an occupied land.

Sami Hermez and Mayssoun Soukarieh explore the impact of invocations of academic freedom by presidents of American universities in the Middle East. In such a context, they argue, concepts of free exchange ignore the ethical claims by Arab governments for a boycott of Israeli institutions, including universities.

Joan W. Scott recounts the incidents that occurred around a proposed conference in Italy on the topic of academic boycotts as well as the 2006 AAUP decision against academic boycotts. Now a supporter of the BDS movement, Scott argues that the campaign is a strategic way of exposing the unprincipled and undemocratic behavior of Israeli state institutions, and that it is precisely by virtue of one’s belief in academic freedom that one should oppose a state that so abuses it.

The final contribution on the subject is by Rima Najjar Kapitan, who argues that a boycott constitutes a form of constitutionally protected speech, even if, paradoxically, it entails some restriction of free speech. Kapitan argues that the AAUP should encourage scholars to exercise their own academic freedom in a manner that promotes the rights of others.

This volume of the Journal closes with two essays that consider other aspects of academic freedom in the context of the global university. Michael Stein, Christopher Scribner, and David Brown look at the ways in which external forces such as assessment and accreditation have transformed the sovereignty professors once enjoyed in the classroom. The increase of what they call “techno-fetishism” in teaching is a central concern of their essay.

Finally, Jan Clausen and Eva-Maria Swidler’s essay argues that since adjuncts are the new face of academia, concepts of academic freedom—and the organizing strategies that derive from them—need to be re-centered around the experience of precarious academic workers. We need, their piece exhorts, to explore adjunct marginalization in detail in order to gauge its impact on academic freedom adequately.

As recent events and these articles make clear, it is time for institutions such as the AAUP to consider questions of globalization, academic freedom, and human rights in a more systematic fashion.

You can read these articles on the AAUP website. JAF is currently accepting scholarly manuscripts on academic freedom for our next volume.

—Ashley Dawson
Editor, AAUP Journal of Academic Freedom