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Introductory Remarks for the Illinois AAUP Fall Meeting
By Irving Epstein

On behalf of Illinois Wesleyan University, I want to extend our greetings and best wishes for a productive AAUP State Meeting. As a private, small, liberal arts university, we are appreciative for the opportunity to host this state meeting, not because we view it as a way of derailing an inevitable faculty strike, not because we are as an institution confronting immanent insolvency and need all of the allies we can muster, nor is it because we are facing de-accreditation from an external agency. Our appreciation for your decision to use IWU as a venue for conducting state AAUP business and holding your conference here is more fundamental, because the work that you do touches upon all members of the academy, regardless of institutional type, and independent of the circumstances in which we are individually situated. The one goal that binds the North American and indeed the global professoriate together is the necessity of protecting, preserving, and enhancing academic freedom. This is the reason why you are here and this is the reason why we applaud your presence.
In my own career, I have worked with professors in other parts of the world whose lives and those of their families have been threatened because of a talk they have given or a rally they have attended. I have met colleagues who cannot do their research because of their family backgrounds or who are restricted from traveling to professional meetings, because of overt government efforts to control their research and scholarly agendas. And I have met colleagues who have been shunned in their countries by colleagues and friends who are afraid of the repercussions of a continued association.

At the same time, we are all aware of efforts of politicians in this country to engage in some of the worst forms of racism, sexism, homophobia, and right wing politicking, and in so doing, to demonize the professoriate and the academy in order to gain political advantage. But whether it involve contesting the tyranny of neo-liberal agendas that are eroding the tenure process, fighting against the capricious interference of governmental agencies that deny individuals the resources they need and deserve to function adequately, or working to make higher education bureaucracies less corporatist and more fair, the commitment you have made to the preservation of academic freedom you make on behalf of all of us, in McLean County, in this state, in this country, and around the world, regardless of one’s particular institutional affiliation or location. The nobility of the cause is one that cannot be contested, but your efforts on behalf of all of us need to be recognized, affirmed and applauded. Please have a wonderful meeting and conference and thank you again for your service.