Phi Beta Cons

The 17-Year AAUP Locust

 I’ve been working on a point-by-point reply to “Freedom in the Classroom,” the report issued last week by the AAUP.  The report asserts that critics who have been complaining about classroom “indoctrination” by professors (A) have no case and (B) are trying to excite the public into supporting a crack-down on academic freedom. (“The public anger over academic misfeasance may be based on something unreal.”)
The official response of the National Association of Scholars will be posted soon.  But as I’ve consulted with other NAS members, a new question has come up.  Did the AAUP properly screen “Freedom in the Classroom?”  Seventeen years ago, the AAUP published a “Statement on the Political Correctness Controversy.”  Then General Secretary Ernst Benjamin identified the Statement as the official AAUP position.  But the matter didn’t rest.  The Statement itself was extraordinarily intemperate.  It vituperated against critics of political correctness, as self-righteous, “and for “sloganeering and name-calling,” and  characterized their motives as “only partly-concealed animosity toward equal opportunity and its first effects of modestly increasing the participation of women and racial and cultural minorities on campus.” 
Many AAUP members were shocked by the tone and substance of the 1991 Statement . They were also angered to discover that General Secretary Benjamin and the four-member committee that drafted the Statement had by-passed the AAUP’s long-standing procedures for reviewing proposed official statements.  The Statement had not been circulated among knowledgeable authorities inside and outside the AAUP and had not been put before the AAUP’s national executive committee for a vote.   A past president of the AAUP faulted the Statement for lacking “verification, documentation, or evidence.”    
The upshot of this was that the AAUP withdrew its “Statement on the Political Correctness Controversy” in fall 1991 and it hasn’t been heard from since.  What does this have to do with the new report, “Freedom in the Classroom?”  Maybe nothing.   But I am not alone in wondering who read and approved this document before it went to press.  To put it charitably, it isn’t up to the usual AAUP standards.  There are misquotations, extravagant detours around issues that the authors apparently didn’t want to address forthrightly, nasty innuendoes, and quite a lot of dishonest argumentation.  The report doesn’t aim at overcoming the arguments of the critics, but at ridiculing the critics themselves. 
Given the importance of the AAUP, the report requires a patient and thorough answer, which  is forthcoming.  In the mean time, I wonder if anyone can clarify the status of this AAUP document?  The preface says it was “prepared by a subcommittee of the Association’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, [and] was approved in June 2007 by the committee for publication.”  Does that mean its approval went no higher than “Committee A?”  And is that a problem? 

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