The “Moral Panic” of Campus Free Speech

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 15/06/2018 - 12:30am in

People get awfully solemn in the United States about the civic function of our institutions of higher education. They talk about college as the nursery of democracy and the care that we must take with our young people. As educators, the future is in our hands. I believe it is worth puncturing this solemnity with some awkward questions.

That’s Jeremy Waldron, University Professor at New York University, in a review of several books on questions regarding free speech on college campuses in The New York Review of Books.

He writes:

There’s a sort of moral panic going on: writer after writer, politician after politician, says we ought to be frightened about what’s happening on campuses because that is where the future of free speech will be determined.

Waldron discusses several different concerns of those worried about free speech on campus. One of these is that “colleges and universities cannot work as institutions of higher learning unless there is a spirit of unfettered inquiry in the research they undertake.” Here’s an excerpt:

“Speech, including controversial speech, is central to teaching and learning,” [Sigal] Ben-Porath writes. [Erwin] Chemerinsky and [Howard] Gillman devote a lot of attention to this as well. Historically the university has been a special domain of freedom, they say, and students are selling this heritage short when they shout down visiting speakers: “Campuses cannot censor or punish the expression of ideas, or allow intimidation or disruption of those who are expressing ideas, without undermining their core function of promoting inquiry, discovery, and the dissemination of new knowledge.” Claims like this sound more convincing than they are. Is the free research of mathematicians or philosophers or physicists really in peril because of how one group of students responds to an invitation to Ann Coulter or Milo Yiannopoulos? Most of the free speech issues on campus have nothing to do with the lectures, laboratories, or seminars in which academic freedom is implicated.

Aside from commencement addresses, a college or a university rarely invites or hosts speakers itself. Academic departments sometimes do, but few of the incidents that people complain about have involved speakers invited as part of a classroom series. Mostly it’s students showing off and trying to provoke and annoy one another. So we have to ask: What’s the connection supposed to be between the rough-and-tumble of student politics and academic freedom in the disciplined research undertaken in the schools and departments of the university?

I ask this because sometimes the complaints about student protests are quite absurd. Here’s a report from January 2016 in The Guardian: “Chris Patten, the chancellor of Oxford University, has told students involved in the campaign to remove a statue of Cecil Rhodes that they must be prepared to embrace freedom of thought or ‘think about being educated elsewhere.’ Patten accused students who had criticised Rhodes, who regarded the English as racially superior, of trying to shut down debate. He said that by failing to face up to historical facts which they did not like, students were not abiding by the values of a liberal, open society that ‘tolerates freedom of speech across the board.'”

This is nonsense. The students weren’t trying to shut down debate; they were trying to open it up. A dreary statue of Cecil Rhodes on the front of Oriel College is hardly a focus of higher learning. (I don’t remember tutors taking their charges out onto the High Street to study it when I was at Oxford. If they had, why on earth wouldn’t a debate about Rhodes’s views on imperialism have been a perfectly appropriate learning experience?) It is typical of a moral panic to run together all the issues that make us uneasy. Patten’s comments here are an egregious instance of that. He is worried about students disrupting provocative political speeches and he is worried about students questioning the value of cherished memorials. He wants us to believe that the questioning and the disruption are the same thing, whereas they are more or less polar opposites.

The whole review is here. Readers may also be interested in remarks by Jacob Levy (McGill) on how “freedom of speech is not a value of universities.”

(via Mary Fratini)

Robert Rauschenberg – Statue of Liberty

The post The “Moral Panic” of Campus Free Speech appeared first on Daily Nous.

The Rabbinical Condemnation of Gossip and Slander

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 04/06/2018 - 6:38pm in

I found this passage on the condemnation of gossip by the rabbinical sages of late antiquity in the book, Knowledge Goes Pop, by Claire Birchall (Oxford: Berg 2006). Birchall is, or was, a senior lecturer at Middlesex University, and the book, subtitled ‘From Conspiracy Theory to Gossip’, is about popular knowledge, such as conspiracy theories and gossip and how it is formed and shapes the way people see the world. The book also examines how valid it is compared with official knowledge, and the question of ‘why does such (mis)information cause so much institutional anxiety?’.

The chapter on gossip contains a discussion of its condemnation in the Bible in both the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament and the New Testament, before going on to describe how it was also attacked by the great Jewish sages of the Talmud. The passage reads

Editors of The Encyclopedia of the Jewish Religion explain that the rabbis of classical Judaism in late antiquity warned against gossip in the most heightened terms. For example, the rabbis claimed that slander, talebearing, and evil talk were worse than the three cardinal sins of murder, immorality, and idolatry. Indulging in lashon ha-ra is seen to be akin to denying the existence of God (see the entry for ‘Lashon Ha-ra’ in Zwi Werblowsky and Wigoder 1986). Of note for our discussion later concerning the unstable verity of content transmitted through gossip is that while Judaism distinguishes between slander (lashon ha-ra) which refers specifically to true talebearing, and motsi’shem ra (causing a bad name) which applies to untrue stories, ‘both are totally forbidden by Jewish Law’ (Zwi Werblowsky and Wigoder 1997:648). Here, then, the verity of the gossip is not at issue, but rather the very act of passing potentially damaging information on whether true or false. (Pp. 98-99).

In Mike’s case, and those of the countless other decent people like him, who have been libelled by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and the Jewish Labour Movement, the truth of the accusations made against them is very much the issue. In the case of these decent, anti-racist people, the stories and claims made by Gideon Falter’s outfit and the JLM are very much a case of motsi’shem ra – causing a bad name – as they’re intended to be. They’re intended to smear and provide grounds for the expulsion from the Labour party of critics of Israel and left-wing opponents of the Blairites.

This passage also shows how the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and the Jewish Labour Movement conveniently forgot these moral injunctions when they decided to vilify and malign those of opposing viewpoints. And this includes self-respecting Jews, who have lost relatives in the Holocaust, and/or have been subject to real anti-Semitic abuse and violence themselves.

But this doesn’t alter anything: their tactics of smear and libel are nevertheless condemned in the Talmud, no matter what specious stories they may make, claiming to be defending Jews, or rather, Israel, from anti-Semitism.

AAUP and AAC&U Issue Statement in Defense of Liberal Arts Education

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 01/06/2018 - 11:07pm in

“We believe that institutions of higher education, if they are truly to serve as institutions of higher education, should provide more than narrow vocational training and should seek to enhance students’ capacities for lifelong learning”

That is an excerpt from a joint statement on the value of a liberal arts education issued by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U).

The statement, covered in today’s editions of Inside Higher Ed and The Chronicle of Higher Education, takes issue with the mainstream perception of the liberal arts:

In recent years, the disciplines of the liberal arts, once universally regarded as central to the intellectual life of the university, have been steadily moved to the periphery and increasingly threatened—by some administrators, elected officials, journalists, and parents of college-age children. The study of the history of human societies and forms of human expression is now too often construed as frivolous, and several colleges and universities have recently announced the wholesale elimination of liberal arts departments. Politicians have proposed linking tuition to the alleged market value of given majors. Students majoring in literature, art, philosophy, and history are routinely considered unemployable in the technology and information economy, despite the fact that employers in that economy strenuously argue that liberal arts majors make great tech-sector workers precisely because they are trained to think critically and creatively, and to adapt to unforeseen circumstances.

The associations urge resisting moves that would have the effect of denying all but the elite an opportunity for a liberal arts education:

The disciplines of the liberal arts… foster intellectual curiosity about questions that will never be definitively settled—questions about justice, about community, about politics and culture, about difference in every sense of the word. All college students and not solely a privileged few should have opportunities to address such questions as a critical part of their educational experience. And the disciplines of the liberal arts are central to the ideal of academic freedom, as well, because the liberal arts, by their nature, require free rein to pursue truth wherever it may lead. As a result, they provide an intellectual bulwark for academic freedom.

The whole statement is here.

Victor Vasarely, “Black Circle”


The post AAUP and AAC&U Issue Statement in Defense of Liberal Arts Education appeared first on Daily Nous.

RT: Report Shows Benefit Sanctions Have Negative Effects on Claimants

Mike last week put up a piece about the report compiled by a number of British universities, which showed that the sanctions regime imposed by the DWP does absolutely no good at all, and in fact has negative consequences for claimants. It does not help them to find work, and in fact pushes them further into depression and mental illness.

In this clip from RT, presenter Bill Dod talks to Steve Topple of the Canary, here credited as a political commenter. Topple states that the report, which was compiled over five years from countless individual cases, just shows what disability rights activists and organisations like DPAC, and political commenters like himself have known all along.

The programme quotes the DWP, which states that 70 per cent of claimants said that the regime helped them to find work, and that sanctions were only meted out in a small minority of cases and the DWP tailored its help to individual cases. Topple states that the Department’s response, that 70 per cent of claimants say that it helped them find work, is meaningless because they were looking for work anyway.

Dod then challenges him with the question of whether some people, who can work, do find life on benefits more attractive than getting a job. Topple despatches this myth by quoting the real figures for benefit fraud, which is something like 1.6 per cent.

Topple then goes on to attack the sanctions’ systems origins with New Labour. It was Tony Blair, who introduced it in 2007, with disastrous effects on the disabled. Instead of being given the care to which they were entitled when the NHS was set up, disabled people were now redefined as ‘fit for work’, even when they weren’t. Topple makes the point that the sanctions system now divides people into two groups. They’re either fit for work, and so supposed to be out looking for a job, or unfit and marginalised. He points out that there have been five reports already condemning Britain’s sanction system – four from the UN, one from the EU, and that what is needed is a thorough report into the DWP. Topple clearly has his facts at his fingertips, as he says very clearly after dismissing the DWP’s rebuttals point by point that he could go on for hours.

In fact, it’s possible to attack and refute all of the DWP’s statement about benefit sanctions. Sanctions are not imposed on a small minority of cases. They’ve been imposed on a large number, apparently for no reason other than that the Jobcentres have targets to meet of the number of claimants they are supposed to throw off benefits. And they have been imposed for the most trivial reasons. As for help being tailored to meet the needs of individual claimants, it’s true that sometimes there are schemes that are available for some claimants in some circumstances, but I’ve seen no evidence that the DWP does this with all, or even the majority of claimants. And the statement that it is reasonable for the Department to impose certain conditions on claimants for the receipt of their benefits is just more self-serving nonsense. It doesn’t, for example, say anything about the way some sick and disabled people have been thrown off benefits for missing interviews, when they have had extremely good reasons: like they were ill in hospital, for example.

Mike in his post about the report wondered why the government carried on with the sanctions system, when it didn’t work. The answer’s fairly obvious. The Tories, and New Labour, hate the poor and the ill. New Labour’s policy was based on the assumption that many people claiming disability benefit were simply malingerers, courtesy of a series of quack studies supported by Unum or one of the other American private health insurers. And the Tories and the Tory press hate the unemployed, the poor and the disabled because they see them as a drain on the money that the rich should be allowed to keep for themselves, rather than taken in taxes to support them. And they also know that it’s a very good tactic for them to divide the working class by getting those in work, but feeling the pinch from low wages and job insecurity, to hate those out of work by demonising them as malingerers and idle fraudsters. It distracts people from attacking the true source of the poverty and insecurity – the rich, corporate elite and their programme of low wages, zero hours contracts and increasing freedom to lay off whomever they choose, for whatever reason.

No, the sanctions system doesn’t work. But it expresses the right-wing, Thatcherite hatred of the poor and sick, and is a useful tool for maintaining a divided, cowed workforce, and generating the entirely misplaced anger from those deceived by the system, which keeps the Tories in government.

Thinking Aloud Next Week on the Failure of the Business Schools

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 24/05/2018 - 12:36am in

There’s also a very interesting and provocative edition of the Radio 4 programme, Thinking Aloud, next Wednesday at 4.00 pm. Entitled ‘Shut Down the Business School!’ the blurb for it on p. 127 of the Radio Times says

Laurie Taylor talks to Martin Parker, professor at the Department of Management, Bristol University, who argues that business schools have produced a generation of unreflective managers, primarily interested in their own personal rewards. He makes the case for a radical alternative.

This could be very interesting indeed, as the massive pay rises and additional bonus packages awarded by managers for performance, which is either mediocre or utterly disastrous, shows he has a point. Way back in the 1990s Private Eye had a series in which they charted the performance of various companies after they were taken over by various chairmen, who were rewarded with massive salaries. The companies were all top-performing, or at least, they were at the time these much-vaunted managers were given their jobs. The charts were of these companies’ share values, and they showed the companies’ value dropping catastrophically until these managers then left. Usually with a massive, and massively unmerited goodbye package.

And everywhere there seems to be the same pattern. The ordinary workforce is cut, while the ranks of management expand massively. Wages for the lowest ranks of employees are also frozen, or else are given raises below the rate of inflation. Meanwhile, the managers give themselves massive pay rises, uses under the pretext of ‘performance related pay’. Even though the stats often show that the companies are actually performing worse than they were before these managers took over. The BBC is itself a prime example of this bloated, top-heavy management structure, but you find it all over industry. It’s part and parcel of the Zombie economics of Thatcherism, and has been criticised by the economist Ha-Joon Chang, amongst others.

Of course, one solution might be to put workers in the boardroom, and tie management pay to the performance of the company and improvements in pay and conditions for the workers, in line with the company’s growth and profitability. If the company prospers, and their workers benefit from the company’s performance, then the managers receive a pay rise. If they don’t, and the workers have to receive a cut in wages, then the management should also see their wages cut. There’s no way that can be brought in without screams from the rich that this would be a terrible imposition on them, and would prevent the best talent coming to British industry. But as I see no evidence at the moment of there being much talent in the massed ranks of British management except for grotesquely enriching themselves at the expense of their workers, there’s absolutely no reason to take this criticism seriously.

‘If America Knew’ On Attempts to Define Criticism of Israel as Anti-Semitism

Part of the anti-Semitism smear campaign against the Labour party is the attempt to foist upon it and wider society the definition of anti-Semitism formulated by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, which specifically includes criticism of Israel. Although, as Mike points out, the definition only states that such criticism may be anti-Semitic, but not necessarily so in all cases. Nevertheless, this is how the IHRA’s definition is interpreted by the Israel lobby, and why it is being used to attack and smear decent, anti-racists when they object to it or question it. Jackie Walker, one of the vice-chairs of Momentum, was accused and vilified as an anti-Semite, despite her own Jewishness, precisely because she questioned this definition and the exclusive focus of Holocaust Remembrance Day on the Nazis’ attempts to exterminate the Jews, rather than include other races, who had also suffered their own genocides.

The IHRA’s definition of anti-Semitism is completely ahistorical and just wrong. Anti-Semitism, as defined by Wilhelm Marr, the man, who coined the term and founded the Bund Antisemiten – ‘League of Anti-Semites’ – in 19th century Germany stated that it was hatred of Jews as Jews, regardless of religion. And this was well before the foundation of Israel. Mike has also several times posted the views of a very senior lawyer on this issue, that this is indeed the proper definition of anti-Semitism.

But this is not what the Israel lobby wants people to believe. And so when Corbyn met the Board of Deputies of British Jews a few weeks ago, after they organised a demonstration smearing Labour and its leader once again as anti-Semitic, they pressured him yet again to adopt the HRA’s spurious definition. If adopted, it would make criticism of Israel and its ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians extremely difficult, if not impossible.

Robin Ramsay, the editor of Lobster, discusses this in a recent edition to his article, ‘The View from the Bridge’ in Lobster 75, Summer 2018. His article also points to an excellent piece by Alison Weir of the If America Knew Blog on this history of this attempt to foist the HRA’s definition on America and other nations. It’s at

The article also includes this handy timeline giving the important dates in the development of this project.

Timeline for creating new Israel-centric definition of anti-Semitism

Following is a timeline of some of the key events in the creation, promotion and adoption of the Israel-focused definition of antisemitism. It provides an outline, but does not include every step of the process, all the key players, or every action.

1991 – Jean Kahn is elected president of the European Jewish Congress at its plenary session in Israel. He announces an ambitious agenda, including demonstrating solidarity with Israel and European countries coordinating legislation to outlaw antisemitism.
1997 – Kahn “convinces 15 heads of state” to create the The European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia to focus on “racism, xenophobia and antisemitism.”
2000 – The Monitoring Centre issues a position paper calling for the definition of antisemitic offenses to be “improved.”
2003 – Israel’s minister for diaspora affairs Natan Sharansky founds the Global Forum against Anti-Semitism, stating: “The State of Israel has decided to take the gloves off and implement a coordinated counteroffensive against anti-Semitism.”
2004 – Sharansky, who is also chair of the Jewish Agency for Israel, issues a position paper that lays out the “3-D Test of Anti-Semitism:” statements that “demonize” Israel, apply a “double standard” or “delegitimize” Israel are “antisemitic.” These will form the blueprint for new definitions adopted by lobbying organizations and finally governments.
2004 – US Congress passes law establishing special office and envoy in the State Department to monitor antisemitism that includes statements about Israel under this rubric. (Sharansky is witness at Congressional hearing.)
2004 – American Jewish Committee directors Kenneth Stern and Rabbi Andrew “ Andy” Baker work with Israeli professor Dina Porat to draft a new antisemitism definition and push the Monitoring Centre to adopt it, according to Stern. Their draft drew on Sharansky’s 3 D’s.
2005 – Monitoring Centre issues a “Working Definition of Anti-Semitism” that includes Sharansky’s 3 D’s, based on Stern et al’s draft. While standard dictionary definitions of antisemitism didn’t even mention Israel, fully half of the newly devised Monitoring Centre definition referred to Israel.
2007 – UK’s National Union of Students (NUS) adopts the new antisemitism definition focused on Israel, after pro-Israel students introduce a motion misleadingly entitled “AntiRacism: Challenging Racism on Campus and in Our Communities.” Some student unions at various UK universities then follow suit.
2008 – The first U.S. State Department Special Envoy on antisemitism, Greg Rickman, endorses the Monitoring Centre working definition in State Department report to Congress. (Rickman later went to work for AIPAC.)
2009 – The Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism (CCA), which brings together parliamentarians from around the world, issues the London Declaration signed by then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and others. The Declaration calls on governments to use the Monitoring Centre definition and to outlaw and prosecute such “antisemitism.” US Congressmen Ted Deutch and Chris Smith are members of the CCA’s steering committee.
2010 – Second US State Department Special Envoy on antisemitism Hanna Rosenthal officially adopts European Monitoring Centre definition; this is subsequently referred to as the State Department definition of antisemitism. Rosenthal creates course on antisemitism using this definition to train Foreign Service Officers.
2012 – Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under the Law is founded and immediately begins promoting the new definition. Within a year it launches an initiative to establish student chapters at law schools throughout the U.S.
2013 – Successor organization to the European Monitoring Centre (called the European Fundamental Rights Agency) quietly drops the working definition from its website. When questioned about this, the agency’s director says the organization had “no mandate to develop its own definitions.” (Groups using the definition continue to use it.)
2014 – Mark Weitzman, Director of Government Affairs at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, with help from Ira Forman and Nicholas Dean of the U.S. Department of State, initiates efforts for another agency to adopt and promote the working definition of antisemitism.
2015 – European Commission creates a special position to coordinate work on combating antisemitism, appointing German Katharina von Schnurbein to the post. Schnurbein proceeds to promote use of the Israel-centric definition.
2015 – Indiana University passes resolution denouncing “anti-Semitism as defined by the United States State Department and will not fund or participate in activities that promote anti-Semitism or that ‘undermine the right of the Jewish people to self-determination.’” University of California Santa Barbara and UCLA also pass such resolutions.
2016 – The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), consisting of 31 Member Countries, adopts the definition; the goal is to inspire others to also adopt “a legally binding working definition.” An analyst writes that the IHRA action is “a potentially crucial tool for forcing governments and international agencies to confront and take action.”
December 2016 – U.S. Senate passes law to apply the State Department’s definition of antisemitism to the Education Department, for use in investigating reports of religiously motivated campus crimes. Now the law defines actions connected to criticism of Israel as “religiously motivated.”
December 2016 – UK announces it will formally adopt the Israel-centric definition–the first country to do so besides Israel. UK Prime Minister Theresa May made the announcement during a talk before 800 guests at the Conservative Friends of Israel’s annual lunch.
December 2016 – Adoption of the definition by the 57-member Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which had been heavily lobbied by the American Jewish Committee, is blocked by Russia. The AJC then says it will push for individual member states to adopt it.
March 2017 – South Carolina House of Representatives passes legislation under which the State Department’s definition “would be used in probes of possible anti-Semitism at state colleges and universities.” The Senate version will be discussed in 2018. Similar bills are being considered in Virginia and Tennessee.
March – May 2017 – Resolutions adopting the Israel-centric definitions are passed by student governments at Ohio’s Capital University and Kent State, California’s San Diego State University and at other campuses around the U.S.
April 2017 –
Austria adopts the definition. (The Austrian justice minister previously announced that the new definition would be used in the training of new judges and prosecutors.)
The ADL, which uses Israel-centric definition of antisemitism, announces that antisemitism has risen by 86 percent in 2017, but includes questionable statistics. News organizations throughout the U.S. report the ADL claim.
Reports that Trump administration budget cuts might cause special antisemitism envoy position to remain vacant provokes outrage among Israel lobby groups and others. Samantha Power calls for entire Trump administration to focus on antisemitism. Soon, Trump administration says it will fill post.
All 100 US Senators send a letter to UN demanding it stop its actions on Israel and connects these to antisemitism.
May 2017 –
Israel-Britain Alliance begins asking candidates for Parliament to sign a pledge that they will support the new definition.

Book Review: Feeling Academic in the Neoliberal University: Feminist Flights, Fights and Failures edited by Yvette Taylor and Kinneret Lahad

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 18/05/2018 - 10:28pm in

Edited by Yvette Taylor and Kinneret Lahad, the collection Feeling Academic in the Neoliberal University: Feminist Flights, Fights and Failures offers a vital reassertion of feminist modes of resistance against the increasingly corporate structures of contemporary higher education. This is an incisive, timely and ultimately hopeful volume that provides a platform from which future feminist fights can take flight, writes Charlotte Mathieson.

Feeling Academic in the Neoliberal University: Feminist Flights, Fights and Failures. Yvette Taylor and Kinneret Lahad (eds). Palgrave Macmillan. 2018.

Find this book: amazon-logo

It is all too easy when reviewing academic books to refer to collections as ‘timely’, ‘pressing’ or ‘wide-reaching’, but these words can be no more sincerely meant than in the case of Yvette Taylor and Kinneret Lahad’s Feeling Academic in the Neoliberal University: Feminist Flights, Fights and Failures. In the wake of the widespread strike action across UK universities in recent months, and ensuing discussions about the marketisation of higher education, academic precarity and the relationship between the individual and the institution, Taylor and Lahad’s work is more pertinent and necessary than ever.

Positing feminism as a critical mode to challenge and critique ‘the interlocking structures of domination’ (3) through which the neoliberal university operates, the chapters in Feeling Academic in the Neoliberal University offer a vital reassertion of feminist approaches as a mode of resistance against the corporate and commercial structures of contemporary higher education, while also privileging the role of the feminist academic at an individual level as a powerful agent of change. The critical interventions that ensue are incisive and important, and will resonate with scholars across the higher education sector.

Central to this endeavour is a renewed focus on how academia is experienced at the level of the individual by exploring the performative aspects of being a scholar: the material, embodied, affective qualities of what it means to inhabit the neoliberal institution as a feminist academic. The navigation of institutional structures is firstly picked up in chapters assessing the time and space of academia. Barbara Read and Lisa Bradley’s essay on ‘waiting’ in everyday academic life – encompassing everything from the practicalities of waiting for transport to arrive or for a meeting to start, to the less tangible experiences of waiting on a funding decision or an important email – presents pertinent reflections on the temporal dynamics of academia in confluence with social and identity relations, issues that are picked up again in Emily Henderson’s study of ‘conference time’ as it is experienced by scholars. Both chapters offer interesting critiques of what it means to ‘be’ in the academy, and how normative structures such as time (as well as space) are negotiated in diverse, and often difficult, ways by those who don’t embody the expected ideal of ‘an academic’.

What it means to occupy space within the academy, and ‘to experience and feel academia’ (1), is taken up further in chapters examining the emotional dimensions of navigating institutional environments. Taylor’s exploration of class and sexuality makes visible the emotional labour involved in working in an academic environment that purports a narrative of inclusivity and diversity, yet in practice is far from it, and conceptualises the emotional ‘stickiness’ that arises from occupying such disjunctures (61), while Daphna Hacker’s chapter seeks to establish a dialogue about the embodied affects of academic labour through a discussion of ‘crying on campus’ as a challenge to the masculine model of an individualised and unemotional academia.

Image Credit: (Richie Diesterheft CC BY SA 2.0)

The emotional labour of academia leads into discussions that consider the complexity of the feelings involved in attempting to live up to institutionalised value systems. Heather Shipley contextualises the key issue through an examination of what it means to be ‘a partial academic’: someone who has completed PhD study and is developing an early career academic profile while working in non-academic employment. This position affords perspectives on the competitiveness of academia and the standards against which individuals are constantly evaluated and quantified, and Shipley suggests that while academia might claim to promote feminism on some levels, as a system it ‘undermines and devalues feminist pursuits, rewarding instead decidedly nonfeminist goals through competition and individual achievement over group endeavours’ (18). In a brilliantly incisive critique of one of the core rhetorical devices through which the neoliberal university achieves its competitive ends, Francesca Coin examines the narrative of ‘loving what we do’ as a means for academic exploitation: as she writes:

the use of love as an emotional resource capable of delivering endurance in a vicious cycle of unrenumerated overload seals the diabolical pact between an exploitative labour regime and its prey (315).

As several chapters identify, in navigating this system many academics find themselves caught within a tension between ‘playing the game’ and finding strategies of resistance therein. The negotiation of this dynamic emerges lucidly in Sarah Burton’s chapter on feminist academics’ experiences of writing for (and against) the Research Excellence Framework. Burton neatly elucidates one of the key messages of the book as a whole:

feminist fragility in the neoliberal academy stems from the way that the value system of the neoliberal academy and the audit cultures it allows to thrive is driven by a patriarchal conception of legitimate knowledge production (132).

Within this, Burton examines how academic writing is used by feminist academics both as a tool to successfully play the game, but also as a space of resistance.

This theme is also embodied by Lauren Ila Misiaszek’s work on academic identity within Chinese academia. Constructing what she terms an ‘autoethnonegraphy’ (88), Misiaszek interweaves an array of textual forms to construct a deliberately disruptive critique of academic writing conventions in order to effectively convey the ‘messy’ embodiments of the academic environment. However, as these writers and others acknowledge, the extent to which academics have agency within institutional structures and strictures is contoured by privileges of identity and position within the academy. Órla Meadhbh Murray’s work on being ‘the feminist killjoy’ in academia recognises that inhabiting the role of a challenging feminist presence is a risk for precarious early career academics; furthermore, this is not always a role that one might actively choose to inhabit, and ‘sometimes existing in a space is enough to be seen as a killjoy regardless of one’s political intentions’ (164).

Throughout the chapters, the need for feminist spaces of collective resistance against the neoliberal academy emerges strongly, and several chapters identify promising potential for alternative models of research and teaching. Susanne Gannon, Sarah Powell and Clare Power offer a collective exploration of collaborative practice as a counter to the separatist competitive ideology that characterises the neoliberal university, while Cristina Costa’s chapter on digital technologies such as blogs and social media offers the potential for alternative spaces through which to construct and examine feminist identities in ways that reconfigure individual agency both away from and in dialogue with the expectations and value systems of the academy. These chapters embody a feeling of hope that runs through the book which, while recognising that feminism in the academy is under threat, works to create a vital space for feminism as a mode for resisting, critiquing and changing the neoliberal discourse of contemporary academia, and provides a platform from which future feminist fights can take flight.

Dr Charlotte Mathieson is a Lecturer in Nineteenth-Century English Literature in the School of Literature and Languages at the University of Surrey. Her publications include Mobility in the Victorian Novel: Placing the Nation (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015) and Sea Narratives: Cultural Responses to the Sea, 1600-present (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016). She is Chair of the Feminist and Women’s Studies Association UK & Ireland, co-convenes the Transport and Mobility History Seminar at the Institute of Historical Research, London, and is co-editor of the series Palgrave Studies in Mobilities, Literature and Culture.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics. 

The Plutocracy Comes to Campus

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 16/05/2018 - 1:26am in

When undergrads challenged a rich donor close to Donald Trump, his biggest defenders were their own university’s leaders.

Professors Favor Free Speech

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 26/04/2018 - 1:40am in

93 percent of faculty agree with the statement that, “[U]niversity life requires that people with diverse viewpoints and perspectives encounter each other in an environment where they feel free to speak up and challenge each other.” There is almost universal support for the exchange of ideas and open discourse.

That’s from a new study by Samuel J. Abrams, a political scientist at Sarah Lawrence College and visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, published in The American Interest and discussed in an article at Inside Higher EdThe study adds to the existing reasons to doubt the narrative, often offered up by mainstream media, that there is a free speech crisis on university campuses.

Here are some other findings from Professor Abrams’ study:

  • Teaching: 80 percent of professors believe that, “Faculty members should be free to present in class any idea that they consider relevant.” Liberal faculty are more supportive of this statement than conservative faculty, with 88 percent of liberal faculty agreeing compared to 67 percent of conservative faculty… Similarly, in the historically liberal humanities and social sciences departments, support for real academic freedom is higher than in the more technical and conservative departments. Over 90 percent of faculty in English, history, political science, arts, and humanities departments support that statement, compared to 70 percent in business and education. 
  • Exposure to Diverse Speech: 69 percent support an open environment where students are exposed to all types of speech, while only 31 percent favored positive environments where speech can be limited to help ensure that all students feel safe and respected.
  • Safe Spaces: 61 percent of professors agree either completely or with some reservation that safe spaces “help students feel comfortable sharing their perspectives and exploring sensitive subjects.” Unsurprisingly, 78 percent of liberal faculty agree while only 39 percent of conservative faculty do. 
  • Disruptive Protests: 67 percent of faculty agree to varying degrees that such students [who disrupt the functioning of a college to protest against certain speakers or ideas] should be expelled or suspended. 84 percent of conservative faculty support these measures compared to 59 percent of liberals, a less dramatic split than the divide over safe spaces. Overall, faculty members favor preserving both order and freedom on campus, though with slightly different ideas of how to go about it.

More here and here.

UPDATE 1: Someone is trolling the site by repeatedly reporting comments that are critical of me or my views, presumably in an attempt to “show” how anti-free speech I am. (Note to troll: I’m sorry my failure to live up to your expectations has made extra work for you.)  When this happens, the comment is no longer visible until I manually re-approve it. I’ll try to keep an eye on this, but if you notice that your previously visible comment has not been visible for a while, send me an email to let me know. Also, keep in mind I do not tend to Daily Nous 24/7, so the restoration of your comment may take some time.

The post Professors Favor Free Speech appeared first on Daily Nous.

‘To the Edge of Freedom’: May ’68 and Now, by Alison Caddick

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 23/04/2018 - 9:01am in

Fifty years since May ’68, and the promise, as it was understood then, of freedom. From what, and to what? The unfettering of the imagination was one cry, the flowering of the social capacities of human being another. Here was the definitive opening to ‘make our own history’—to defy the experience of alienation that was now a condition of student life, not just that of the factory. It was a revolt, or revolution, that sought to defy the structures of the received political Left as much as it was a rejection of the structures and effects of (late) capitalism. At least, this was how it largely understood itself: a revolt against authority, a flowering of possibilities, the chance for individuals to become ‘whole’. It was believed that, starting in the ‘nerve centres’ of society—the universities—this completely novel form of revolt would flow out to destabilise the whole.

Commentators on the spot like Tom Nairn and Angelo Quattrochi (in their stimulating book The Beginning of the End) celebrated the students’ bravery and determination on the streets of Paris in the face of a repression only the French know how to administer. Past masters indeed: comparisons with the resolve of the communards of 1871, and then their bloody repression by the authorities who would become the Third Republic, were clearly in the minds of observers at the time, not to mention the Parisian bourgeoisie.

It was a battle that started with teach-ins and mass meetings that moved into the streets, stretching over six weeks, with wave after wave of street fighting and counter-attack. In responding to the spirit and the message of the student radicals and other youth, and against the repressive response of the state, workers also went out, over seven million of them. Commerce, industry, public services—all came to a halt (the City of Light was intermittently plunged into darkness by the action of electricity workers). Government and state were likewise plunged into crisis, while the official left (communist) union’s grasp on worker sentiment and action came perilously close to being entirely broken.

Involving students at universities in various French centres, but centred on the Sorbonne, May ’68 took everyone—observers on the Left as much as the Right—utterly by surprise. A spontaneous uprising and largely leaderless movement, it was not meant to happen, certainly not by any judgment on the Left as to how ‘revolutions’ might any longer take place. The originality of the protest and action was that it was a revolution led by students, not the oppressed in any recognisable sense. Here was the most privileged of any social group anywhere in the world: white, metropolitan, middle-class young people apparently destined for high office and comfortable lives. What could they possibly know about alienation? How could their ‘imaginations’ possibly be constrained?

Various contingent factors had contributed to building discontent. There had been a huge increase in student numbers in France in the preceding decade—from 170,000 to 600,000, with 182,000 in Paris. Overcrowding in the institutions was rife, and facilities poor. The French higher-education system was rigid and authoritarian, and similarly the world for which these young people were destined—supremely bureaucratic, elitist, hubristically ‘rational’. Tom Nairn notes that of all the Western nations, France offered the least opportunity for participation in meaningful democracy, a consequence of France’s deep conservatism, top-down technocratic state and economy, and its leadership from 1958 in the form of a Great Man and military general, de Gaulle.

But Nairn more importantly poses the larger question, which steps beyond discontent as an explanation for the actions taken to aspects of the larger, emergent social reality. The revolt is neither contingent on particulars nor is it primarily ideological, or we might add ethical, although both those dimensions are present. ‘Everything suggests’, Nairn says, that ‘society has secretly transformed itself’, that reality has, as fact, shifted ‘under our feet’. Discontent has purchase, and may be turned into self-conscious demand and collective outlook only because the originality is in the new structures that produce students as potentially the actors they have become.

Of great interest to us today, Gaullist reforms to the university in this period were intended, in the authorities’ own terms, to ‘industrialise the university’ so as to produce the needed quantities of brain power for a surging technocratic capitalism servicing the new commodity industries: for the planners, managers, technicians and emerging ‘creatives’ (for example, in the advertising industry) specific to this form of capital. Authorities conceived of universities as ‘brain factories’. Alienation was indeed possible, then, in the social grouping ‘students’, especially as against humanistic notions of what the university was for, and given dormant traditions of dissent and revolt that might help formulate politically the meaning of felt ‘alienation’. But that they had already become potentially the actors they would be, with a new meaning within, and the capacity to represent back to the social whole (to other social groupings) changes in the substance of the real, goes further than any explanation resting on ‘alienation’. The paradox of being—of having the capacities of—what you don’t yet know you are relates to material processes that implicitly shape consciousness, and constitute new subjects.

Neither alienation nor the metaphor of the brain factory adequately explains the novel intersection of education, economy and the person, or the consequences of that intersection in the postwar period—of postwar reconstruction, a baby boom, commodity capitalism and rising new technologies. Alienation became a preoccupation of some humanist Marxists in the 1960s and seventies; others argued for the proletarianisation of the intellectually trained. But such views remediated the new to old frameworks. In the former case, an essential human being was again being deformed by capitalist economy, if in new circumstances. In the latter, a new militantism was promised but in the same ‘classical’ form as that of the modern working class.

Others, like Marshall luLuhan, had already begun to see distinctive novelties in the 1960s context, which challenged any such harking back to previous understandings:

The aspiration of our time for wholeness, empathy and depth of awareness is a natural adjunct of electric technology… Every culture and every age has its favourite model of perception and knowledge… The mark of our times is its revulsion against imposed patterns. We are suddenly eager to have things and people declare their beings totally…

This kind of statement fits well enough with cries against alienation, but McLuhan’s point is that a new culture is emerging. The divisions of the old are far less important than what seems to be shaping a new sensibility—psychological, aesthetic, technical. It is not so much that declaring one’s being totally is denied as that the age of ‘electric technology’ makes this kind of being possible, and constraints placed upon it from earlier formations must give way to it. In the notion that the medium is the message, the title of McLuhan’s 1967 book, the shift in consciousness is not accomplished by ideology/ideas/message (the past role of intellectuals in service of other interests) but rather through the shaping power of communicative media as such. As the role of the university trained shifts within the institutions and within industry, communication in its own right is seen to enter the manifold of forces that shape life.

Here, then, in Paris, in one of the heartlands of the Western tradition/logos, in one of the oldest universities in the world, there seems to have been a sense that the whole of existence was being newly lifted into the political. That one might declare one’s whole being. The anti-establishment, anti-authority and anti-conformist tendencies of the 1960s would bleed through all the disciplines and all the social institutions, and new political formations in the new social movements of the seventies would come into being and change the agenda of all progressive politics (the personal is the political). A diversity of social theories have attempted to comprehend this basic shift, Jürgen Habermas from quite different grounds introducing communication, too, as an independent fundamental, and arguing that the very ‘grammar of life’ was what was now at stake. May ’68, together with the student uprisings that took place across the metropolitan West, was the first, intense efflorescence of political desire that erupted through the constraints of the old to declare itself as a (relatively) self-conscious movement of the new.

But with fifty years of hindsight we can ask if this was the ‘beginning of the end’, as hoped by the radicals of the day, or a marker of the beginning of the entrenchment of new powers and even a misrecognition of the form of the person then being installed. It is not just that techno-capitalism would take on the harshest neoliberal forms only years after 1968, or that the electric technologies of McLuhan would lead seemingly inexorably away from the romanticised ‘Madmen’ of sixties advertising to the forms of surveillance and communicative capitalism focused on in this issue of Arena Magazine. Both these developments indicate a limit on understanding at the time, and are deeply disturbing set against the hopes for freedom of the late sixties. But what seems like a reversal of those hopes may not indicate the most enduring aspects of what was felt, and was coming into being, however inchoately, beneath the surface of that reconfiguring world. The call to imagination and individual creativity, to the breaking free from constraint and authority, as others have pointed out, would be key elements of the ethos and practices of the emerging industries themselves. Intellectual training and creativity are factors of production and integral to a new calculus of value—in all senses.

As Arena writers have long pointed out, the specific powers and mode of connection of the intellectually trained are integral with techno-capitalism’s widening application of the commodity form via the sciences and the culture industries to elements of both culture and nature once held at a distance from the workings of capitalism. Certainly, fifty years after May ’68 we are faced with the conundrum of the ‘student’, as with the intellectually trained generally, being almost totally subsumed and enmeshed within the neoliberal university-industrial-culture complex as consumers on the one hand, and as (often grossly aspirational) workers in a system that demands of them both body and soul. Far from any apparent desire, even if ultimately illusory, to ‘declare their beings totally’, or to explore how our being might be better materialised in a world of our making, they are more likely to take up the sop of the highly channelled means of self-curation offered today by Facebook and the reputational economy—only the latest of new media solutions to the problem of the fragility of the contemporary subject.