Re: [xmca] University & Conformity

From: Mike Cole <lchcmike who-is-at>
Date: Mon May 26 2008 - 08:23:57 PDT

I really doubt that this is a sensitive or delicate issue for participants
in XMCA, Eric;
it would be sad if you were correct.

The characterization of the situation in the US in the 1950's in the doc
below does not
correspond to my memory of the period, but the general tone is correct. And
for sure
we have our problems along all the lines indicated in this thread to date.
But the situation
does not seem locked down from a poltical perspective to me -- rather,
constrained in
a variety of ways.

One issue that greatly concerns me is the rapidly deteriorating position of
state institutions
that affects quality of teaching, quality of possibility of serious student
engagement, speed up
and use of temporary faculty; These factors combine to create a mimimalist
approach to
scholarship for simple reasons of survival -- too many classes to teach, no
job security, no
say in curriculum, no time for research. The next generation of American
academics face
very difficult times excpept in a handful of elite, hugely rich

Thus hegemonic regimes entrench themselves, and diversity and quality

It should be obvious that new forms of academic cooperation are badly
Suggestions toward THAT end in THIS forum, and relative lack thereof from is
hundreds of
members, seems to be a matter to consider.


On Mon, May 26, 2008 at 1:12 AM, E. Knutsson <> wrote:

> Mike: you're right - I share your hope for multiple voices, even though the
> topic is, perhaps, too "sensitive" or "delicate"...
> As for autonomy, academic freedom, homogeneity of intellect, conformism
> etc.:
> "To be sure, the universities had autonomy from government, but for a very
> long
> time, the universities did not extend that autonomy to the individuals
> within
> them. In fact, the university accommodated, often with the help of the
> professoriate, prevailing social pressures. Conformity has always been the
> wall
> against which academic freedom throws itself. The same tends to be true in
> both
> Canada and the United States. During the First World War, the president of
> Columbia University made it absolutely clear that professors unable to
> espouse
> complete, enthusiastic, and patriotic support of the war effort would be
> unwelcome in the university. Similarly, in the 1930s, the leader of the
> opposition in the Ontario legislature insisted that there should be no
> anti-
> British sentiments expressed in universities. Canada was a British colony
> and
> therefore had no room for anti-British expressions. More significantly, he
> went
> on to say that this issue was not one of freedom of speech but rather an
> issue
> of the basic conception of the role of the university in a British society.
> He
> said that just as a priest who went outside a church and ridiculed religion
> would clearly have no place as a priest in the institution of the church, a
> professor who promoted decolonization and Canadian sovereignty should not
> teach
> in an Ontario university. Again and again, under the pressures of changing
> social values, professors and administrators inside the university redefine
> the
> boundaries of acceptable behaviour. Put differently, even though you can
> only
> be fired from a university for 'cause,' moral turpitude has always been the
> primary cause for which you can be fired, and moral turpitude gets
> redefined in
> each generation and in each moral crisis of the culture. During McCarthyism
> in
> the United States, the same problem arose. Universities needed to eject
> people
> who were considered unpatriotic without seeming to jeopardize academic
> freedom,
> so they worked out a way to get rid of all the people who took the Fifth
> Amendment. When some investigating committees demanded to know whether
> certain
> professors were Communists, and when these individuals failed to disclose
> whether they were Communists, such faculty members were said to lack
> candour.
> Clearly, it was argued, if you are going to be in a university, you owe an
> obligation to your colleagues to disclose your political affiliations. If
> you
> are not going to be candid and if you are not going to answer to the
> inquisition, then you are by definition unfit to be a professor.
> Suddenly, 'lack of candour' became the new form of moral turpitude" (Kahn,
> Sharon E. (ed.). Academic Freedom and the Inclusive University. Vancouver:
> Press, 2001, 79 80).
> erik
> On 2008-05-25, at 20:12, Mike Cole wrote:
> > I am actually interested in what others think on this issue, Erik. I hope
> > multiple
> > voices with multiple experiences will contribute from many countries. (In
> a
> > way,
> > that is my view of the function of XMCA in general and it is a goal
> several
> > XMCA members are working on actively, if slowly and not too effectually).
> >
> > For the moment I will confine myself to noting that it is very difficult,
> > either concurrently
> > or prospectively to determine what the most innovative and critical
> aspects
> > of social
> > life are at any given historical moment/context and that Weber's point
> vis a
> > vis
> > chance certainly applies in my own case. The number of absolutely
> > unanticipateable (sp?)
> > contingencies that shaped my academic career is a constant source of
> wonder
> > to me.
> > mike
> >
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Received on Mon May 26 08:27 PDT 2008

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