After the Election

November 09, 2020 / Jennifer Ruth

Academe Blog

by Jennifer Ruth (PSU-AAUP's VP of Grievances & Academic Freedom)

November 7, 2020


In 2016, right after the Presidential election, I wrote on this blog:

Nobody has a crystal ball but given the president-elect’s words and acts during the campaign—not to mention his seedy experiment in higher education—we would be fools not to expect an attack on the liberal institutions of shared governance and academic freedom. . . How will we use what remains of our infrastructure—the tradition and policies built by AAUP—to protect academic freedom from attacks stemming from both without and within the university? (There are always a few intellectuals wishing to hitch their stars to illiberal movements.)

It was easy to imagine the kinds of cases that did in fact occur, such as when professors criticized Israel or when a scholar tweeted their hatred of white supremacy and administrators threw — or tried to throw — them under the bus. It was easy to picture the cases of power asymmetry, in other words, when a person arguing on behalf of a less institutionally entrenched or systemically empowered group runs into disciplinary trouble with university administrators overreacting to outraged external political actors. “The appearance of fascist politics in the United States is not exactly new,” Michael Roth wrote in June, “but what is new is the alignment of this politics with the force of the federal government.”

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