California Scholars for Academic Freedom

Follow up letter to Barnard College Pres. Sian Beilock re Dr. Fleischer dismissal

CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM

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November 6, 2017

To: Barnard College President

Sian ​Beilock

Dear Barnard College President Sian Beilock,

We, the California Scholars for Academic Freedom, are following up on our promise to remain attentive to the case of Dr. Fleischer—object of our October 18 letter—and are writing to you today on account of new information we have received about the arbitration process initiated by Barnard with the Barnard Contingent Faculty union (Local 2110 UAW).

We have learnt from a credible source that the matter of Dr. Fleischer’s dismissal has been referred to an arbitrator who has declared himself not to be able to hear the case until April 2018, a full year after her dismissal. This is an extremely and unusually long time for a labor dispute to be heard, and the contract signed by Barnard with the union contains a specific clause that calls for the parts to go to the next arbitrator on the list, in case the first one were not available to hear the case. We understand that the union leadership has already asked three times for a new arbitrator to be chosen and, according to information we have received, the selected arbitrator himself has suggested that Barnard and the union move to the next one in order to secure an expeditious process. Everything seems to suggest that Barnard is dragging its feet and entering into a war of attrition with Dr. Fleischer and her union that will benefit no one.

While we are still hoping you will reinstate Dr. Fleischer before any arbitration takes place, on account of the injury she has suffered to her academic freedom, which we discussed in our previous letter, we now appeal to you to declare the current arbitrator “not available” so that a new one be chosen expeditiously. To drag out this dispute unnecessarily for a year will not benefit Barnard in any way. It will only add retaliatory insult to the injury already suffered by Dr. Fleischer and will severely hurt Barnard’s chances to establish a productive and collaborative relation with the newly established Contingent Faculty Union.

Sincerely,

California Scholars for Academic Freedom

Contact persons:

Eileen Boris

Hull Professor and Distinguished Professor of Feminist Studies

Professor of History, Black Studies, and Global Studies

University of California, Santa Barbara

eboris@ucsb.edu

Rush Rehm

Professor, Theater and Performance Studies, and Classics

Artistic Director, Stanford Repertory Theater (SRT)

Stanford University, Palo Alto, California

mrehm@stanford.edu

Lisa Rofel

Professor, Department of Anthropology

Co-Director, Center for Emerging Worlds

University of California, Santa Cruz

LROFEL@ucsc.edu

Susan Slyomovics

Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Near Eastern Languages & Cultures

University of California, Los Angeles

Barnard ‘71

ssly@anthro.ucla.edu

**CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM (cs4af) is a group of scholars who defend academic freedom, the right of shared governance, and the First Amendment rights of faculty and students in the academy and beyond. We recognize that violations of academic freedom anywhere are threats to academic freedom everywhere. California Scholars for Academic Freedom investigates legislative and administrative infringements on freedom of speech and assembly, and it raises the consciousness of politicians, university regents and administrators, faculty, students and the public at large through open letters, press releases, petitions, statements, and articles.

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November 9, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Letter to Dr. M. Brian Blake, Provost, Drexel University, expressing deep concern over the removal of Dr. Ciccariello-Maher

CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM

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November 7, 2017

Dr. M. Brian Blake,

Provost

Drexel University

3141 Chestnut Street

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104

Dear Provost Blake:

The California Scholars for Academic Freedom (cs4af)**, a group of over 200 academics from different California institutions of higher education focused on protecting academic freedom and freedom of expression, is writing to express our deep concern over the removal of Dr. Ciccariello-Maher, Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and Global Studies, Drexel University from his classroom as a new condition of the administrative leave imposed upon him on October 9, 2017. Drexel University should never have put Dr. Ciccariello-Maher on administrative leave, an act that violates its own rules of faculty governance and those of the American Association of University Professors.

We strongly urge Drexel University to reconsider this path as an inadequate response to threats to freedom of speech and academic freedom posed by the new landscape of internet mobbing and outside pressures. We remind you that Professor Ciccariello-Maher’s extramural speech is protected speech as are his political views expressed in the classroom and in all publications. As of this writing, students in Professor Ciccariello-Maher’s classes have been denied the presence of their teacher while the Professor himself labors under a cloud of your making. No less authoritative a body than the AAUP has urged you to respect the learning and expertise of this scholar by returning to this scholar the full enjoyment of his rights to academic freedom. In this case, “security” cannot be a cover for administrative retreat from the facts.

You cannot at this date be unaware that a Russian troll farm is responsible for the bulk of the email outrage garnered by Professor Ciccariello-Maher’s extramural speech.  According to a well-researched article by the conservative Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE):

“@TEN_GOP, was not, as it claimed to be, the organic anger of Republicans from Tennessee. Rather, @TEN_GOP was the product of the Internet Research Agency, a Russia-based “troll farm” not heretofore known to employ many Americans hailing from the Volunteer State. Instead, it was, as described by The New York Times in 2015, “employing hundreds of Russians to post pro-Kremlin propaganda online under fake identities, including on Twitter.” According to a report first made by Russia-based RBC, citing documents and both current and former employees of the agency, @TEN_GOP was one such fake account. Reporters with the Daily Beast — Betsy Woodruff, Ben Collins, Spencer Ackerman, and Kevin Poulsen — confirmed @TEN_GOP’s Internet Research Agency origin, citing a source familiar with the account and evidence purporting to show that the account was linked to a Russian cell phone number.”

That said, the source of the attacks, embarrassing as it may be, is not the main issue.  What is at stake is the violation of the rights of a member of faculty to academic freedom and to protected freedom of expression.  Professor Ciccariello-Maher’s critique of gun control fetishism and equally of blind support for militarism remain protected speech whether expressed in the classroom or in an extramural venue. No reasonable person would misunderstand his tweets, the norms of the venue that is Twitter, nor the insidious intent of the attacks on Professor Ciccariello-Maher. You well know that his earlier tweet regarding “white genocide” was, in essence, a satirical citation of the absurd white supremacist dictum that because “white” women have fewer children than other women, there is a “genocide” afoot. Professor Ciccariello-Maher’s comment was neither ill-advised nor outrageous. It was simply feminist and anti-racist.

In these times when our democracy is imperilled by foreign meddling and home-grown corruption, academic freedom and freedom of expression may seem like quaint and innocent values. They are not. Though we may not all share Professor Ciccariello-Maher’s taste for acerbic rhetoric, there can be no argument on the facts and no respectable claim that his criticisms of US policy, political piety or rank white supremacy are outside the norms of political expression. The online trade journal, Inside Higher Ed, reports “Drexel has criticized his statements, and also said that the university was losing some prospective students and donors because of the furor over the tweets”. We at cs4af wonder why the university would see fit to criticize the comments of a tenured expert in political science when those comments in their substance if not their tone reflect arguments well represented in liberal and leftist traditions? University administrators must not exhibit partisan political commitments that contravene the academic freedom of the professoriate nor should such commitments and still less the fear – or excuse — of losing donor dollars be used as a basis for ignoring faculty governance. The AAUP has made public its letter to you detailing discussions with Drexel University over six months and in which the AAUP has attempted to persuade your administration to adhere to common baseline standards of respect for faculty governance and institutional norms.

We at cs4af do hope that Drexel University will choose to restore Professor Ciccariello-Maher’s right to his classroom and to defend the values that found and continue to anchor institutions of higher learning. We will support you in this endeavour.

We look forward to your response,

California Scholars for Academic Freedom

Contact Persons:

Sondra Hale, Professor Emerita

Department of Anthropology and Gender Studies

University of California, Los Angeles

Sonhale@ucla.edu

Lisa Rofel

Professor of Anthropology

Director, Center for Emerging Worlds

University of California, Santa Cruz

LROFEL@ucsc.edu

**CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM (cs4af) is a group of scholars who defend academic freedom, the right of shared governance, and the First Amendment rights of faculty and students in the academy and beyond. We recognize that violations of academic freedom anywhere are threats to academic freedom everywhere. California Scholars for Academic Freedom investigates legislative and administrative infringements on freedom of speech and assembly, and it raises the consciousness of politicians, university regents and administrators, faculty, students and the public at large through open letters, press releases, petitions, statements, and articles.

November 7, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Letter to Barnard President Sian Beilock re firing of Georgette Fleischer

CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM

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October 25, 2017

To: Barnard College President

Sian Bellock

Dear Barnard College President Sian Beilock,

The California Scholars for Academic Freedom (cs4af),*​* a group of over 200 academics from different California institutions of higher education focused on protecting academic freedom and freedom of expression, is writing to express our deep concern over the news of the recent firing of Georgette Fleischer, who taught for 17 years as an adjunct in the English Department at Barnard College.

As you are surely aware, Dr. Fleischer has a long history of contentious relations with Barnard’s administration. First in 2014-2015 she filed and won a case in State Supreme Court after she was not reappointed for a course she had taught for 12 consecutive years and Barnard then denied her the right to a Faculty Internal Grievance. Second, she initiated and actively participated in the drive that led to the formation of the Barnard Contingent Faculty Union (Local 2110 UAW). Along with six other long-term faculty members and two more on the cusp of becoming post-probationary, Dr. Fleischer was terminated a few weeks after the first union contract was signed.

Unlike her peers, however, Dr. Fleischer did not accept the modest severance package she was offered, but filed a grievance that was rejected by Provost Linda Bell, and now proceeds to arbitration. In addition, Dr. Fleischer and the union have filed multiple unfair labor practice charges against Barnard College with the National Labor Relations Board.

Cs4af has reviewed the accusations levied against Dr. Fleischer that seek to justify Barnard’s termination by singling out her grading standards and feedback on student work. We believe them to be serious violations of academic freedom. As recently reaffirmed by AAUP, grading is the sole responsibility of the faculty member teaching a course (https://www.aaup.org/issues/grading) and cannot be regulated in any way by either students (who of course can appeal) or administrators. In addition, as AAUP also notices, we are deeply troubled by the rise of a consumer-oriented view of higher education that envisions a certain grade as an entitlement for one who has paid tuition, or as an enticement to keep students enrolled and their tuition dollars flowing into an institution. From what we understand, Barnard’s main motivation for terminating Dr. Fleischer had to do with her giving lower grades than her students expected. It seems to us that Barnard is not only violating Dr. Fleischer’s right to be solely responsible for the grades received by the students in any of the courses she taught, but is also irresponsibly punishing someone who is fighting the good fight against grade inflation.

Our concern over the faulty and dangerous grounds upon which Barnard has dismissed Dr. Fleischer is greatly augmented by the smell of retaliation arising from this case. We find that Dr. Fleischer’s leading role as a member of the bargaining committee for sixteen months, her outspoken criticism of the Barnard administration throughout the years, and her recent differences with the leadership of the union itself, made her into an easy and isolated target for retaliation. Her refusal to accept the severance package offered to her by the College, and her decision to pursue a labor lawsuit instead, are principled actions that cs4af greatly admires—and which we were created to defend—especially when carried out by an adjunct faculty who is unafraid to be controversial in order to fight for academic freedom and fair labor practices.

We also know that you personally bear no direct responsibility for the firing of Dr. Fleischer, having become President of Barnard only after she was terminated. We therefore add our voices to those of the many faculty members and associations that have appealed to you in the past weeks to reinstate Dr. Fleischer immediately. By doing so you will demonstrate that, as with free speech, academic freedom is a value that is not only for unions and faculty associations to defend, but for all in higher education to endorse and uphold precisely when it is least convenient to do so. To wait for the results of an arbitration that is not scheduled to begin until the end of April 2018, almost a full year after Dr. Fleischer’s termination date, would add more retaliatory insult to the injury already suffered by Dr. Fleischer and would escalate Barnard’s profile as a union-busting administration that mistreats dedicated long-term faculty.

Cs4af is committed to remaining attentive to this case because of its important national profile and implications for the academic freedom and employment rights of our adjunct colleagues everywhere. We very much hope you will respond positively to our plea and those of many other organizations and that you will reinstate Dr. Fleischer immediately. Reinstatement of Dr. Fleischer would allow us to commend Barnard’s renewed commitment to academic freedom and fair labor practices.

Sincerely,

California Scholars for Academic Freedom

Contact persons:

Eileen Boris

Hull Professor and Distinguished Professor of Feminist Studies

Professor of History, Black Studies, and Global Studies

University of California, Santa Barbara

Rush Rehm

Professor, Theater and Performance Studies, and Classics

Artistic Director, Stanford Repertory Theater (SRT)

Stanford University, Palo Alto, California

Lisa Rofel

Professor, Department of Anthropology

Co-Director, Center for Emerging Worlds

University of California, Santa Cruz

Susan Slyomovics

Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Near Eastern Languages & Cultures

University of California, Los Angeles

Barnard ‘71

**CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM (cs4af) is a group of scholars who defend academic freedom, the right of shared governance, and the First Amendment rights of faculty and students in the academy and beyond. We recognize that violations of academic freedom anywhere are threats to academic freedom everywhere. California Scholars for Academic Freedom investigates legislative and administrative infringements on freedom of speech and assembly, and it raises the consciousness of politicians, university regents and administrators, faculty, students and the public at large through open letters, press releases, petitions, statements, and articles.

October 27, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment