I have more on intellectual diversity at the beginning of “Part 2: Ten Years of Administrative Retaliation for Speaking Up to Defend the Freedom of Academic Expression Inside and Outside the Classroom,” elsewhere on the site. — Ray Carney
- Faculty should be guaranteed the absolute privacy of files on their computer, the emails they write and receive, their use of the internet, their telephone conversations, their written correspondence, and all other personal communications to or from them. The internet age has created many threats to academic freedom of expression that do not fall into the pattern of old style "McCarthy threats” of being harassed or fired for taking unpopular political stands. We must realize that in the computer age the threats to academic freedom constituted by email and internet “spying” are just as corrosive of free discussion and the free flow of ideas that a university depends on as the old style McCarthy threats. In terms of my own personal experience, I’d note that the previous Dean in my College threatened faculty members he wanted to reign–in by implying that he monitored or otherwise knew the content of their emails and telephone conversations to and from each other. Faculty never knew if this was true or if he was even capable of doing this; but the fear he induced had its intended effect, independently of whether the threat was carried out or not. Faculty became afraid to express their opinions in email or in their offices fully and candidly, with an inevitably chilling effect on the intellectual life of the College. The effect on intellectual and policy debates of such threats – whether real or imagined – is what I am concerned about. The faculty’s absolute confidence in the privacy and confidentiality of its interactions must be protected if we want to maintain a free and open intellectual space for discussion and debate.
- Faculty should be guaranteed that activities and events in classrooms or lecture halls will not be monitored, recorded, or observed without their knowledge and permission. (A side–note: This would not affect required classroom visitations during regular, scheduled reviews for tenure or promotion, where such permission would be requested and granted as a matter of course.) Aside from visits connected with the review process, it is critical that the classroom be a “protected space for learning” where the instructor does not feel that his or her casual remarks are in danger of being taken out of context, monitored, recorded, and viewed by an administrative Big Brother without his or her knowledge or permission. Given the large number of audiovisual–equipped classrooms in my College, this was a particular concern during the previous Dean’s tenure, but the concern should not be limited to audio–visual classrooms. Whether most faculty realize it or not, recent technological advances allow for unobtrusive remote or surreptitious monitoring or recording in almost any setting. A few clicks around youtube.com will satisfy anyone’s doubts about how easy it is to record things and then take them out of context and replay them in a different setting in order to embarrass or humiliate a speaker.
- Faculty should be guaranteed that they will not be given low ratings on their annual evaluations for the expression of opinions and points of view or for statements in their publications that differ from the views of their colleagues or administrators. In my College, low evaluations have been and are still being awarded to individuals under the rubric of their not being “team players,” not being sufficiently “collegial,” or failing adequately to execute the “university service” component of their duties. These are all code–words for the faculty member’s daring to disagree with a policy decision or expressing a markedly different opinion from the Chair or Dean in memos, meetings, or publications – or in one case, in my personal knowledge, for a faculty member’s decision to abstain from voting in favor of a promotion he strongly opposed but that the rest of the department was strongly in favor of. (The negative evaluation, of course, has negative consequences on the faculty member’s pay.)
- Faculty should be guaranteed that they will not be administratively or pedagogically penalized in other ways (beyond the annual review) because they express opinions and points of view that differ from those of their colleagues or administrators. In my College, in the past three or four years, punishment for thinking different or for speaking up has taken many different forms: research funds and travel support have been withheld or cut; leaves and sabbaticals have been delayed; classroom assignments have been changed to unfavorable locations or locations lacking necessary audio–visual equipment; permission to use standard campus facilities – e.g. the college Xerox machine – has been denied or cut back; nominations for prizes and awards have been withheld, (e.g. the Metcalf Award and various special college prizes); and faculty have been denied or scanted on other perquisites of their position (e.g. not being asked to teach at or visit remote campuses, not being asked to represent the university at prestigious functions, not being included in other special events).
- Faculty should be guaranteed that conversations and other communications with administrators for which they request confidentiality, will, in fact, be treated confidentially, and that confidentiality will be waived only with the permission of the faculty member. This too comes out of recent experience in my College, where the previous Dean and at least one Department Chairman and Program Director routinely violated requests for confidentiality by relaying nominally “private” comments or observations to others (including to students) in order to pit other faculty, staff, and students against the particular faculty member in a series of “whispering campaigns” designed to undermine the stature and professional reputation of the faculty member who expressed the private opinion to them.