[Here are my introductory remarks, with links to the organizations, books, and resources I mentioned.]
I am truly an honored to introduce our speaker, Professor Cary Nelson.
An omnipresent issue facing our profession—and the theme of Professor Nelson’s talk—is academic freedom. My colleagues and I have personally benefitted from Cary’s expertise. A capsule version of the story is that, returning from CIC-Wisconsin two years ago, we drafted an open letter to students concerning a controversial event held on campus that directly involved music education students.
The response to our letter raised significant criticism, including from Tim Johnson, our local U.S. Congressional Representative, who referred to us as, “self-appointed thought police” who had crossed an “ethical, if not a legal, boundary” to “bully young students” (Champaign News-Gazette, November 13, 2010). As the media storm raged an open letter by Cary saved the day, forcefully arguing that our efforts were protected in the course of, “fulfilling our professional responsibilities in urging students to reflect on the role that the issue could play in their careers.” During a difficult time, Cary’s thorough understanding of academic freedom came to our rescue, and we remain grateful.
Cary’s understanding of academic freedom is theoretically rich, but also stems from many hundreds of talks and visits to campuses over the past six years. He served two terms as president of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), an office first held by John Dewey. The AAUP’s Policy Documents and Reports, also known as the Redbook, contains definitive statements on academic freedom, tenure, and shared governance. It also presents statements on topics such as the ethics of recruitment and faculty appointments, principles on family responsibilities and academic work, a joint statement on rights and freedoms of students, tenure quotas, and professional ethics (see a full list here). When our universities are doing their best work, they are usually aligned with the norms established by the AAUP over the past 97 years.
At Illinois for 42 years, Professor Nelson is the Jubilee Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Professor of English. He has authored or edited 25 books. Of these, I love and personally recommend Manifesto of a Tenured Radical, Academic Keywords: A Devil’s Dictionary for Higher Education, and No University is an Island: Saving Academic Freedom. He is the author of over 100 essays, “including a number published in Academe, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and Inside Higher Education.”
Given the challenging issues facing our profession, Cary notes that we have a responsibility to be engaged members. And I must note here the committed engagement of our own Graduate Employees’ Organization. While we meet to discuss LGBT issues in music education, the GEO is organizing and acting in support of, “historic contract language that would significantly increase recognition and access for LGBTQ persons and relationships, protect international and immigrant graduate employees, and work toward a safe and accessible workplace for queer, graduate students of color, and working parents in our bargaining unit.” His career is a testament to the possibilites and fruits of engagement. As such, I am truly delighted to welcome him here, and I am looking forward to the talk and the conversation. Please join me in welcoming Professor Cary Nelson.