No University Is an Island: Saving Academic Freedom

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Overview

No University Is an Island offers a comprehensive account of the social, political, and cultural forces undermining academic freedom. At once witty and devastating, it confronts these threats with exceptional frankness, then offers a prescription for higher education’s renewal. In an insider’s account of how the primary organization for faculty members nationwide has fought the culture wars, Cary Nelson, the current President of the American Association of University Professors, unveils struggles over governance and unionization and the increasing corporatization of higher education. Peppered throughout with previously unreported, and sometimes incendiary, higher education anecdotes, Nelson is at his flame–throwing best.

The book calls on higher education’s advocates of both the Left and the Right to temper conviction with tolerance and focus on higher education’s real injustices. Nelson demands we stop denying teachers, student workers, and other employees a living wage and basic rights. He urges unions to take up the larger cause of justice. And he challenges his own and other academic organizations to embrace greater democracy.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Nelson (Jubilee Professor of Liberal Arts & Sciences, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; Manifesto of a Tenured Radical) is passionate about higher education and convinced that maintaining excellence relies on three core principles: academic freedom, shared governance, and tenure. He identifies multiple threats to academic freedom and continued quality, including the growing number of contingent faculty with part-time or short-term contracts. The current president of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), Nelson argues that the AAUP is important because it defines principles regarding university governance and the professional responsibilities of faculty and demonstrates the power of collective action to protect individuals and university standards. Nelson's descriptions of the history, goals, and achievements of the AAUP, as well as its sometimes severe organizational mismanagement, make this an original contribution. VERDICT This valuable and lively polemic will be of particular interest to readers already familiar with campus issues and the political struggle over faculty rights and responsibilities. Readers who want a more analytical examination of contemporary challenges facing universities might look at Frank Donoghue's The Last Professors or James C. Garland's Saving Alma Mater.—Elizabeth R. Hayford, Northwestern Univ., Evanston, IL
Publishers Weekly
Nelson (Revolutionary Memory), president of the American Association of University Professors, tackles the state of American college campuses in a world of identity politics and culture wars. This is an insider's book in some ways; there's not much general public curiosity about the university's internal mechanisms of hiring, paying, and firing, but Nelson recounts internecine arguments (for example, his debates with Stanley Fish and David Horowitz) with enough clarity and detail to be fully accessible and consistently interesting. Nelson revisits exemplars of the crisis in academic freedom (the controversies surrounding Ward Churchill and Norman Finkelstein, among others). There's the surprising revelation of the impact of Hurricane Katrina on major universities in New Orleans (“tenured faculty were fired with scant notice, no due process, no stated reasons, and no appeal except to the very administrators who terminated them”). He addresses the issues raised by “the massive shift to contingent labor (graduate students, part-time faculty, and full-time faculty off the tenure track) in the academy” and argues for faculty collective bargaining, not mere unionization. Nelson's feisty intellectual manifesto is kept rooted—and readable—by personal recollections, felicitous turns of phrase, and scrupulous fairness. (Mar.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814758595
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 2/3/2010
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 289
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Cary Nelson teaches at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he is Jublilee Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences. He is also the national president of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). Among his twenty-five books are MANIFSTO OF A TENURED RADICAL (also published by NYU) and the landmark coedited collection CULTURAL STUDIES. A collection about his work and its impact, CARY NELSON AND THE STRUGGLE FOR THE UNIVERSITY: POETRY, POLITICS, AND THE PROFESSION was published in 2009.

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