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Colleges at the Crossroads

Taking Sides on Contested Issues


Edited By Joseph L. DeVitis and Pietro A. Sasso

Focusing on crucial issues in higher education, this book challenges readers to go beyond taken-for-granted assumptions about America’s colleges and universities and instead critically examine important questions facing them in today’s troubled world. Each chapter presents divergent perspectives, that is, "pro" and "con" views, in the hope of stimulating reasoned dialogue among students, faculty, administrators, and the public at large. Readers will explore how internal factors in the academic community often interact with external social, economic, and political influences to produce conflictual results. They will see that academe is hardly value-neutral and inevitably political. This book urges them to transcend strident political persuasion and instead engage in the careful analysis needed to make colleges better.

The text provides in-depth appraisal of key topics of controversy: the purposes of higher education, liberal education, academic freedom, political correctness, tenure, shared governance, faculty workload, admissions tests, student learning, Greek life, the worth of college, equity and social justice, athletics, student entitlement, technology and distance instruction, and college amenities. The book will appeal to students, faculty, staff, and all those interested in the future of higher education. It is especially useful for courses in contemporary issues in higher education, foundations of higher education, higher education and society, college student development, and the organization and administration of higher education.

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5. “Flipping” the Tenure Debate and the Continuing Need to Protect Academic Freedom (Neal H. Hutchens / Frank Fernandez)


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5.  “Flipping” the Tenure Debate and the Continuing Need to Protect Academic Freedom


The negative social, political, and economic consequences incurred by nations that disallow or substantially curtail intellectual freedom for college faculty serve as a stark reminder of the fundamental importance of academic freedom to higher education. The case of Turkey provides a recent cautionary tale, as professors there have faced escalating intimidation and retaliation for espousing views disfavored by governmental leaders (see, e.g., Albayrak, 2016; Göçek, 2016). Pressure on Turkish academics only increased following a failed military coup in 2016, as the government’s response included the dismissal of thousands of university department heads and a call by the nation’s top higher education official for university leaders to provide a list of traitors (Grove, 2016). Regrettably, infringements on academic freedom in higher education abound in other countries as well (e.g., Jacobs, 2013; New York Times, 2013; Redden, 2013; Reuters, 2014; Sataline, 2015; Shahin, 2014).

While a long-accepted facet of American higher education, challenges to academic freedom also exist in the United States. These include increased reliance on part-time, adjunct faculty teaching with severely limited employment protections, adoption of management models and strategies more appropriate for business than for higher education, and concerns raised by international partnership efforts—such as the establishment of branch campuses—with nations that may not share a strong commitment to intellectual freedom in higher education. In...

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