Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Open Letter on Academic Freedom

A friend forwarded this to me. Bear in mind that uneducated people are easier to manipulate than well-educated people, and always consider that whenever you hear politicians attacking any aspect of education. Ask yourself what they gain if they win. Ask yourself what the students would lose.

From: cynara medina <cm380102@ohio.edu>
To: POPCULTURE-L@LISTS.UFL.EDU
Sent: Tuesday, February 24, 2009 10:50:26 AM
Subject: Open Letter on Academic Freedom

As members of the academic community, we are deeply saddened by the
statements made by State Representatives Charlice Byrd and Calvin Hill
(R-Georgia), which were reported on by CNN on February 18, 2009 (see:
http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/living/2009/02/18/am.costello.teaching.se
x.cnn). Both legislators, supported by the Christian Coalition, have
declared their opposition to the teaching of queer theory, sexuality, and
similar subjects on moral grounds, arguing that these courses should be
cut because they are a waste of taxpayer money.

Granted, lawmakers are entitled to their opinion; the first amendment
guarantees their right to express it freely. However, representatives
Byrd, Hill and their supporters demonstrate a complete disregard and lack
of understanding of the fundamental mission of a university.

The principle of Academic Freedom helps define our roles and
responsibilities as members of the university community. Individually and
collectively, through our teaching and scholarship, we encourage our
students to search and discover knowledge. Academic freedom protects us
and our rights to conduct research, to publish and to freely discuss ideas
that are relevant to our fields of study. The principle, as defined by the
American Association of University Professors, also recognizes our rights,
as citizens, to free expression of our opinions, which should not be
restricted by the institution. At the same time, we are reminded of our
special obligations to our students, and to the community. Hence, we are
urged to "exercise proper restraint", to avoid controversies that have no
bearing to our subject matter, to respect the opinions of others, and "to
make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the
institution" for which we work (AAUP,
1940).

We believe that classrooms are spaces to discuss ideas. A well-rounded
education, furthermore, is not just about learning practical skills; it
should help students develop their ability to think critically, and to
engage and question their surroundings, their culture, their government,
and even their religious beliefs. If they can come out on the other side
with deeper convictions, either those they held before or new ones they
have embraced, then we can say that it was all worth it. The grading, the
uninspired students, the incomprehensible committee jargon... all of it.

Still, it saddens us that lawmakers in Georgia find so much to object
about, and that they use their position as a bully pulpit. They obviously
don't understand that queer theory, for example, is not meant as an
attempt to recruit new "queers"; it is a useful tool to understand society
and culture from the point of view of a group that has always been on the
outside looking in. We can only hope that most of the students to come out
of such a course would be better equipped to handle themselves in a
diverse world than legislators Byrd and Hill are.

We support our colleagues and appreciate the freedom to share knowledge,
and we encourage everyone who shares these sentiments to sign our online
petition, available at http://www.petitiononline.com/MDIA/petition.html,
and/or join our Facebook group at
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=55324105142


Sincerely,

Cynara M. Medina, School of Media Arts and Studies - Ohio University
Dan Nelson, School of Media Arts and Studies - Ohio University
Mia Consalvo, School of Media Arts and Studies - Ohio University
Roger Cooper, School of Media Arts and Studies - Ohio University
Joseph Straubhaar, Department of Radio-Television-Film, University of
Texas at Austin
Janie Henderson, School of Media Arts and Studies - Ohio University
Will Klatt, School of Media Arts and Studies - Ohio University
Danielle M. Stern, Department of Communication - Christopher Newport
University
Meghan Peirce, School of Media Arts and Studies - Ohio University
Todd Harper, School of Media Arts and Studies - Ohio University
Erin L. Hill, University of Colorado - Denver
Victoria Wang, School of Media Arts and Studies - Ohio University
Yu-ping Cheng, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Jill Estep, Staff - Ohio University
Tanja E. Bosch, Lecturer, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Masudul Biswas, Louisiana State University.
Raúl A. Mora, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Laura M. Rusnak, School of Media Arts and Studies - Ohio University
Emily Kresiak, Department of Sociology - Ohio University
Tiffany Teofilo, School of Media Arts and Studies -Ohio University
Ann Alquist, School of Media Arts and Studies - Ohio University
Shane Tilton, School of Media Arts and Studies - Ohio University
Aarthi Rayapura, Ohio University Alumna
Virginia Lacayo, School of Media Arts and Studies - Ohio University
Tiffany Bowden, School of Media Arts and Studies - Ohio University
Jamie McDonald, Graduate Teaching Fellow, University of Utah
Tags: activism, education
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