Academic Freedom and the Importance of Unions

Yesterday, on Democracy Now, Amy Goodman (who just received an honorary degree from SIUC) interviewed Judy Ancel, director of the Institute of Labor Studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, about the recent attacks on Ancel and her co-teacher (Don Giljum, at the University of Missouri-St. Louis). Essentially, Ancel and Giljum videotaped lectures and classes in their labor studies classrooms and made them available to students on a website. Those lectures were then edited and released publicly in such a way that the videos made Ancel and Giljum seem as if they were advocating violence. The pressure and backlash to this release was so intense that Giljum, at first, conditionally resigned and the University of Missouri accepted initially before reversing their position.

Two important things to take away from this:

1. Attacks on unions are attacks on academic freedom and the rights of teachers to freely discuss their subject in the method they wish; faculty and graduate assistant unions work hard to preserve this right and keep university administrations, as well as outside interest groups, from interfering in the classroom.

2. The University of Missouri eventually stood behind Giljum, an adjunct, at their St. Louis campus. However, their initial actions shows how disposable adjuncts and non-tenure track teachers (who do the majority of teaching at most universities) are to administrations. Adjuncts, NTTs, and lecturers are all valuable employees who perform excellent service to the university and they deserve better; they deserve fair treatment.

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