Friday, November 2, 2007

Academic Freedom at CUNY: Ad Hoc or Ad Hominem?

At the same time that her attorney was preparing a $2,000,000 defamation suit against Emeritus Professor Karkhanis, "Sue" O'Malley was mounting the virtual barricades once more. The former chair of the University Faculty Senate, former ex-officio member of CUNY's Board of Trustees, and present Professional Staff Congress Community College Officer was a signatory no. 177 to an online petition by the "Ad Hoc Committee to Defend the University"

This group, organized by O'Malley's AAUP comrade-in-arms Joan Scott, is concerned with the presence and pressure of outside groups who have become embroiled in on-campus curricular and personnel issues. In response, Scott, O'Malley and such other CUNY luminaries as Anthony Alessandrini (Kingsborough), Bonnie Anderson (Brooklyn College), Sandi Cooper (College of Staten Island), and Timothy Shortell (Brooklyn College) have observed that:

"The suppression of free speech undermines academic freedom and subverts the norms of academic life. It poses a serious threat to institutions of higher education in the United States. The university should be a place where different interpretations can be explored and competing ideas exchanged. Academic freedom means not only the right to pursue a variety of interpretations, but the maintenance of standards of truth and acceptability by one’s peers."

In response, they pledge:

"to vigorously promote our views in the media and through the Internet, and to explain the importance of academic freedom to a sustainable and vibrant democracy"

And well they should!

One does wonder, however, why Susan O'Malley is so adamant about standing up for free speech in the face of criticisms by "groups portraying themselves as defenders of Israel," while also attempting to silence Sharad Karkhanis for circulating statements made by her concerning Mohammed Yousry. Might it be that this erstwhile professor of English has taken to heart Ralph Waldo Emerson's comments about foolish consistency and little minds? Or perhaps there is a more substantive difference between ad hoc and ad hominem instances of academic freedom?

Clarifications and/or explanations would be most appreciated.


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