Open Letter to Christopher Kennedy, #Badmin

Inside Higher Education‘s current article about the University of Illinois-Champaign’s decision not to renew adjunct James Kilgore reprints an inflammatory statement by Christopher Kennedy, Illinois Board of Trustees Chair. In The News-Gazette, Kennedy declared that adjuncts are not worthy of academic freedom (full quote below). You and I both know that this is not true.

Tell him what you think: I did.

Mr. Kennedy and fellow trustees:

I am an adjunct advocate working with the Coalition Against Corporate Higher Education and a faculty member at Columbia College Chicago. Needless to say, I am deeply disturbed by your statement that adjuncts are immune from academic freedom. Let me refresh your memory: “We’re not reacting to public pressure. If this was an issue of academic freedom, we would stand up for it. This is an hourly employee who doesn’t have tenure. It’s completely different.”

Actually, it is not different. Academic freedom is a right awarded to all faculty, regardless of full-time or part-time status. Considering that 2/3 of faculty across the nation are part-time, how can you, in good conscience, promote the fact that only 1/3 of faculty are “true” faculty who are worthy of basic rights in the classroom? I see no sense in your assumption, and neither will the AAUP.

Recently, an adjunct faculty member at my institution, Iymen Chehade, was reprimanded after a student complained that he was sharing Palestinian narratives in the classroom. Without proper protocol, the university automatically responded by removing his fall semester sections. This, of course, caused an uproar in the community, and his situation became known across the globe. A grievance was filed with our part-time faculty union, P-fac, a petition for reinstatement of his courses garnered nearly 7,000 signatures, and perhaps most importantly to Kilgore’s case, the AAUP ruled that his academic freedom was, in fact, violated. You may read the Chronicle of Higher Education‘s article (which has a link to the AAUP ruling) here. You might also be interested to know that AAUP has a One Faculty initiative dedicated to removing the kind of ideology that harms the majority of faculty.

With your statement, you have secured your role as #badmin, or an administrator who acts against the interests of his community. I’m sure the public shame that will result from your short-sighted statement will be enough to make you think twice about the role of faculty within the university.

Enjoy the backlash. It’s already begun.