FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Los Angeles, CA - The American Studies Association (ASA), one of the leading scholarly communities supporting social change, today announced at its annual conference a nationwide effort to document and publicize instances of assaults on academic freedom, faculty profiling, widespread dismantling of academic programs in American Studies (as well as Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Ethnic Studies, and other allied programs), access to education, and hostile environments on many campuses for faculty and student labor organizing and protest.

“Against a backdrop of rapidly changing economics in higher education, it’s clear that university scholars and students in America are increasingly under attack,” said ASA President Lisa Duggan of New York University. “From elimination of tenure, to the expansion of a precarious class of adjuncts and instructors with neither the benefit of academic freedom nor the basic dignity of a living wage, to a burgeoning cohort of students drowning in debt, these assaults on higher education are part and parcel of political and economic privatization efforts that will have devastating long-term effects.”

The effort, called Scholars Under Attack, will document examples of assaults on academic freedom, program cuts, labor organizing and political protests, and instances of faculty profiling. The following examples have occurred just in the past few months:

  • In August 2014, Steven Salaita, a former tenured professor at Virginia Technical Institute whose tenured job from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) was rescinded when UIUC decided statements he made on Twitter about Israel and Palestine were “uncivil” and made him inappropriate for the classroom.
  • In Spring 2014, University of Southern Maine announced a plan to cut dozens of tenured and untenured faculty and staff, as well as several masters and undergraduate programs. Faculty members disputed the university president’s claim that the cuts were financially necessary. The Board of Trustees approved the elimination of 50 faculty members, which made up almost 20 percent of its total, and a number of departments, including American and New England Studies. English, philosophy and history departments would be collapsed into a single humanities department.
  • In October 2014, Utah State University received an email threatening a mass killing if the school did not cancel Anita Sarkeesian’s lecture.  Although Sarkeesian, a video game critic and feminist, requested metal detectors and pat downs, she was forced to cancel the event because it is illegal to restrict the possession or use of firearms in Utah.

“In addition to methodically documenting and raising awareness, it is our goal with Scholars Under Attack to build a more systemic response to these issues and moving forward begin to reverse these trends for the sake of America’s scholars, students and renowned system of higher education.”

About the ASA

Chartered in 1951, the American Studies Association has 5,000 members dedicated to promoting meaningful dialogue about the United States, throughout the U.S. and across the globe. Our purpose is to support scholars and scholarship committed to original research, critical thinking, and public discussion and debate. We hold in common the desire to view US history and culture from multiple perspectives. In addition to being the oldest and largest scholarly association devoted to the interdisciplinary study of US culture and history in a global context, we are also one of the leading scholarly communities supporting social change.

See further, Lisa Duggan's interview by LARB Senior Humanities Editor Sarah Mesle in the Los Angeles Review of Books:

“American Studies” is necessarily engaged in the study of US policies and their impact; there’s no way we can really remain aloof from policy debates… American Studies is a site where the engagement with politics is part of what the field does.

Posted for ASA Office in Press Releases
Post date: January 12, 2015