This attack on academic freedom — an adjunct hired to teach a course was fired by Brooklyn College [part of the CUNY system] administration after a state assemblyman sent a letter arguing that the syllabus and instructor were too critical of Israel — is depressing. First of all, there’s assemblyman Hikind:
Hikind, who said he earned his master’s degree in political science from Brooklyn College, told Inside Higher Ed that he reached these conclusions after spending “countless hours” reading the newly hired adjunct’s work. This included, chiefly, his unpublished paper, “Inventing the Martyr: Struggle, Sacrifice and the Signification of Palestinian National Identity,” in which he examines martyrdom as it “embodies ideals of struggle and sacrifice” in the context of national identity. Hikind said such works reflect an effort to “understand” suicide bombers. “There’s nothing to understand about someone who murders women and children,” he said. “You condemn.”
Great — BC is outsourcing its hiring decisions to someone who thinks there shouldn’t be any difference between academic work and Weekly Standard editorials. (Wait until he finds out about the criminology department!) But there’s only so much I can blame Hikind; he didn’t, after all, make the final call. So how does the administration justify this? Well, it argued that Petersen-Overton was “unqualified,” but (as the fact that he was hired by the people best situated to evaluate his credentials reflects) the “requirement” that more than an MA and doctoral work at the grad center is required to teach at CUNY is entirely fictitious.
Petersen-Overton was an adjunct at Brooklyn College, which is more and more the norm in higher education. This will have a chilling effect on scholarship:
…there are a number of issues at stake here that clearly resonate far beyond my own case and affect all student professors. An attack on academic freedom and departmental independence is troubling enough, especially considering the clumsy way I was denied due process by the administration in this instance. But the practical consequences of the college’s decision underscore the precarious position that adjuncts hold at CUNY. In the blink of an eye, I have been denied tuition remission, access to subsidized health care for my family and financial compensation for the spring semester in a time of serious economic uncertainty. If the college’s decision stands, it should send a chill throughout the entire adjunct community.
Too bad there isn’t a way to publish pseudonymously…