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The Humanities, Higher Education, and Academic Freedom


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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements Introduction: This is Not the Crisis You're Looking For 1. Value and Values 2. Slow Death and Painful Labors 3. From Professionalism to Patronage 4. On the Rails Appendix: Implementing a Teaching-Intensive Tenure Track at Portland State University Bibliography Index

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"Finally, a book that defends the humanities not with violins but rather by linking them to the status of contingent labor in the academy, and what the deplorable state of both means for all of us. The Humanities, Higher Education and Academic Freedom is an important intervention that spotlights the most salient defense of tenure for our times. Berube and Ruth center on the forgotten side of academic freedom, namely governance. This is a bracing and necessary book that should be mandatory reading for all department chairs and everyone else who teaches college." Leonard Cassuto, Professor of English, Fordham University, and columnist for The Chronicle of Higher Education "The Humanities are fine. The profession of teaching the Humanities, on the other hand, is a disaster. Rather than offering just another woeful dirge on American higher education, Berube and Ruth detail the distinct choices that have led us into this mess and chart a pragmatic course to build a new, sustainable, future." David Perry, Associate Professor of English, Dominican University "If I was one of the usual stable of writers asked to churn out op-eds on the decline of humanities, I would steer well clear of this book. It makes accepted opinion on these issues look really, really dumb. It shows brilliantly and conclusively that the loudly-trumpeted crisis of the humanities is really a crisis of university employment, not of trendy ideas. The book ought to be required reading for anyone who cares about ideas or for that matter expects professionalism from the university. This wake-up call should not be necessary. But a lot of opinion-makers have been asleep at the switch." Bruce Robbins, Old Dominion Foundation Professor in the Humanities, Columbia University "This witty and ferocious defense of the American university not only shows how the attacks on the humanities, assaults on academic freedom, and decimation of the tenure-line professoriate have worked together - all in the name of corporatization and budgetary "efficiency" - to bring this once proud institution to its knees, but also demands that the few remaining tenure-line faculty stop rationalizing these changes, and bestir themselves to resist them." Karen Kelsky, Academic Job Market Consultant and Founder of 'The Professor Is In' "Innovative solutions are out there, solutions that propose reforming the largely arbitrary way that many departments go about acquiring contingent labor. Michael Berube and Jennifer Ruth argue in their book, The Humanities, Higher Education, and Academic Freedom: Three Necessary Arguments, forthcoming in May from Palgrave Macmillan, that departments should develop teaching-intensive tenure tracks. The search protocols and evaluation processes we've long used for conventional tenure-track faculty can be adapted for teaching-intensive positions." Emily E. VanDette, The Chronicle of Higher Education "The Humanities are thriving. This book offers a sharp and witty corrective to the declinists who would have us believe otherwise. It puts the statistical story straight on student enrollments over the past several decades, and provides some trenchant observations on why so many observers and practitioners of the humanities have bought into unwarranted pessimism about their future. But the authors also confront a serious problem exacerbating the profession's demoralization in America: the growth of an ill-paid, under-regarded adjunct class of university teachers who prop up the tenure track system. This book is the best practical political guide yet written to how to fix the problem and it places the responsibility squarely with academics as much as with administrators and governments. Though the exploitation of adjuncts is particularly acute in the States it is a growing feature of university systems around the world. The call to academics to play their part in putting things right will be relevant almost everywhere." Helen Small, Professor of English Literature and Tutorial Fellow, University of Oxford, UK " academic freedom and its objective correlative democracy is endangered. This important book lays out the detail of this state of affairs [its] logic is laid out with exemplary clarity and with impressive factual detail." Professor Thomas Docherty, Times Higher Education "I look forward to reading [Berube] and Ruth's forthcoming book, The Humanities, Higher Education, and Academic Freedom: Three Necessary Arguments, where, Berube says, they lay out the details of their proposal for a new tenure paradigm. Perhaps it can clarify our situation at City Tech and allow us to move toward development of a stronger department and college." The Academe Blog "A new book from Michael Berube and Jennifer Ruth largely turns the humanities crisis debate on its head. They assert that the real crisis in the humanities is the large-scale employment of non-tenure-track professors with no academic freedom who are hired, rehired and fired relatively informally and noncompetitively. Berube and Ruth also propose a solution to the 'deprofessionalization' of the professoriate: a teaching-intensive tenure track that would grandfather long-serving adjuncts but for everyone else prioritize the competitive hiring of those with terminal degrees." Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed "Michael Berube and Jennifer Ruth's fascinating book...addresses a specific situation: Ruth's efforts to deal with the problem of excessive adjunct hiring when she was chair of the English department at Portland State University...What has this to do with academic freedom? Berube and Ruth believe that their argument is strongest when framed in relation to it. For them, good university instruction requires the full institutional support of modern American academic freedom: tenure, shared governance, and autonomy." - Professor Simon During, Public Books

About the Author

Michael Berube is the Director of the Institute for the Arts and Humanities at Pennsylvania State University and the former president of the Modern Language Association.

Jennifer Ruth is Associate Professor of English and former chair of the Department of English at Portland State University.


"Michael Berube and Jennifer Ruth's The Humanities, Higher Education, and Academic Freedom: Three Necessary Arguments is a welcome addition to debates about how best to address the most significant threat to the profession: the casualization of the faculty." (Maria Maisto and Seth Kahn, Academe,, Vol. 102 (3), May-June, 2016)

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