Does Going from “Nanny State” to “Mature State” Requires Liberated Teachers & Academic Freedom?

Can education help nanny state grow up? Not where academic freedom is under threat.

Nanny state is a condition where the government regarded as overprotective or as interfering unduly with personal choice. And Education is the process of facilitating learning. Knowledge, skills, values, beliefs, and habits of a group of people are transferred to other people, through storytelling, discussion, teaching, training, or research.

In Thailand, the global youth forum just had a meeting, and the following is a report on what Thai youth had to say:

Thailand’s “nanny state” needs to come to an end, the country’s young leaders have urged, as they warn of protesting youths being taken off the streets and forced to endure “attitude adjustment” sessions.

In a panel session at the One Young World conference in Bangkok, chaired by the BBC’s world affairs editor John Simpson, four Thai nationals confronted the country’s problems head on, saying the government needed a drastic change.

During the conference, which, in an unprecedented move, has been granted complete freedom of speech by the Thai government, Simpson said young people have “largely been turned off politics in Thailand”.“This is mostly because politics has ceased to exist in this country,” he adds.

The following are some issues on academicv freedom:


Letter: Academic freedom is under threat and needs urgent protection (source

With threats ranging from “no-platforming” controversial speakers, to governments trying to suppress critical voices, and corporate controls on research funding, academics and writers from across the world have signed Index on Censorship’s open letter on why academic freedom needs urgent protection.

Academic freedom is the theme of a special report in the summer issue of Index on Censorship magazine, featuring a series of case studies and research, including stories of how setting an exam question in Turkey led to death threats for one professor, to lecturers in Ukraine having to prove their patriotism to a committee, and state forces storming universities in Mexico. It also looks at how fears of offence and extremism are being used to shut down debate in the UK and United States, with conferences being cancelled and “trigger warnings” proposed to flag potentially offensive content.”


Academic freedom under threat


The dismissal of Steven Salaita by the University of Illinois because of his tweets denouncing Israel sparked controversy around the world.

In July 2014, Salaita was preparing to begin his job as a newly hired tenured professor in American Indian Studies when his tweets attracted controversy. Phyllis Wise, the chancellor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, decided that Salaita should not be hired, and the board of trustees, which had not yet formally approved his contract, voted to rescind the offer to him.

Wise explained why she reversed Salaita’s appointment in an open letter to the campus in August 2014: “What we cannot and will not tolerate at the University of Illinois are personal and disrespectful words or actions that demean and abuse either viewpoints themselves or those who express them.”

The board of trustees endorsed Wise’s letter, and wrote that they represented a “university community that values civility as much as scholarship”.

The administration’s reasoning disturbed many people, even those who regarded Salaita’s comments as anti-Semitic, because it seemed to be imposing a code of civility on campus that threatened free-wheeling debates about politics.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education added the University of Illinois to its 2014 list of the “10 worst colleges for free speech” because of the Salaita case.

The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression gave one of its ‘Muzzle Awards’ to the University of Illinois for threatening free speech, noting that “whether it was for the content or the tone of his tweets, it is clear that the administration of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign revoked Steven Salaita’s job offer for speech protected by the First Amendment”.

In response to the dismissal, thousands of scholars signed petitions to protest the decision, and many vowed to boycott the university until Salaita was reinstated, with several speakers, including Cornel West, and even some conferences cancelling their events on campus.

Last month, the American Association of University Professors, or AAUP, voted to censure the administration at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for firing Salaita.

The key issues for the AAUP included questions of due process, arguing that Salaita was already hired and deserved a hearing; the danger of civility codes and the punishment of a professor for extramural utterances, that is, speech outside of their academic work, which are given extraordinarily strong protections under AAUP guidelines and the University of Illinois Statutes.

Although the AAUP’s censure puts pressure from academics on the University of Illinois, the most likely chance for Salaita’s reinstatement or a settlement will come from a lawsuit Salaita has filed, alleging violations of both contract law, for taking away his promised job, and constitutional law, for punishing him due to his political views.

On 12 June, a federal judge ordered the University of Illinois to comply with the Freedom of Information Act request filed by Salaita’s lawyers and release emails about his dismissal.

Salaita declared in a statement to the AAUP Annual Meeting that “enough time has passed that the university’s initial rationale for firing me – that I would be unfit to teach, that I would not be tolerant of the views of students, that I threaten the norms of respectable discourse – has lost any remaining shred of plausibility”.

But the University of Illinois stands by its decision. Chancellor Wise remains strongly supported by the board of trustees, who are mostly appointed by Governor Bruce Rauner, who made his support for firing Salaita part of his election campaign last fall. So no change is likely except by a court order.

Wider implications

While he waits for the long legal process to go on, Salaita has announced that he will serve as the Edward W Said Chair of American Studies at the American University of Beirut for the 2015-16 academic year. And Salaita’s next book, Uncivil Rites: Palestine and the limits of academic freedom, will be published by Haymarket Books in October.

As the title of Salaita’s book indicates, this is much larger than one professor and some offensive comments. Salaita is one of many scholars who have faced retaliation for their views about Israel and Palestine. When Norman Finkelstein was denied tenure by DePaul University, his criticism of pro-Israel scholars, such as Alan Dershowitz, was an important part of the decision, which was also framed in terms of civility.
When controversial scholars are targeted for having offensive views, it may not silence them, but it has a chilling effect throughout academia. Students and faculty alike learn that their political views, if freely expressed, can cause them trouble in the future.
The safer course of action is to burrow into safe academic studies and avoid becoming part of a larger public debate. When academics are fearful and avoid the public sphere, our universities suffer for the lack of candour, along with the lost voices in the public discussion of ideas.

John K Wilson is the co-editor of the American Association of University Professors, or AAUP’s and the author of Patriotic Correctness: Academic freedom and its enemies.


Teachers Charged for Asking Junta to Respect Free Speech


Teeranai Charuvastra

19 November 2015, Last update at 19:40:00 GMT

BANGKOK — Police have charged eight academics with violating the junta’s ban on “inciting unrest” for a recent conference at which they told the regime to stop clamping down on free expression in universities.
The eight were summoned to report Tuesday to the Chang Puak Police Station in Chiang Mai to formally hear their charges, an officer at the station told Khaosod English. He said the charges stemmed from a news conference held by the academics in Chiang Mai last month.

“The suspects are all of the eight lecturers at the event,” Police Col. Prayoon Kardthip said by telephone. He added that the complaint was forwarded to the police by a military officer from the junta’s security wing.
At the Oct. 31 news conference in Chiang Mai province, the eight lecturers from seven universities issued a joint statement called “Universities Are Not Barracks,” in which they criticized junta chairman Prayuth Chan-ocha’s remark that he believed universities are being used to breed discontent against his regime.

The statement urged the junta to respect freedom of expression in universities and in larger society.

“Forcing individuals to act in the same way by use of power – whether through gun barrels or unfair laws – will only bring a peace of forced silence for a short period of time,” it said.

Since staging the coup d’etat against the elected government in May 2014, the ruling junta has imposed a ban on any form of protest, political activity and public criticism of its regime. Violators of the ban face trial by military tribunal and possible jail term if convicted.

Attachak Sattayanurak, the history lecturer at Chiang Mai University who organized the event, confirmed to Khaosod English that he had been summoned.

Attachak said he plans to meet with police earlier than Tuesday because he has other appointments that day. He also expressed surprise that he now faces criminal proceedings for calling for free expression.

“I’m surprised there’s still intimidation by legal means. I and other lecturers have talked to senior military officers many times already. We told them we have to do our duties as academics,” Attachak said. “We told them, just let these academics talk – no one listens to them anyway. Now that they forbid us from talking, more people will listen.”

It appears police have yet to send summons to the seven other academics who attended the Oct. 31 news conference. Somchai Preechasilpakul, one of the group, said he hasn’t received anything.

“No one contacted me. No warrant was sent to me,” said Somchai, who also teaches at Chiang Mai University.

Nevertheless, Somchai said he called a police officer in Chiang Mai after he heard about Attachak being summoned, and the officer he spoke with confirmed that he’s one of the suspects.

Nearly 80 academic seminars have been blocked or censored by the ruling military junta since the 2014 coup, according to a report by the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights published in June. The junta, which is formally known as the National Council for Peace and Order, said such measures are necessary to avoid misunderstanding and maintain stability in the country.
Word of the charges came the same day Gen. Prayuth, the junta chairman, reportedly assured U.S. President Barack Obama that reports about human rights abuses in Thailand were inaccurate and malicious.

“I insisted to him that I’m already trying to take care of [human rights] issues,” Gen. Prayuth said. “But they were really [the result of] news presented by people with bad intentions. Sometimes, these reports were presented without any facts, so it led to misunderstanding.”


Academic freedom under threat in Hong Kong

Jamin Asay, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Hong Kong, writes:


I’m writing to let you and your readers know about some of the struggles over academic freedom that are taking place in Hong Kong right now.
Fears about encroachment from mainland China into Hong Kong politics are of ongoing concern across the territory, and there is growing worry that the autonomy of the universities in Hong Kong is under attack. The latest dustup revolves around the blocking of the appointment of Professor Johannes Chan to a senior leadership position by the University of Hong Kong Council, a body that includes several members appointed by Hong Kong’s Chief Executive.

Chan’s appointment was blocked despite a unanimous recommendation of him for the post by the selection committee, and many suspect that political reasons are the source of his rejection. As former dean of HKU’s law school, Chan is a colleague of Benny Tai, one of the leaders of the “Occupy Central” movement that overtook Hong Kong one year ago. Many believe that this action of the Council is serving as a punishment to HKU for its role in Occupy Central and the “Umbrella Movement”, as many of the leaders of the movement are students or staff at HKU. Background on the issue can be found here:

My colleague Timothy O’Leary, Professor of Philosophy and Head of the School of Humanities, is one of the leaders of a protest movement to fight back against any threats to academic freedom in Hong Kong. He helped to organize a silent protest march yesterday that attracted upwards of 2,000 HKU students and staff, and future demonstrations are in the works. News reports on yesterday’s protest are here:
I’m hoping you and your readers will stand in solidarity with us in Hong Kong, and will be pleased to know that philosophers are at the front lines of the battle.


Academic freedom under threat


Emad Shahin, a political-sciences scholar, has been in exile since January, when the Egyptian authorities issued a warrant for his arrest. He was at a conference in the United States at the time and, fearing that he will not get a fair trial in Egypt, he has not been home since. The charges against him, which Shahin declares are “ludicrous”, include espionage and being a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood, the party of former president Mohammed Morsi, who was ousted in a military coup last July. The new regime has declared the Muslim Brother­hood a terrorist organization.
Revolution’s aftershocks still rattling Egyptian universities

It is true that Shahin has been vocally critical of the new regime. As an internationally renowned professor of public policy and admini­stration at the American University in Cairo, he was also critical of the repressive 30-year dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak, and occasionally criticized the Morsi regime that was ushered in after Mubarak was deposed in 2011 following a popular uprising, part of the Arab Spring.

The International Human Rights Network of Academies and Scholarly Societies, based in Washington DC, has actively taken up Shahin’s case, and says that it will continue to defend his right to freedom of expression until all charges are dropped. Sadly, Shahin is only one of many Egyptian academics whose human rights seem to be under threat. The network has also expressed concern that, among 41,000 prisoners arrested since the coup, around 1,000 are engineers, physicians and scientists.

In April, a group of Egyptian scholars published a report on the academic victims of the unrest that followed the military coup, documenting by name and affiliation those who had been arrested or killed by the Egyptian authorities. The tally includes 1,347 student arrests and 176 student deaths. Sixteen of the deaths took place during police raids on campus. Seven faculty members have been killed, 160 placed under arrest, 20 put on parole and 25 are on the run.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s