Thursday, October 7, 2010

American Academics' Inept Struggle for Their Rights: SUNY Albany

Finally, the folks at SUNY Albany started to make their dire situation known to the members of the academic community. Sadly, they are doing it in a way that is unlikely to be very effective. Instead of creating a blog to inform everybody of what is happening on a daily basis and placing a petition there that can be signed on-line, they got ACTFL (our professional association) to circulate a letter on their behalf. Unfortunately, this letter is being circulated in a .pdf format, which makes it impossible for allies like me to place the letter on my blog. PDF files are also huge, and many people will not want to clutter their mailboxes with such a big file. They would have been a lot better off including their letter in the body of the e-mail itself. People are much more likely to read it this way as opposed to an attachment of any kind. Another thing that makes little sense is that they are sending the letter to departmental chairs and administrators, instead of regular faculty members who are a lot more likely to want to join the struggle.

American academics have a lot to learn from their Canadian and Welsh colleagues who don't make this many false moves in their struggle to defend their departments. The first step should always be going online. Start a blog, contact other bloggers, get people to tweet about your situation and link to it on their Facebook pages. The strategy of contacting the few select individuals high on the academic hierarchy is outdated and useless. What I find especially curious is that even though I've had over a hundred and fifty visitors from SUNY Albany to this blog, not a single one of them left a comment or got in touch. This attitude couldn't be more different from that of our Swansea colleagues who know how to interact with their allies in a productive way.

Only a few decades ago, American college campuses taught the world how to organize fruitful social protest. Today, it seems that while the entire world is putting these lessons to good use, they have been completely forgotten by the American academics and students themselves.

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