Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Panel Examines Academic Freedom

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Panel Examines Academic Freedom

Article excerpt

Richard Byrne of the Chronicle of Higher Education and Dr. Hamid Dabashi, professor at Columbia University, where he chairs the Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures, expressed different views on the issue of academic freedom at an ADC panel on the afternoon of June 12.

Byrne's presentation reflected the media's perspective, while Dabashi spoke as a victim. According to Byrne, the media needs to carefully chronicle conflicts of academic freedom because it currently is painted as too simple an issue. He presented three proposals for improving news coverage on cases of academic freedom. Because academic freedom is too complex an issue for news outlets to comprehend alone, he argued, academic groups, such as the American Association of University Professors, need to be more "proactive in educating the media on the ins and outs of academic freedom, tenure, and academic issues."

Secondly, Byrne said, "reporters need to do a much better job of not only reporting on disputes, but on details." These cases are not black and white, he noted, when "the mechanisms of academic freedom" come into play. Thirdly, Byrne stated, journalists need to "think outside the box" instead of "parroting the conflicts." He urged the media to "focus on best practices, what departments should do and how departments are implementing and enhancing academic freedom."

Byrne also discussed the changing dynamics of attacks on academic freedom, from being a popular practice by conservatives to becoming a practice engaged in by all sides of the political spectrum-what he termed the "fire with fire reflex. …

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