Scholars in Peril

The AAUP's Ninety-fourth Annual Meeting, held June 12-15 in Washington, D.C., combined plenary addresses by distinguished speakers, business meetings, panel presentations, lobbying visits, and award presentations.

Three featured speakers addressed the meeting's theme of scholars in peril: Adam Habib, a South African political analyst whose U.S. visa was revoked without explanation in October 2006; professor John (Yoannis) Milios of the National Technical University of Athens, who has only recently been allowed to enter the United States after extended litigation; and Barbara Weinstein, internationally known historian of twentiethcentury Latin America and immediate past president of the American Historical Association.

Habib, deputy vice-chancellor of research, innovation, and advancement at the University of Johannesburg, continues to be banned from the country although he has repeatedly condemned terrorism and has urged governments to respond to the terrorist threat with policies that are consistent with human rights and the rule of law. Participating in the meeting by teleconference, Habib talked about threats to academic freedom in South Africa, which he characterized as threefold. First, scholars are afraid to thoroughly investigate certain topics, such as black-empowerment programs, for fear of being labeled as reactionary (Habib suggested a similarity with the post-9/11 atmosphere in the United States, where many were afraid of being labeled as proterrorist or unpatriotic). Second, administrators sometimes make arrangements with corporations that impose restrictions on the publication of research results or otherwise impede the free flow of information and disregard the responsibility of the academy to speak the truth. Third, the academy lacks the power and legitimacy that come with being valued by society as an institution that articulates its aspirations and analyzes its weaknesses and that would protect scholars from state, political, and corporate power. Habib also called for more global unity among academics and thanked the AAUP membership for its support of him, both by inviting him to address the annual meeting and by participating in a lawsuit seeking to have him admitted to the country.

In his address, Milios spoke about how he was denied entry to the United States while traveling to a scholarly conference in 2006. Milios put his experience in the context of the power of nations to define, and regulate the movements of, citizens and aliens, and of the relationship of that state power to class power. Milios said that many nations have reinforced the "repressive apparatuses of the state" in the wake of large demonstrations over the past decade against neoliberalism, war, inequality, and poverty and for civil liberties, direct democracy, alternative economic and social policies, and the redistribution of wealth for the benefit of the working classes. This reinforcement, he said, occurred even before the 9/11 attacks, but increased after those attacks. The frequent instances of academics being barred from conferences, Milios said, comprise an assault not only on the persons barred, but on all conference participants and indeed on the processes of debate and dialogue themselves. The designation of certain academics as "ineligible" to enter the United States because of the ideologies to which they subscribe has less to do with protecting the country from terrorists than with protecting the government from ideas that might question existing forms of society and power relations within it - in other words, question class interests. Reminding the audience that he was on his way to a conference titled "How Class Works" when barred, Milios said that "U.S. authorities in their own customary way have indeed shown me how class works."

In her presentation to the annual meeting, Weinstein also focused on the growing hostility of the U.S. government to foreign scholars and threats to the ability of academics to gather at conferences. …

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