Re: hittin' the road

R Yagelski (rpy95@CSC.ALBANY.EDU)
Thu, 26 Sep 1996 11:33:08 -0400

> I think the real value of tenure isn't so much academic freedom
> (few of us need that; we're not nearly so radical as we would like to
> hope) but in job security and commitment to the profession. It's not
> just a matter of knowing you've got an office for the next thirty or so
> years. It's also a matter of knowing that you'll have time to think
> deeply about an issue or problem, and that you'll be able to reflect on
> it and try different theories and solutions. I know that I really wasn't


Having the time to think deeply about an issue or problem--one that
perhaps *you* identified as important--is part of what's involved in
"academic freedom." You may be right that most of us aren't as
radical as we like to think, but I've spent time in "non-academic"
settings, my wife has worked in many corporate settings (ask her about
sexism), and several close friends are higher-ups in places like IBM.
In those instances, as far as I can see, the vast majority of people
don't have the autonomy to make decisions about problems and issues
and thinking deeply about them. As my IBM friend put it, "The higher
up I climb in the company, the more money I make and the less autonomy
I have." I also live near the GE R&D center, which for many years was
run very much like a research university. (A neighbor is a retired
physicist who shared in a Nobel Prize there some years ago.)
Recently, as GE becomes "lean and mean" and "streamlined," my friends
at the R&D center tell me they're no longer free to take on research
projects they find compelling. Everything has to show some sort of

I agree: this all may indeed be a luxury. But I'd argue it's a luxury
we need. I hope Eric and Co. can find this other
"extra-institutional" place for "intellectual freedom." I haven't
seen it yet. And I don't know how many it might accommodate.

Bob Yagelski
Department of English