Re: academia/organizing (Multiple posts)
Sun, 3 Aug 1997 16:38:42 -0400

From: Gerry Higgins (

Kali Tal wrote:
> >I ask in part because I've been
> >shocked that Sixties List's own pillar, Kali Tal, is being dismissed by
> >Arizona without any sort of due process (I think there's info. on this at
> >, if I'm remembering the URL
> >right).
> Thanks, Paula, for bringing up my case on SIXTIES-L. I do think that a
> discussion of what Sixties activists bring to the academy would be a useful
> one. The correct URL for the info on Arizona International, however, is:
> I'm not a Sixties activist (I'm only 37), but I do pursue work in the field
> of Sixties scholarship. (Gee, I guess that's pretty obvious....) I find
> that my own work on the Sixties is alternately dismissed as frivolous and
> seen as threatening to the "establishment" scholars who--all too
> often--lived through the Sixties themselves and seem not to have taken any
> of the more interesting lessons/events of the decade to heart.

I guess I could call myself a Sixties activist, although I was 15 when I
joined the SDS (I am now 43, not that much older than 37). I have some
reflections on the 'academy'. I was upset to read how Arizona
International was handling its faculty, especially Kali Tal.

I have mixed emotions about tenure, except that I know that it protects
faculty with controversial views, and represents a sort of 'union' for
faculty members. I have received tenure 3 times, but have quit each
post. Let me tell you of an incident that occured with my wife, who is
tenured at the Univ of Maryland. Before coming up for tenure, she taught
a graduate class that contained the wife of one the faculty members of
her tenure committee. This woman had previously filed sexual harassment
charges against 2 male faculty members who had taught her in graduate
courses - both charges had subsequently been dismissed. She complained
to her spouse that my wife was not providing an adequate role model for
female students, although my wife had 2 female grad students, postdocs,
successfully raised several million dollars in federal grant monies, and
was/is internationally recognized in her field (is this not being an
appropriate role model?). This complaint meant that my wife was denied
tenure for one year until that individual left her tenure committee.

It was also my experience at Yale that the tenured faculty did little to
help clerical and other workers who went out on strike for higher wages
and better working conditions.

Thus, I wonder about the usefulness of tenure, except that it does
appear to protect faculty with controversial opinions.

-Gerry Higgins


Subject: Re: Prison labor and academia/organizing

The magazine with the article on prison labor is, in fact, called "The
Baffler." It also contains several pungent articles on the relationship
between the sixties, academia, and labor.

From: (James L. Wood)

I don't know any of the details of Kali Tal's case, but I want to go on
record that Kali has performed an extremely useful service to the larger
academic community by creating the Sixties network. I have gained valuable
information and contacts from these very time-consuming efforts. I would
certainly hope that Kali gets due process in any academic decisions. I was
on a campus that previously disregarded due process and the result was a
major crisis in U.S. higher education. I think we of the Sixties network,
who have significantly benefited from Kali's fine work, should rally
support! Sincerely, Jim Wood, Chair of Sociology, SDSU

From: Jonah Raskin <>

Paula - It's hard to know what we should have done differently in terms of
organizing academia. Teaching. It's a job. It's exploitative. It feels
oppressive. The University - Universities - are institutions for the
perpetuation of society, the reproduction of the society, so the society
reproduces itself mostly in very conservative ways. Universities are
hierarchial, elitist institutions. There are also very medieval. 75% of all
teachers in American college and universities have no tenure. It's hard to
know what we should have done differently. What do you think? Most of the
students in my classes are radical in their heads, but they all want good jobs
and commodities - cars, houses, you name it. And many of my friends who were
on the barricades now have fairly comfortable academic positions. Even, or
especially ex- members of the Weather Underground. So do I have a comfortable
position. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Or something
like that. The people who thought they were making a revolution and that there
would be one (including me) were obviously wrong. But universities are better
now then they were in 1966, 1967, 1968, 1972. There was no women's studies, no
black studies then, and colleges were even more hierarchial racist and sexist,
so something changed for the better. NO? Jonah Raskin