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We See You: Western Michigan University Blows Off Academic Freedom

July 10, 2008

Chris Tower

Image of Chris Tower from his WMU profile

Western Michigan University (WMU) has declined to a offer popular elective course by Chris Tower after one parent complained about some of the music videos used for the course on Media and the Sexes. According to The Grand Rapids Press on 6/30/08 (page B6), Tower has taught the class for ten years and drew hundreds of students per year. He is the only instructor of this course, I might add. Students are invited to critically examine the messages of gender and power in classic controversial music videos such as Prodigy’s “Smack My B*tch Up” and Lil’ Kim’s “How Many Licks.” Students are warned that the content is edgy, and informed of their role as social and philosophical critics. They are also given the option to do other assignments.

So one parent complained, and since Tower is an adjunct prof, he doesn’t have a standing contract and is not represented by a union. He works semester-by-semester as a part-timer, probably without benefits, and with no promise of further employment. Instead of encouraging students to be savvy consumers of media, Wester Michigan University took the pathetic and cowardly route of disowning a long-time favorite instructor who dared to challenge students and encourage growth. When we silently witness our Universities bowing to such isolated complaints, we are party to the homogenization of our educational system and the loss of freedom. It is the duty of our public universities to be the guardians of free thought, critical awareness, and challenging discussion and learning for students of all ages. This concept is called Academic Freedom, and Universities are supposed to protect it in spite of mass criticism, much less a single phone call.

I encourage WMU to take back this regrettable move and remind the parent in question that her or his child is a legal adult now, and thus responsible for their own education. In other words, you’re not a student here. Your adult-child is now the one to manage and advocate for their own educational goals and needs. Oh, and apologize to Chris Tower with a nice little bonus and a contract (if he wants one). I also encourage Jo Wiley, the VP of UWM’s teacher’s union to advocate quickly and strongly on behalf of Tower, even though he is not allowed to be a member due to his adjunct status.

Contact the Executive Director of University Relations, Cherly Roland – here

Contact the Director of the Gender and Women’s Studies Department, Ashlyn Kuerstein – here

Contact the VP of the union mentioned above, Jo Wiley – here

Support Chris Tower by contacting him – here

Read the original article on – here

Please repost this call for action through your own blogs, email lists, etc.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Anonymous WMU Student permalink
    July 21, 2008 11:11 am

    I am a student and WMU and I agree full heartedly that this was wrong. Just today I talked to a male student from Tower’s class who said he got a lot out of the class and appreciated his work greatly.

    Too bad I didn’t hear about this earlier; but I am going to definitely voice my opinion as much as possible about t his now that I know.

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