No University Is An Island:
Saving Academic Freedom
(New York University Press)

The new book by Cary Nelson



No University Is An Island

                                                By Cary Nelson

             (NEW YORK UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2010—300 pages, $27.95 cloth)

“In the midst of a torrent of threats to academic freedom in higher education, No University Is an Island arrives to tell us why to propose solutions. As Nelson makes clear, all of our freedoms depend on our ability to educate our students to be critical citizens. Everyone concerned about the future of freedom should read this book.”
 —Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director, American Civil Liberties Union

“A report from the front lines, from the most influential president of the AAUP in the past fifty years.” 
Jeffrey Williams, Carnegie Mellon University

”Nelson’s nuanced analysis of academic freedom is a wake-up call for all who seek a vibrant alternative to the corporate university. We must, he argues, accept the social responsibility we owe to our students, our colleagues, and our communities. He challenges unions to embrace the public good and makes a compelling case for the role they should play in restoring academic freedom and shared governance.”
 —Lillian Taiz, President, California Faculty Association

“If you care about the future of the academy and the role of the AAUP in ensuring that the future will be better for students, faculty, and the larger society, you should read this book.  It lays out, in persuasive and often poetic language, the challenges we face and creative solutions for meeting them. Cary's impassioned advocacy of the AAUP and its noble history is made still more convincing by his honesty in reporting where we have occasionally faltered and where we must do better.”
Jane Buck, AAUP President 2000-2006

"Cary Nelson has written a compelling book about academic freedom. He clarifies this often misunderstood concept that is the foundation of any real university. His discussion of the threats to academic freedom and what must be done to counter them should be read by everyone interested in higher education in the United States and internationally."
--James Turk, Executive Director, Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT)

“This is no ordinary treatment of academic freedom. It is full of first-hand anecdote in which Nelson was not only on the scene, but personally involved in the action. It has the excitement of history being made and the juiciness and momentum of novelistic narrative, as well as lots of smart and passionate analysis. No one concerned with the subject at all—and all of us have good reason to be concerned—will be able to afford not to have this book.”
Bruce Robbins, Columbia University

“The precarious state of higher education has prompted a flood of writings about academic freedom, but Nelson's book is the cream of the crop. Few will be able to resist the combination of the author's battle-hardened commentary with his hearty appetite for reform.”
--Andrew Ross, New York University

No University Is an Island is written by a man who has lived a double life: as a highly productive scholar and teacher for four decades and a committed activist. It will stand as the major source on contemporary debates about academic freedom and the AAUP.”
--Alan Wald, University of Michigan

 “No University Is an Island  is an extraordinary book. A passionate defense of academic freedom that corrects the many abuses of the principle by faculty who do not understand it, the book offers a rousing account of recent political controversies that never fails to surprise—even if you thought you’d heard the last word on Ward Churchill.  Nelson even explains why shared governance—the least sexy topic ever—matters so much when administrators are closing programs, gutting required courses, and putting faculty on unpaid furloughs. You might think your campus—or your kid’s campus—is exempt from this widespread devastation. But you might think wrong. For the book vividly reminds us that no campus is an island, just as it reminds us why higher education’s fate matters to the world.”
--Michael Bérubé, Pennsylvania State University

“Academic freedom and its inseparable correlates, tenure and faculty governance, are threatened today not only by historically familiar efforts to impose ideological conformity, but also by the current transfer of corporate managerial practices to academic institutions, large and small, and by the global proliferation of contingent faculty. Cary Nelson has enriched our awareness of these developments and underscored the decisive importance of the AAUP in defending academic freedom both through its traditional work of investigating and publicizing administrative activities at particular campuses and through collective bargaining. He challenges the AAUP itself to reform its practices and culture so as to make its actions more prompt and assertive and to bridge the generational divide that hobbles the defense of academic freedom on all-too-many campuses.”
--David Montgomery, Yale University

“Cary Nelson’s new book addresses the most critical issues facing academia today. Coming from an insider and longtime observer, it deserves to be widely read and taken seriously.  The book should be required reading for its comprehensive and detailed accounts of struggles over academic freedom on campus, and especially the attacks on individual–usually “liberal”–professors. Many academics know little of these incidents, even though their outcomes can affect how all teachers function in and out of the classroom. Even fewer are aware of the organized campaigns mounted by groups like the National Association of Scholars, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, and Students for Academic Freedom, to remake higher education into what it purportedly was before the arrival of multicultural education, race and gender studies, and the like. Nelson is unapologetic in defense of his own views, and his right to share them with his students. Even those who disagree with his position, however, should appreciate his eloquent, informed and principled defense of academic freedom–since they may need to invoke it on their own behalf some day. While I don’t always share his assessment of some of the important players, this is a small matter in light of the larger issues the book addresses. Most alarming is the picture of the growing intolerance for dissent and controversy on campus. If not there, where?”
--Joan Bertin, Executive Director, National Coalition Against Censorship

“[Nelson] offers informed and acute analyses of our present situation and its discontents, and this is especially true of his chapters on unionization, tenure, and the emergence in recent decades of a ‘contingent’ faculty, untenured, underpaid, undervalued, overburdened, and vulnerable to every form of pressure one can imagine. (There is also a chapter arguing that academic freedom requires the institutionalization of ‘shared governance,’ a position with which I strongly disagree: academic freedom and forms of governance are independent variables.) Nelson reports (accurately) that when he and I discussed the role of politics in the classroom at a public forum and he reported proudly on his practice of inserting the names Bush and Cheney into a poem about a past military disaster, I declared that ‘If I were Cary’s dean I’d fire him immediately.’ But upon reflection, and after having read this impassioned and worthwhile book, I am moved to reconsider.”
 —Stanley Fish, The New York Times, December 1, 2009