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Letter to the Editor: Open letter by Northwestern faculty in support of academic integrity

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The undersigned 46 Northwestern faculty urge University President Morton Schapiro and Provost Daniel Linzer to withdraw the appointment of retired Lt. Gen. and former ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry as executive director of The Buffett Institute for Global Studies. As faculty who are deeply committed to academic integrity, we believe that it would be irresponsible to remain silent while the University’s core mission of independent research and teaching becomes identified with U.S. military and foreign policy. We are therefore requesting that the Buffett Institute’s resources and programs remain solely under the direction of a scholar unaligned with the U.S. government. Independent stewardship of a university research unit sends a powerful and timely message to the NU community that the Buffett Institute will remain a site for the development of top-flight creative and innovative research and teaching in the humanities and social sciences.

The reasons for our petition are the following:

– The Buffett Institute, according to an NU news release, is a university research unit dedicated to research on “important global issues, such as the spread of democratic political systems, economic development in impoverished regions of the world, immigration policies and forced migrations, the impact of cultural exchanges on societies, global religious movements and global communications, media and technology.”

Appointing a non-academic career military officer to lead the Buffett Institute as executive director represents a radical revisioning of the Buffett Institute’s core mission. The current appointment is also troubling in the context of NU’s turn away from key university principles through its Qatar venture, which has given rise to questions concerning the University’s commitment to academic freedom and its entanglement with a repressive, authoritarian monarchy. (See a report on the Doha campus by former Faculty Senate President Stephen Eisenman and an article by Prof. Jacqueline Stevens documenting NU’s entanglements with Education City)

-Eikenberry is currently a fellow at the Hoover Institution and other policy centers narrowly focused on policy debates about “national strategy,” and is not a regular member of the Stanford faculty.

-Eikenberry advocates instrumentalizing the humanities and social sciences research to advance U.S. soft power, according to the introduction to Eikenberry’s 2014 speech before the Chicago Humanities Festival.

“Karl Eikenberry believes that the humanities belong at the center of American foreign policy. And his voice matters. The retired United States Army lieutenant general and former United States ambassador to Afghanistan put cultural ventures, such as the Turquoise Mountain Project, at the heart of his diplomacy. He continues his advocacy through his leadership on the congressionally commissioned report “The Heart of the Matter: The Humanities and Social Sciences for a Vibrant, Competitive, and Secure Nation.”

-A core NU value is commitment to the intrinsic worth of the liberal arts and sciences, independent of their monetization or applied uses. Yet, NU faculty who met with him said Eikenberry ridicules faculty in the humanities who fail to prioritize the relevance of their scholarship to business interests. In his public speech at the Chicago Humanities Festival, Eikenberry said: “Sitting in one’s arts and humanities classroom, worrying about declining enrollments, cursing the STEM god, might be good grist for Shakespearean tragedy, but it does little to help the cause. You have to get outside of the box, and you have to compete for market share.”

-In a discussion of how to cajole support for the humanities from the “captains of industry” with whom Eikenberry indicated he was spending time at Stanford, he said, “Business is about delivering products to people. That’s where the arts and humanities comes in, as a source of inspiration but also a communication bridge.”

-The appointment of Ret. Lt. Gen. Eikenberry took place through an irregular, opaque search process that undermined basic tenets of faculty governance. The search committee appointed by Linzer and chaired by Northwestern President Emeritus Henry Bienen met just once and did not finalize Eikenberry’s interview; the committee members were not informed of Eikenberry’s first visit to Northwestern until an inquiry from concerned faculty prompted Linzer to notify them of this.

-On September 30, 2015, Buffett Institute project directors and active members signed a letter to the Buffett Institute for Global Studies Search Committee, chaired by Bienen, requesting that they expand the search to “consider renowned intellectuals outside of policy studies;” that any finalists give a public talk and be available for meetings; and that key faculty active in the Buffett Institute and the search committee be allowed basic information concerning the search, noting: “The refusal to invite broad participation in the selection of the Buffett Leader threatens the reputation of the Buffett Institute as an independent center of academic excellence.” Bienen did not reply to the faculty letter addressed to him. A second campus visit for Eikenberry was organized. Linzer invited selected faculty to meet with Eikenberry, instructing them to keep these arrangements and their meetings “confidential.”

-In late November 2015, following the second visit by Eikenberry, over 60 faculty, including numerous department chairs and program directors, signed a letter sent to Schapiro and Linzer discouraging extending an offer to Eikenberry. The response to this letter included misleading information about Eikenberry’s academic credentials (reiterated in press releases) and declined to address faculty concerns.

-Finally and most importantly, given the Buffett Institute’s past and current impact on student learning and research, we speak out as custodians of the free inquiry implicit in a university education. We believe that NU’s student body, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, has a vested interest in seeing the Buffett Institute’s support of the independent research that is at the core of teaching continue. Because we recognize the importance of students’ voices in the University’s future, we invite them to share their views on the current appointment with their professors as well as the university administration.

For these reasons, and to ensure the academic integrity of the Buffett Institute, we request the appointment of a new search committee chaired by an independent faculty member who is a member of the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences or a committee appointed by the President of the Faculty Senate.

Sincerely,

Martha Biondi
Professor of African-American Studies

César Braga-Pinto
Associate Professor of Spanish and Portuguese
Affiliated Faculty, Buffett Institute

Sherwin K. Bryant
Associate Professor of African American Studies and History
Co-Director, Andean Cultures and Histories, Buffett Institute

Jorge Coronado
Associate Professor and Chair of Spanish and Portuguese
Co-Director, Andean Cultures and Histories, Buffett Institute

Micaela di Leonardo
Professor of Anthropology and Performance Studies
Affiliated Faculty, Buffett Institute

Jeanne Dunning
Professor of Art Theory and Practice

Stephen Eisenman
Professor of Art History
Co-convener, Global Research University working group, Buffett Institute

Hannah Feldman
Associate Professor of Art History
Affiliated Faculty, Buffett Institute

Paul Gillingham
Director of Latin American and Caribbean Studies
Associate Professor of History
Affiliated Faculty, Buffett Institute

Michal P. Ginsburg
Professor of French and Comparative Literature

Mark Hauser
Associate Professor of Anthropology
Affiliated Faculty, Buffett Institute

Katherine Elizabeth Hoffman
Associate Professor of Anthropology
Affiliated Faculty, Buffett Institute

Sylvester A. Johnson
Associate Professor of African American Studies and Religious Studies

Lucille Kerr
Professor of Latin American Literature
Affiliated Faculty, Buffett Institute

Christina Kiaer
Associate Professor of Art History

Irena Knezevic
Assistant Professor of Art Theory and Practice

Jörg Kreienbrock
Associate Professor of German

Judy Ledgerwood
Alice Welsh Skilling Professor of Art
Director of Graduate Studies
Department of Art Theory & Practice

Andrew Way Leong
Assistant Professor of English

Michael Loriaux
Professor of Political Science
Director Emeritus, French Interdisciplinary Group (FIG), Buffett Institute

Emily Maguire
Associate Professor of Spanish and Portuguese
Affiliated Faculty, Buffett Institute

Inigo Manglano-Ovalle
Professor and Chair of Art Theory & Practice

Charles Mills
John Evans Professor of Moral and Intellectual Philosophy

Robert A Orsi
Grace Craddock Nagle Professor of Religious Studies and History

Anna M. Parkinson
Associate Professor of German

Nasrin Qader
Associate Professor of French
Director Emeritus, French Interdisciplinary Group (FIG), Buffett Institute

Michael Rakowitz
Professor of Art Theory and Practice

Alessia Ricciardi
Professor of French and Italian

Sylvie Romanowski
Professor of French
Affiliated Faculty, Buffett Institute

Janice Radway
Walter Dill Scott Professor of Communication

Lane Relyea
Associate Professor of Art Theory & Practice

Laurie Shannon
Franklyn Bliss Snyder Professor of English Literature

Nitasha Tamar Sharma
Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence
Associate Professor of African American Studies, Asian American Studies, Performance Studies

Jacqueline Stevens
Professor of Political Science
Director Deportation Research Clinic, Buffett Institute

Domietta Torlasco
Associate Professor of French and Italian

Alessandra Visconti
Lecturer in French and Italian

Samuel Weber
Avalon Foundation Professor of Humanities, German
Affiliated Faculty, Buffett Institute

Mary Weismantel
Professor of Anthropology
Affiliated Faculty, Buffett Institute

Erica Weitzman
Assistant Professor of German
Affiliated Faculty, Buffett Institute

Ivy Wilson
Associate Professor of English

Barry Wimpfheimer
Associate Professor of Religious Studies

Jessica Winegar
Associate Professor of Anthropology
Co-convener, Global Research University working group, Buffett Institute

Jane Winston
Associate Professor of French and Italian
Affiliated Faculty, Buffett Institute

Michelle M. Wright
Professor of African American Studies & Comparative Literary Studies

Paola Zamperini
Associate Professor and Chair of Asian Languages and Cultures
Affiliated Faculty, Buffett Institute

Rebecca Zorach
Mary Jane Crowe Professor of Art History

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