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ERIC Number: EJ895373
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010
Pages: 7
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0190-2946
The Casualties of the Twenty-First-Century Community College
Wilson, David McKay
Academe, v96 n3 p12-18 May-Jun 2010
This article discusses academic freedom that is currently under threat at many public two-year schools, which serve almost one-half of the nation's first-year college students. The growing reliance on part-time faculty exacerbates the problem, with many adjuncts feeling muzzled for fear of losing their jobs. The problem of academic freedom at community colleges in the twenty-first century is much more than the structural limitations placed on the adjunct faculty. At some of the nation's community colleges, faculty control over curriculum design is threatened by corporations that dictate course material for degree-granting training programs. These programs have become increasingly common tools for local workforce development initiatives. Elsewhere, faculty face growing demands by accrediting agencies to design protocols to test student outcomes, which some fear will lead to a more standardized curriculum. In other institutions, faculty members are asked to adopt a "customer service" approach to teaching, with instructors pressured to make students satisfied purchasers of their educational product. Academic freedom gives faculty members the right to discuss their subject area, including controversial topics, in the classroom. It supports their right to carry out research and publish their findings, even if the subject matter is controversial. And it allows them, as citizens, to speak out on controversial issues, free from institutional censorship or discipline, though recent court rulings have found that public employees, including faculty members, can be disciplined for communications made while carrying out their professional duties. The rights of faculty to determine curriculum and decide what's taught in the classroom are also protected by academic freedom. Those principles are lovely, but they mean little to a community college adjunct looking for a toehold in the academic world, where a slight misstep could mean no job the next semester. With adjunct faculty predominating at community colleges, course material there has a tendency to become tame. The involvement of corporations in the design of community college courses has diminished the faculty's role in curriculum development and narrowed what is taught in the classroom. Community colleges play a crucial role in what is now termed "workforce development," as companies look for skilled workers and the unemployed go back to school for training. As federal and state governments increasingly focus on community colleges as job training centers, the curriculum is being driven by economic and political interests and not by the faculty members and academic professionals who understand education.
American Association of University Professors. 1012 Fourteenth Street NW Suite 500, Washington, DC 20005. Tel: 800-424-2973; Tel: 202-737-5900; Fax: 202-737-5526; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Postsecondary Education; Two Year Colleges
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: California; Kentucky; Maryland; New York