UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

May 21, 2009

GREAT MOMENTS IN ACADEMIC FREEDOM

Grist - According to a report in the Chronicle of Higher Education, the president at Washington State University canceled a "common-reading" for all incoming freshman of Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma due to political pressure budgetary constraints.

"An explanation on the university's Web site is vague and implies the withdrawal of the book was due to budget constraints. But some people on the campus say that the university, which has a prominent agriculture college, bowed to pressure from agribusiness interests. They also question the budget argument, noting that the university has already purchased more than 4,000 copies of the book. . . Many people connected with the common-reading program were evasive; either they did not return calls or insisted that they could not talk about the issue. . .

"In an e-mail message to The Chronicle, Patricia Freitag Ericsson, an assistant professor of rhetoric and professional writing who also sits on the implementation committee, said that in a meeting on May 4, an administrator told panel members that the common-reading program would be canceled, in large part because of political pressure arising from this year's book choice. Members of the committee were upset. She says the committee was also told that potential books for next year's common-reading program would be sent to the provost, who would make the selection."

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