Friday, October 23, 2009

Academic Freedom? A conversation about the way things are and the way things could be…

Gallery 1C03 and The Univeristy of Winnipeg's Institute for Women’s and Gender Studies proudly present a panel discussion inspired by Gallery 1C03’s upcoming exhibition, The Pinky Show: Class Treason Stories (excerpts).

Academic Freedom?
A conversation about the way things are
and the way things could be…

In light of recent scandals around the world involving academics being served cease and desist notices for producing valid research challenging corporate activity, being arrested under suspicion of terrorism, or losing tenure without due process as a clear response to different ways of thinking and teaching, it is a ripe moment to discuss intellectual and ethical integrity vis-à-vis academic freedom in the context of societal expectations.

Academics are perceived as belonging to a certain social and intellectual "class". In what ways can they gravitate toward a genuinely ethical definition of their profession while confronting the influences that expect them to toe the line in order to maintain status?

With a view to opening discussion on this subject, four University of Winnipeg faculty members have been invited to express perspectives concerning the dilemma experienced by academics who come to realize that their political, social, and/or ethical beliefs run counter to the status quo maintained by the elite. Should academics perpetuate traditional networks and hope their different opinions will be appear more palatable through association with moderates, or should they find altogether new ways of working? Should they speak out and risk being ostracized by their professional community, or take that chance and turn their practices of research and analysis into active resistance? What’s at stake and is it worth it?

  • Kelly Gorkoff, Instructor, Criminal Justice Department discussing the neoliberalization of higher education
  • Christopher Leo, Professor, Department of Politics revealing barriers in academic publishing
  • Vesna Milosevic-Zdjelar, Instructor, Department of Physics addressing biases in educational curriculum
  • Brock Pitawanakwat, Asst. Professor, Aboriginal Governance Program commenting on abuses of power within the academy
Winnipeg-based curator and writer, Milena Placentile, will moderate this conversation. Extended biographies and summaries of each presentation can be found below.

Academic Freedom?

A conversation about the way things are
and the way things could be…

Tuesday, November 17, 2009 from 7:00 - 9:00 p.m.
Eckhardt-Gramatté Hall, University of Winnipeg
515 Portage Ave (3rd Fl. Centennial Hall)

Admission to this event is open and free for all!
Members of the media are invited to attend.

Class Treason Stories (excerpts), created by internationally renowned feline artists and educators, Pinky and Bunny (with the assistance of Mimi and Kim), offers a multi-media installation seeking to provoke questions about the nature of education and the application of knowledge for either socially beneficent or individualist and competitive purposes. This exhibition runs from November 12 – December 12, 2009 before traveling to Toronto Free Gallery in January.

Image: The Pinky Show, The Consequences Are Terrifying, 2009.


Kelly Gorkoff is a PhD candidate in sociology at Carleton University and a full time lecturer with UW’s Department of Criminal Justice where she specializes in theory. After completing a BA and Masters degree in sociology at The University of Manitoba, Kelly went on to be a Research Associate at RESOLVE, which is a prairie research centre of excellence on family violence and violence against women. Her dissertation, Another Brick in the Wall? Reproducing Labour: Post Secondary Education and Capitalist Regimes of Accumulation in the ‘New’ Economy, examines shifts in governance of Canadian post secondary education from generalized humanities curriculums to the use, production, and distribution of knowledge as a commodity. The dissertation argues that current governance of post secondary education in Canada is increasingly driven by human capital and resource development models and is characterized as an academic capitalist knowledge regime.

Kelly’s contribution to the panel will involve discussion about the state of post secondary education in Canada and the issue of academic freedom from the perspective of a PhD candidate and a new and precarious employee of the university system. She will address issues of academic work, governance boundaries on the production of new forms of knowledge, and the difficulties of doing free academic work for PhD graduates. The presentation will also focus on strategies of indoctrination into a new post secondary educational organization, which increasingly seeks employees to fit with pre-determined programs, essentially silencing the grassroots development of ideas based curriculums.

Christopher Leo, who holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of Toronto, has been writing articles and books nobody reads, first about African politics, and then about urban political and administrative problems, for more than 30 years, while holding faculty appointments at the University of Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba. Lately, however, he has been blogging about exactly the same things at, and now he has lots of readers.

His presentation is titled, "How the academic publication system buries our research and what we can do about it."

Vesna Milosevic-Zdjelar, an instructor of physics and astronomy at Physics Department, University of Winnipeg, holds degrees in astrophysics and education. One of her professional interests is teaching science concepts in multicultural settings. She is coordinating science outreach programs at the University of Winnipeg, and was awarded 2008 Marsha Hanen Award for Excellence in Creating Community Awareness.

Her topic for discussion will involve exploring whether current science curriculum is addressing the needs of multicultural settings of contemporary educational institutions in Canada, with special emphasis on aboriginal education.

Brock Pitawanakwat (Anishinaabe - Whitefish River First Nation) is Assistant Professor, Graduate Chair, and Acting Director of the Aboriginal Governance Program at The University of Winnipeg. He is a graduate of the University of Victoria's Indigenous Governance Program with a dissertation that explores how and why Anishinaabeg maintain and revitalize their ancestral language of Anishinaabemowin. Other research interests include Anishinaabe culture and history, anti-oppressive social movements, fundamentalism, language revitalization, and political/social mobilization in Abya Yala and Tahuantinsuyu (Central and South America).

He will discuss abuses of power within academia .

The discussion will be moderated by Milena Placentile, a curator and writer interested in socially and politically engaged arts practices and audience experience. She holds a Master of Museum Studies from the University of Toronto and has worked with various organizations across Canada, as well as in Armenia, Scotland, and the Netherlands. She is a contributing editor to FUSE Magazine and maintains involvement with the national community group, Department of Culture. She is a member of the International Association of Curators of Contemporary Art.

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