AAUP Foundation Announces Centennial Contest Winners, Grant Recipients

Date: 6/5/2015

The AAUP Foundation is pleased to announce the winners of our Centennial Contest and recipients of travel award grants.

The theme for the Centennial Contest was  “Academic Freedom: Its Concept, Its History, Its Successes, and Its Failures.” Prizes were awarded to one undergraduate and one graduate student each in essay and arts categories. Each winner receives $1,000.

The winning undergraduate essay is “Concerning the Necessary: Academic Freedom” by Marcus Wendel of Michigan State University. The essay makes original use of Spinoza as a figure speaking to contemporary struggles in realizing freedom of expression and thought, and uses a blend of sources to connect the issues to contemporary contexts.

The winning graduate essay is “Neoliberalism and Academic Freedom” by Benji Cohen of the University of Virginia. This essay places into perspective how neoliberal forces inhibit faculty autonomy and the consequences this has for academic freedom. It synthesizes a range of sources and takes on the ways in which a recent trend towards data-driven decision making contributes to loss of control in the professional lives of faculty.

The winning undergraduate art work is a video by Zsolt Portik of the University of California, Los Angeles. It provides an interesting montage of ordinary campus scenes enhanced by dramatic color and editing effects, suggesting the expressive possibilities and transformation of perspective—sensory and otherwise—enabled by academic freedom.

The winning graduate art work is “Precarious Pedagogy” by Shane Lancer of Cornell University’s New York State School of Industrial and Labor Relations. It makes bold use of primary colors to convey how academic freedom becomes threatened when external forces impinge on the intellectual space of the classroom.

The Foundation also announced recipients of its travel fund grants today.

The Konheim Travel Award Fund provides financial support to help chapters send delegates to the AAUP Annual Meeting. Preference is given to chapters engaged in advancing the AAUP’s objectives in academic freedom, student rights and freedoms, the status of academic women, the elimination of discrimination against minorities, or the establishment of equal opportunity for members of colleges and universities. This year, grants go to David Nalbone of the Purdue University, Calumet, AAUP chapter; Elizabeth Brannon of the University of Rhode Island Graduate Student Association; and Lorrayne Carroll ( or her designee) of the University of Southern Maine AAUP chapter.

The Hopper Travel Fund provides support for travel related expenses for those attending their first AAUP Annual Meeting. This year’s grants go to Kathryn Kuhn of St. Louis University (nominated by the Missouri AAUP conference), and Troy Smith of Tennessee Tech University (nominated by the Tennessee AAUP conference).