AAUP@FHSU


Free Speech on Campus: A Solution in Search of a Problem

“Campus free-speech” legislation, increasingly prevalent in state legislatures, is a solution in search of a problem. Threats to free speech on campus have received outsized media attention in relation to issues with more widespread incidence and deleterious effects, such as diminished public funding of higher education, the adjunctification of the faculty, and a student debt crisis. One thing is clear: bills purporting to protect free speech on campus have become a popular method for legislatures to interfere with and undermine the institutional autonomy of public colleges and universities.

This week, we’re taking a look at the drivers of the current environment of legislative interference on campuses, and giving you tools to help you stay informed and active.

Check out our toolkit on free speech on campus on our One Faculty, One Resistance site.

A little background: the most prevalent campus free-speech legislation being introduced in state legislatures today is drafted from model bills produced by the right-wing think tank the Goldwater Institute. Goldwater-inspired legislation allows individuals to sue an institution if they feel their free-speech rights have been impinged upon on campus and calls for strict disciplinary penalties, such as expulsion or suspension for up to one year for students who are found to have interfered with free expression. While ostensibly meant to protect speech, this approach creates a litigious atmosphere that could cause administrations to become overly cautious, suppressing dissenting voices out of fear of being sued. And the harsh penalties would have serious repercussions for students, in some cases making punishments for interrupting a speaker more severe than those for more serious offenses.

The AAUP, along with other academic groups, has long held that academic administration should be in the hands of academics. Where there are legitimate threats to free speech on campus, they are best addressed by campus administration and faculty–not through the imposition of statewide legislative measures.

Here’s what you can do:

We’ve created a one-page fact sheet to get you up to date on the issue. We’ve also pulled together some effective, easy actions you can take to ensure that heavy-handed legislation doesn’t impinge on your rights on campus. Want to talk to colleagues about this issue? We’ve got some talking points to help guide your discussion and your activism.

The whole free speech toolkit can be found on our One Faculty, One Resistance website. Click here to explore what you can do on this issue.

Want more? Stay tuned — we’ll be talking more about free speech legislation on our Facebook page on Thursday, April 19 at 1:30 ETRSVP here.

Monica Owens,
Political Organizer, AAUP


The People Behind the Professor Watchlist

The funders behind the Professor Watchlist aren’t too keen on transparency. Many of the donors who support the $8 million budget of Turning Point USA  prefer to remain anonymous. That’s not surprising given that Turning Point’s work has sparked vicious campaigns of online harassment against faculty members, and, according to published reports, may also have violated federal rules prohibiting 501(c)(3) charities from engaging in political activity.

This week we’re drawing back the curtain on the right-wing organization whose Professor Watchlist purports “to expose and document college professors who discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.”

In reality, faculty are listed for a wide variety of reasons that have included criticizing capitalism or making feminist comments on Twitter, publishing a study finding that economics textbooks heavily feature male economists and suggesting that this may be a deterrence to women pursuing economics, and criticizing conservative politicians on social media. Being listed has resulted in campaigns of harassment that have included death threats and threats against professors’ children.

We’ve created three fact sheets to help prepare you in the event that you come into contact with Turning Point. On Friday, we’ll be discussing Turning Point, the Professor Watchlist, and mobilizing to protect academic freedom during a Facebook Live.

Visit our One Faculty, One Resistance site to read and share the fact sheets.

This Friday, March 16, we’ll host a Facebook Live with Monica Owens, AAUP political organizer, and Hans-Joerg Tiede, a senior program officer in the AAUP’s Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure, and Governance. They’ll discuss Turning Point and academic freedom in the age of Trump and talk through some organizing tips for faculty dealing with these issues.

RSVP to the Facebook Live here.

Gwendolyn Bradley
Director of External Relations, AAUP


Mass shootings and academic freedom

The recent mass shooting of seventeen students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, has refocused efforts to stem the epidemic of gun violence plaguing the nation. This time the effort has been initiated and led by the surviving students, supported by their teachers, parents, and students across the country. The American Association of University Professors salutes these brave and eloquent young people.

Gun violence is not a problem limited to high schools. Colleges and universities have been sites of mass shootings since 1966 when sixteen people died and thirty-one were injured at the University of Texas at Austin.

Sign on to our statement in support of gun control.

The AAUP has long opposed and continues to oppose unequivocally any legislation or policy that would compel colleges and universities to permit firearms on campus. In this, we stand with the overwhelming majority of educators across the country.

Given the widespread availability of the most deadly weaponry and the growing number of instances in which such weapons have wreaked havoc, however, it is not sufficient only to champion the right of colleges and universities to bar their presence.

We are once again raising the call to take action.

To ensure the safety of students, faculty, and others on campus, we must speak out in support of broader sensible gun control measures like those proposed by the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Specifically, the AAUP calls on faculty and students, on administrators and trustees, and most of all on our political leaders to support:

  • A total ban on the sale and possession of military-style automatic weapons designed solely to kill human beings and on high-capacity magazines and bump stocks;
  • Comprehensive background checks for all who purchase firearms, whether in a gun store or at a gun show, with reasonable restrictions on access to weapons for those with diagnosed mental illness or with a history of violence, including domestic violence;
  • A complete universal database of those banned from buying firearms; and
  • Raising the minimum age to purchase firearms to 21.

We therefore also endorse the March 24 March for Our Lives in Washington, DC, as well as the efforts of students to protest gun violence with peaceful walkouts on March 14 and April 20.

Add your name to our statement calling for gun control measures.

The AAUP

P.S. To read or share our full statement, go here.


Day of Action as Supreme Court Debates Our Future

Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Janus v. AFSCME, an attack by wealthy, anti-union organizations on the voice of working people and their ability to negotiate collectively.

People from around the country rallied at the Court to let the world know that, regardless of the outcome of the Janus case, we will continue to organize for the public good and for our rights. This followed the Working People’s Day of Action over the weekend, which called attention to our rigged economy and the need to defend our rights at work. It marked the fifty-year anniversary of protests by Memphis sanitation workers and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. against discrimination, low pay, and inhumane conditions that led to worker deaths. Share the graphic below on Facebook and spread the word.

Photo of Supreme Court protests

The AAUP supports the right of working people, including faculty, to join together in unions as well as in traditional nonunionized AAUP chapters. Our collective voice is a powerful force to set standards and create better workplaces. Together, we fight for higher education and the critical role it plays in this country. Together, we defend academic freedom, shared governance, and due process protections. Standing together also makes it possible for us to negotiate affordable healthcare, a fair return on our work, and the ability to retire with dignity.

At issue in Janus is whether non-union members, who share in the wages, benefits, and protections that have been negotiated into a collectively bargained contract, may be required to pay their fair share for the cost of those negotiations. Learn more about the Janus case and the amicus brief we filed.

Yesterday’s oral argument went largely as expected. Many of the justices sharply questioned the attorneys. Justices Sotomayor, Breyer, Ginsburg, and Kagan generally asked questions and advanced arguments that were supportive of the constitutionality of fair-share fees, pointing to their benefits and to the fact that unions and others had relied on the prior decisions of the Court. Justices Kennedy, Alito, and Roberts took the opposite approach. Justice Kennedy seemed particularly hostile, asserting that unions compel nonmembers to subsidize their political speech.

Because none of the justices appeared to depart from their expected position, today’s oral argument reinforced the view that the Court will rule against us.

AAUP members are sticking together as One Faculty, One Resistance to fight for our collective voice, to promote safe and challenging learning environments, and to defend the important role our universities play in advancing the public good.

Thanks for standing with us.

In unity,
Rudy Fichtenbaum, President, AAUP

Paul Davis, Chair, AAUP Collective Bargaining Congress


They’re Privatizing Purdue

In five days the Higher Learning Commission, Purdue’s regional accrediting body, will vote on the final step toward privatization. If the HLC votes in favor, online courses at public land-grant Purdue University will be produced and run by for-profit higher ed corporation Kaplan.

The Indiana conference of the AAUP, along with the Purdue Social Justice Coalition, Hoosiers for Action, UnKoch My Campus, In the Public Interest, American Federation of Teachers, and elected officials across the state of Indiana have mounted a bold coalition-based resistance to this privatization deal. But we need your help.

Stand with us in urging the Higher Learning Commission to vote against accrediting Kaplan’s online program at Purdue until issues of transparency, student welfare, and academic quality are resolved. Sign our #KeepPurduePublic petition.

Additionally, if you’re a community leader, serving as a local elected official or at the helm of an organization, sign our Leader Sign-on Letter.

Kaplan is notorious. And the lack of transparency with which the Purdue-Kaplan deal has been advanced is troubling — even more so when considering Kaplan’s record of unaccountability to their students.

As Senators Dick Durbin and Sherrod Brown point out in their September 2017 letter cautioning Purdue University President Mitch Daniels: “Like nearly every major for-profit college, Kaplan has been the subject of numerous state and federal investigations and lawsuits. In 2014, the company reached a settlement with Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi to settle allegations that it made misleading marketing claims to Florida students. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey reached a settlement with Kaplan in 2015 related to inflated job placement numbers and unfair recruiting practices. Also in 2015, the company agreed to pay the U.S. Department of Justice more than $1 million to settle a False Claims Act lawsuit.”

Tell the Higher Learning Commission to #KeepPurduePublic and say #NoKaplan.

Or if you’re a community leader, sign here.

This is just one piece of a bold coalition-based movement we’re building to keep privatization out of public higher education. We hope you’ll join us.

In Solidarity,
David P. Nalbone, PhD
Purdue University Northwest
Vice President, Indiana Conference of the AAUP


P.S. Here’s even more background information on the Purdue-Kaplan deal to share with friends and colleagues:


Amicus brief supports sanctuary jurisdictions

The AAUP joined this week with other groups, including members of the California Community College System, in filing an amicus brief in support of a permanent injunction against a Trump administration executive order that sought to strip federal funding from “sanctuary jurisdictions.” The lawsuit resulting in the injunction was filed by the city of San Francisco. The AAUP’s interest in the case stems from the potential application of the executive order to colleges and universities. Such an extension would negatively impact colleges’ and universities’ ability to carry out their public mission and their interests in developing a diverse student body. Allowing the executive order to stand would also set a dangerous precedent for the proposition that the president may unilaterally use the threat of withholding federal funding in a broad and punitive manner as part of an effort to coerce colleges and universities to participate in federal immigration enforcement. Joining this amicus brief enables the AAUP to participate in a precedent-setting case on issues of great national significance that affect the ability of universities to develop and support a diverse student body, regardless of students’ immigration status.

The case, now in front of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, is the City and County of San Francisco v. Trump. The brief was primarily authored by Robin Johansen and Kathleen Purcell, attorneys with Remcho Johansen & Purcell LLP.

Risa Lieberwitz
AAUP General Counsel


Shared Governance under Attack in Wisconsin

Since its founding in 1915, the AAUP has sought to ensure meaningful faculty participation in institutional governance.

Last fall, we spoke out when the University of Wisconsin system board of regents announced a plan to merge the system’s two- and four-year institutions—a plan made without meaningful faculty input. It was the latest in a number of unilateral and secretive actions taken by system leaders, the state legislature, and Governor Scott Walker, condemned at the time by the AAUP and AFT Wisconsin as constituting “a concerted attack on the university as a public good and on the university’s role in fostering democratic participation.”

The day after the news of the proposed merger, President Cross, facing backlash from faculty, staff, and students, wrote the following in an email message to a system regent: “Getting hammered by the ‘shared governance’ leaders because they weren’t involved in the process; however, had they been involved we wouldn’t be doing anything!!”

President Cross’s remarks, which came to light last week, have drawn quick condemnation. The lone student representative on the twenty-five-member restructuring committee immediately released a statement that read in part: “It is my sincere hope that divisive sentiments toward the employees and students of the University of Wisconsin System will no longer be tolerated. The comments made were simply inappropriate and must be addressed immediately.”

The UW-Madison chapter of the AAUP followed with an open letter to President Cross, expressing its “deep concern about your willful disregard for the role of shared governance” and concluding:

“With the surfacing of your emails, it is particularly difficult for people who are supposed to share responsibility with you in governing this institution to have any confidence in your leadership. When you treat the core principle of shared governance as a concept so worthy of derision and disregard that you surround it with ‘air quotes’ in an email to a member of the Board of Regents, it is difficult to envision ever regaining that confidence. In short, your attitude and words have done further damage to an already damaged relationship.”

The AAUP’s Committee on College and University Governance joins the growing chorus of voices denouncing President Cross’s ill-judged remarks and calling on him to explain them.

The committee further calls on President Cross to work actively with faculty, staff, and students on developing policies and practices that will restore a meaningful and productive system of shared governance.

The importance of shared governance to protecting academic freedom and quality higher education cannot be overstated. The AAUP’s Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities notes that “a college or university in which all the components are aware of their interdependence, of the usefulness of communication among themselves, and of the force of joint action will enjoy increased capacity to solve educational problems.” And a recent white paper on shared governance issued by the Association of Governing Boards concludes that “shared governance is an essential component of America’s higher education institutions that needs to be preserved and enhanced.”

The AAUP will continue to monitor the situation in Wisconsin.

American Association of University Professors