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Hamline University administration violated faculty member’s academic freedom

An AAUP report released today concludes that the administration of Hamline University violated the academic freedom of Professor Erika López Prater after a student complained of having been offended by her presentation of two images of the Prophet Muhammad during an online session of her art history class in October. An AAUP committee of inquiry found that Professor López Prater’s decision to display the historical images was not only justifiable and appropriate on both scholarly and pedagogical grounds but also protected by academic freedom.

Read the full report.

Circumstantial evidence strongly suggests that the Hamline administration rescinded its informal offer to assign Professor López Prater another course the following semester solely because she had displayed the images, thus violating her academic freedom as a teacher. Two weeks prior to the class meeting in question, the department chair had written, “My students in your class have said nothing but wonderful things, so we would really love to have you back in the Spring!” After the class meeting and subsequent complaint, the chair withdrew the offer and a Hamline administrator emailed all university employees calling Professor López Prater’s presentation of the images “inconsiderate, disrespectful, and Islamophobic.” In an interview with the student newspaper while the university was still in session and Professor López Prater was still teaching, the same administrator stated, “In [view] of this incident, it was decided it was best that this faculty member was no longer part of the Hamline community.”

Neither the administration nor Professor López Prater’s department chair provided a legitimate academic rationale for declining to offer her any further teaching assignments. Hamline’s administration also failed to initiate any formal or substantial investigation of the student complaint; nor did it afford Professor López Prater a meaningful opportunity to respond to the accusations made against her.

The AAUP will continue to closely monitor developments related to academic freedom at Hamline University, among the most welcome of which would be a renewed offer of a teaching appointment to Professor López Prater.

An Ideologically Driven Assault Unparalleled in US History

Earlier this year, the AAUP invited us to chair a special committee established to review the apparent pattern of politically, racially, and ideologically motivated attacks on public higher education in Florida. Today, after interviewing dozens of faculty members at multiple public colleges and universities in the state, the committee has released a preliminary report concluding that academic freedom, tenure, and shared governance in Florida’s public colleges and universities currently face a politically and ideologically driven assault unparalleled in US history. If sustained, this onslaught threatens the very survival of meaningful higher education in the state, with dire implications for the entire country.

See the full report.

The report includes four main findings:

  • The Florida governor and state legislature are using their swift, aggressive, and ongoing “hostile takeover” of New College of Florida as a test case for future encroachments on public colleges and universities across the country. This “takeover” has proceeded through Governor DeSantis’s appointment of a slate of six highly partisan trustees, five of whom live outside the state and are publicly known as right-wing activists, to New College’s board of trustees. Their goals are to transform New College into a flagship right-wing institution by restructuring the administration and academic departments, developing a “new core curriculum,” and eliminating all diversity, equity, and inclusion programs.
  • Academic administrators throughout Florida’s public university and college systems, from the highest to the lowest levels not only have failed to contest these attacks but have too frequently been complicit in and, in some cases, explicitly supported them. While some individuals are leaving as a matter of conscience, those who remain face the prospect of serving as pawns in DeSantis’s corrupt patronage system.
  • The Florida legislature has passed a series of bills that, taken collectively, constitute a systematic effort to dictate and enforce conformity with a narrow and reactionary political and ideological agenda throughout the state’s higher education system. These efforts grievously undermine basic and long-standing principles of academic freedom, tenure, and shared governance. A key component of this agenda has been an effort to destroy college and university programs that serve minority communities and to banish from classrooms ideas and information about race, gender, and sexual identity that fail to conform to the prejudices of politicians.
  • Although several pieces of legislation proposed by the DeSantis administration have been stalled by legal challenges, the resulting self-censorship and fear are damaging the quality of public higher education in the state and are now spilling over into private institutions in Florida.

The committee is continuing its work, interviewing faculty members and others, as events in Florida continue to unfold. This preliminary report will be followed by a more comprehensive final report, expected by fall.

The full preliminary report from the AAUP special committee on Florida can be found here.

Afshan Jafar and Hank Reichman
Cochairs, AAUP Special Committee

Fall of the Giants

AAUP News Update

Attacks on academia are at a fever pitch as multiple state legislatures churn out dangerous culture war bills aimed at destroying various aspects of our higher education system, and ultimately damage our democracy. These threats are among the worst in the 108-year history of the AAUP. The press clips below only begin to document a month’s worth of news on this crisis and the stories of faculty fighting back—on campus, at state capitols, and in our communities nationwide.

We’ve seen times like this before, and they tend to directly precede periods of great progress. The robust organizing movement we are building in American higher education is a clear signal of a way forward.

Please browse the clips below on the great work being done by your colleagues and comrades nationwide to defend academic freedom and shared governance in the workplace and build a strong labor movement that is transforming higher education. If you’re on Twitter, please retweet the links in parentheses. As always, to stay up to date on all our work, follow the AAUP on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

AAUP Top Clips:



New Jersey:

North Carolina:




In Solidarity,

Kelly Benjamin
AAUP Media and Communications

Emporia State Layoffs a Direct Assault on Tenure and Academic Freedom

Today the AAUP published an investigative report concerning the termination of thirty tenured and tenure-track faculty appointments at Emporia State University.

The investigating committee found that, in carrying out the terminations, the ESU administration and the Kansas Board of Regents disregarded AAUP-recommended principles and procedural standards. It also found that the board’s reactivation in May 2022 of a temporary COVID-19-related policy allowed system institutions to abrogate existing university regulations that did comport in most essential respects with AAUP-supported standards.

The temporary policy suspended existing university regulations and gave the ESU administration the authority to “suspend, dismiss, or terminate” any professor, tenured or untenured, without involving faculty governance bodies and without affording academic due process to the affected faculty members. Although the board of regents offered the policy to all system institutions, only Emporia State’s administration adopted it–in September 2022, just three months before it was set to expire.

The investigating committee’s report concluded that the termination of faculty appointments, the “realignment” of curricular programs, and the development and approval of the university’s “Framework for Workforce Management” all occurred without meaningful faculty involvement, demonstrating “that conditions for academic governance at Emporia State are deficient.”

The full report is available here.

Nicholas Fleisher
Chair, Investigating Committee

AAUP Report: Shared Governance and Academic Freedom at Collin College are ‘Grossly Inadequate’

Today, the AAUP published an investigative report concerning the Collin College administration’s summary termination of the services of professors Lora Burnett, Suzanne Jones, and Michael Phillips.

Professor Burnett became the subject of national controversy in October 2020 for her tweets about the US vice-presidential debate, including one that urged Vice President Mike Pence to “shut his little demon mouth.” A state representative texted Collin’s president to point out that Burnett was “paid with taxpayer dollars”; the president replied that he was “aware of the situation” and “would deal with it.” In denying her reappointment for the following year, the administration cited her “insubordinate” challenging of the administration and governing board on social media and institutional email lists during that controversy.

In acting against Professors Jones and Phillips, the administration charged them with using social media to exert “external pressure” on the administration regarding what many faculty members considered to be inadequate COVID-19 policies instead of using “internal communications processes.” The administration’s action against Jones also invoked “misuse of the college’s name” because she had failed to prevent the Texas Faculty Association, of which she was a statewide and chapter officer, from listing her as a Collin College faculty member on its website and Facebook page.

The investigating committee found that the Collin administration’s actions involved “egregious violations” of all three faculty members’ academic freedom to speak as citizens and to criticize institutional policies, and, in the case of Phillips, of academic freedom in teaching. The committee determined that the administration dismissed Jones and Phillips from their appointments without a pretermination hearing before an elected faculty body in which the burden of demonstrating adequate cause for dismissal rests with the administration. The committee also found that the administration failed to afford Burnett the opportunity to petition an elected faculty committee to review her allegation that the nonrenewal decision violated her academic freedom.

The report concludes that the conditions for shared governance and academic freedom at Collin College are “grossly inadequate.”

The full report is available here.

Mark Criley,
Senior Program Officer, AAUP Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure, and Governance