Application forms, below:

Drastic Attacks on Higher Ed in Florida

The headlines out of Florida keep getting worse and worse. Over the past year, Governor Ron DeSantis has waged an all-out attack on higher education and sought to suppress teaching about race and gender. He’s also gearing up to attack union rights in the state. What all these things have in common is that they infringe on the rights of people in the state to teach, learn, speak, and assemble freely.

Here are just a few developments from the last year:

  • The Stop WOKE Act restricts the way that race-related concepts can be taught in classrooms and workplace trainings in the state (enforcement of parts of the law is currently suspended after a judge found them to violate the First Amendment).
  • Confusing guidelines for teaching K-12 students about gender identity and sexual orientation combined with harsh penalties have led to the removal of books from libraries and classrooms.
  • DeSantis has promised to require college and university presidents and boards of trustees to “take ownership of hiring and retention decisions, without interference from unions and faculty committees.”
  • House Bill 999 would allow political appointees to control core curricula and institutional mission statements. It would ban gender studies as a major or minor, and prohibit the inclusion of “unproven, theoretical, or exploratory content” in general education courses (presumably including all scientific theories). It would also require boards of trustees or presidents to conduct faculty hiring, and allow boards to “review any faculty member’s tenure status,” apparently with or without cause—a change that would effectively eliminate tenure.

Enormous damage is being done to freedom and education in Florida, and it won’t stop there. Politicians in other states are preparing to follow DeSantis’s lead, and all signs point to a presidential run—with the slogan “Make America Florida.”

Our students deserve quality education that includes difficult truths and many perspectives. The AAUP is working with our allies to defend higher education. We hope you will be an active part of that effort.

If you haven’t already, please join fellow AAUP members and a number of organizational endorsers and sign your name to our statement on Florida HB 999. Signing will put you on a list to receive occasional alerts about actions you can take.

You can find more information and resources on our website.

In solidarity,

New Episodes of AAUP Presents

It has been a busy week at the AAUP, and our podcast AAUP Presents is back with two new episodes!

On Saturday, the AAUP’s governing Council voted unanimously to add Indiana University Northwest to the Association’s list of censured administrations. In a new episode we discuss the AAUP’s investigative report about the case, which revolved around the summary suspension and dismissal of Dr. Mark McPhail. The investigation found that in acting against McPhail the administration disregarded AAUP-supported standards of academic due process. Investigators found “highly credible” McPhail’s allegation that the administration’s actions were prompted by his criticism of the administration’s handling of racial equity issues and therefore violated his academic freedom. Here’s a direct link.

The episode features Afshan Jafar, professor of sociology at Connecticut College and the chair of the investigating committee for the report, and Mark Criley, senior program officer in the AAUP’s Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure, and Governance, who staffed the investigation.

In the next podcast episode, we look at what last week’s student debt relief cases before the Supreme Court mean for faculty. Risa Lieberwitz, the AAUP’s general counsel and a professor of labor and employment law at the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations, and Jenna Sablan, the AAUP’s senior program officer for government relations, weigh in on what happened at the high court and what’s ahead on the debt relief front. Here’s the link to the podcast.

You can find these episodes (and all previous ones) here on our website.

We’ll have more episodes for you this month. Make sure you subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your preferred platform to get notified when new episodes are released.

Thanks for listening,
Mariah Quinn, Digital Organizer, AAUP

AAUP, AFT, NCAC Issue Statement Denouncing Florida HB 999

With the introduction of HB 999, the Florida legislature—at Governor DeSantis’s urging—has doubled down on its attacks on academic freedom with a bill that would effectively silence faculty and students across the ideological spectrum and purge whole fields of study from public universities. This bill substitutes the ideological beliefs of those in power for the freedom that is necessary for colleges and universities to serve the common good and function as intellectual centers where young people succeed and where the ideas that drive our country’s economy and democracy are ignited. Read the statement and sign on here.

Florida Bill Attacks Academic and Speech Freedom

Like many of you, we’re alarmed about the implications of recent efforts, in several states, to legislate away academic freedom, shared governance and tenure—and with them, the basis for free inquiry at public institutions.

With the introduction of House Bill 999 last week, the Florida Legislature—at Gov. Ron DeSantis’ urging—has doubled down on its attacks on academic freedom with a bill that would effectively silence faculty and students across the ideological spectrum and purge whole fields of study from public universities.

The bill would place control of core curriculums and institutional mission statements entirely in the hands of political appointees. It would limit or ban students’ ability to pursue certain majors or areas of study. It forbids “theoretical or exploratory” content in general education courses. Simply put, it would transform Florida’s colleges and universities into an arm of the DeSantis political operation.

We can’t let this happen on our watch—in Florida or in any state. The AAUP, the American Federation of Teachers, and the National Coalition against Censorship have issued a joint statement on this, which you can see and share here.

Please add your name to this statement and commit to fight legislative efforts like these. We’ll be in touch with more actions you can take as our campaign builds.

In unity,
Irene Mulvey, AAUP President
Randi Weingarten, AFT President

AAUP Concludes Indiana University Northwest Has Unwelcome Racial Climate… Violated Academic Freedom

The AAUP has published an investigative report on the summary suspension and dismissal of Dr. Mark McPhail, a tenured professor of communication at Indiana University Northwest in Gary, Indiana, who had previously served as the institution’s chief academic officer.  The investigating committee, for which I served as chair, found that, in acting against McPhail, the administration disregarded AAUP-supported standards of academic due process. The committee further concluded that conditions for academic governance at the institution are unsound and its racial climate is unwelcoming to faculty members of color.

Join us on February 16 at 2 p.m. ET for a webinar discussing the investigation and the AAUP’s process for investigations–what prompts an investigation, how they are conducted, and what the end goal is.

Register here.

In September 2021, the administration dispatched campus police officers to McPhail’s home to inform him that he had been dismissed and banned from campus, supposedly for making racially charged threats of physical violence, No accuser was identified, and no criminal charges were filed.

The AAUP investigating committee deemed “implausible” the charge that McPhail had made violent threats, and it found “highly credible” McPhail’s allegation that the administration’s actions were prompted by his criticism of the administration’s handling of racial equity issues and therefore violated his academic freedom. With respect to that climate, the committee noted that McPhail had regularly highlighted racial inequity on the IUN campus and that the criticisms and charges against him employed racial stereotypes of Black men as incompetent, angry, and violent.

Having been denied a hearing before a faculty body in which the burden of proof lay with the administration, as required under AAUP-recommended standards, McPhail was compelled to appeal the administration’s actions to a faculty grievance committee. In his appeal, he argued that institutional authorities had retaliated against him for his criticisms of the administration and for filing equal opportunity complaints against the administrators responsible for suspending and dismissing him. The grievance committee found both his suspension and his termination unwarranted. The administration rejected the committee’s findings.

Based on the report’s findings, the AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure will now consider whether to recommend to the AAUP’s governing Council that it place Indiana University Northwest on the AAUP’s list of censured administrations. Placement on that list informs the academic community and the public at large that conditions for academic freedom and tenure at the institution are unsound.

Register for the webinar to learn more about the investigation.

Afshan Jafar, chair of the investigative committee,
Professor of Sociology, Connecticut College