AAUP@FHSU


Fighting Targeted Harassment: Join Us January 22-26

Threats of violence. Vicious attacks from right-wing propaganda sites. Firings and forced leaves. The silencing of faculty.

In addition to harming individual faculty members, campaigns of targeted harassment pose a profound and ominous challenge to higher education’s most fundamental values. The right of faculty members to speak or write as citizens, free from institutional censorship or disciplinary action, is a core principle of academic freedom.

The AAUP is at the forefront of fighting targeted harassment. We work directly with affected faculty, campus administrations, and our chapters and state conferences to ensure that faculty members’ academic freedom and due process rights are protected. And our sister organization, the AAUP Foundation, provides direct support to faculty members whose careers are impacted by targeted harassment.

This month, we’re doubling down: starting January 22 we’ll devote a week to the topic of the insidious problem of targeted harassment.

We’ll kick off with an overview of the work we’re doing and let you know how you can raise your voice in the fight. We’ll share some guidelines about targeted harassment and social media and get you the most up-to-date resources on the subject.

You’ll hear from a faculty member who was the target of an attack that led to his suspension, and learn how the work of his AAUP chapter led the administration to step back and acknowledge the fundamental importance of academic freedom for the common good and the advancement of truth.

On Friday, January 26, we’ll hold a Facebook Live chat with Joan Wallach Scott and Henry Reichman, members of AAUP’s Committee A and two leading voices in the fight for academic freedom. You can RSVP here; we’ll send a reminder in advance.

We want to hear your voices! Tweet or post using the hashtag #FacultyUnderAttack and we’ll share your stories on our social media feeds.

The fight against the targeted harassment of faculty comes at a time when harassment has been increasing significantly. In these uncertain times, the more we stand together, the more we can accomplish.

Stay tuned.

Julie Schmid
Executive Director, AAUP


Goodbye 2017 – It Was Quite a Year!

2018 looks to be no different, and we’re starting off strong.

In January, an investigating team will visit the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to look into the case of a lecturer who was dismissed at the behest of Nebraska legislators after she protested a recruitment table for Turning Point USA, a radical right-wing organization that maintains the Professor Watchlist website. Her protest, which included the use of anti-fascist slogans, expletives, and obscene gestures, was filmed by the undergraduate student staffing the table and was subsequently posted on websites such as Campus Reform. This case is one of many troubling recent incidents in which right-wing organizations have fomented outrage against higher education, and actions taken by university administrations or legislators in response have had particularly negative consequences for contingent faculty members and faculty of color. We’ll keep you posted as the case develops.

Starting January 22, we’ll devote a full week to sharing resources and information on the issue of targeted harassment of faculty. We’ll share stories from those who have been targeted, provide information on what you can do before and after an incident occurs on your campus, and hold a Facebook live event with a Q&A. Sign up to become part of our action team to help spread the word to as many faculty as possible. We all need to join in this important fight.

Our work fighting political interference on campus continues with a strong showing in the courts. We scored a victory for science this fall when a court rejected harassing public records requests against two University of Arizona faculty members. The case started with a lawsuit filed by a “free market” legal foundation that targets climate scientists in an effort to “put false science on trial.” In an amicus brief in support of the scientists, we argued that public records laws should not be misused in order to chill academic freedom. The court agreed, but the foundation has vowed to “keep peppering universities around the country with similar requests under state open records laws.”

We’re working to ensure that the free flow of information and international academic exchange is not hindered by dangerous governmental interference like the Trump administration’s travel ban. In September the AAUP joined with the American Council on Education (ACE) and other higher education groups in an amicus brief before the US Supreme Court opposing the travel ban. As the case around the revised ban continues to move through the courts we will likely join ACE again in filing a brief. We’re also heartened by your support on this matter–our petition against the ban earlier this year was widely shared and signed.

In November, we filed an amicus brief supporting a challenge to a Texas mandate compelling faculty to permit concealed handguns in college classrooms. Citing decades of social science research, we argued that the presence of weapons has a chilling effect on the rigorous academic exchange of ideas. Our work on this case is ongoing, and we’ll keep you apprised of developments. Want to continue to support our legal work? Donate to the Legal Defense Fund now.

One case that could have a profound impact on the collective voice of those who teach and research in higher education is Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, set to be heard by the Supreme Court in the spring term. This legal threat to union rights is part of a broad and well-funded attack on working people, including faculty members and other academic professionals. We anticipate submitting an amicus brief in the case.

The urgency that our members and supporters feel in fighting such attacks is evident in the overwhelming response to provisions in the GOP tax bill that would devastate graduate education by reclassifying tuition waivers as taxable income and repeal the current student loan interest deduction, a change that would result in an increased cost of roughly $24 billion to student borrowers over the next decade. Thousands of you signed a petition to key members of the House, and many followed up with calls to the Senate and public activism both online and on the ground.

As we head toward January and prepare to shine a spotlight on the targeted harassment of faculty, it’s nice to be able to report a victory for academic freedom. Earlier this year, Professor Johnny Williams of Trinity College in Connecticut was subjected to threats of violence after the radical right-wing organization Campus Reform inaccurately reported on statements he had made on social media. Rather than receiving immediate support from his administration, he was suspended. When the AAUP came out strongly in his defense, the administration acknowledged that the social media posts were protected by academic freedom. We thank our Trinity College AAUP chapter and all those who worked hard to ensure that Williams’s academic freedom was protected.

We look forward to your active participation in our work as we head toward what promises to be an exciting year!

Thank you.

Rudy Fichtenbaum
President, AAUP


National Security, the Assault on Science, and Academic Freedom

A new AAUP report out today details troubling threats to academic freedom in the physical and natural sciences that have been exacerbated by the Trump administration’s hostility to science. One focus of the report is international scientific exchange and, especially, the repeated charging of innocent Chinese or Chinese American scientists with espionage in the name of national security. Another is climate science, which has been subject to vicious attacks that have intensified significantly under the current administration.  

The report’s survey of recent criminal cases involving international scientific exchange suggests that the government’s invocation of national security claims related to espionage has not been justified and is negatively affecting the ability of the United States to participate in global science.

President Trump’s executive orders restricting entry to the United States for residents of certain Muslim-majority countries and efforts to limit H-1B visas to foreign scientists pose additional, disturbing threats to scientific exchange.

The report explores how the politicization of science, rooted in anti-intellectualism and propelled by anti-elitist mantras, is constraining the free pursuit of knowledge and scientific inquiry and limiting the ability of science to serve the public good.

Learn more or read the full report here.

Best wishes,
Gwendolyn Bradley, AAUP


Amicus Brief: Campus Carry Violates Academic Freedom

The AAUP filed an amicus brief last week supporting a challenge to a statute and policy in Texas that compel faculty to permit concealed handguns in college classrooms. We argue that the policy violates faculty members’ academic freedom.

Texas passed a “campus carry law” that expressly permits concealed handguns on university campuses, and in 2016 the University of Texas at Austin issued a policy mandating that faculty permit concealed handguns in their classrooms. Several faculty sued, challenging the policy and the law. The lower court dismissed the case, holding that the faculty had not proven that they were harmed by the law or university policy. The faculty appealed and the case is now before the Fifth Circuit federal appeals court.

The AAUP joined with the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence in an amicus brief supporting the challenge. We argue that college campuses are marketplaces of ideas, and that the presence of weapons has a chilling effect on the rigorous academic exchange of ideas. Students and faculty members will not be comfortable discussing controversial subjects if they think there might be a gun in the classroom. The brief argues that the policy (and the law pursuant to which the policy was created) requiring that handguns be permitted in classrooms harms faculty as it deprives them of a core academic decision and chills their First Amendment right to academic freedom. The brief cites decades of social science research supporting these apprehensions.

The brief argues that the “decision whether to permit or exclude handguns in a given classroom is, at bottom, a decision about educational policy and pedagogical strategy. It predictably affects not only the choice of course materials, but how a particular professor can and should interact with her students—how far she should press a student or a class to wrestle with unsettling ideas, how trenchantly and forthrightly she can evaluate student work. Permitting handguns in the classroom also affects the extent to which faculty can or should prompt students to challenge each other. The law and policy thus implicate concerns at the very core of academic freedom: They compel faculty to alter their pedagogical choices, deprive them of the decision to exclude guns from their classrooms, and censor their protected speech.”

To support the AAUP’s continued legal work, donate to the AAUP Foundation’s Legal Defense Fund now.

Thank you,
Aaron Nisenson
Senior Counsel, AAUP


Take Action: Protect the University of Wisconsin

A series of actions taken by Governor Scott Walker, the Wisconsin state legislature, and the University of Wisconsin system board of regents over the past few years represent a concerted attack on the university as a public good.

Will you tell the Wisconsin system board of regents to protect the university system?

Taken together, the actions constitute a brazen partisan assault on the Wisconsin Idea, the century-old notion that public higher education is a common good. In 2011, legislation curtailed the system faculty’s rights to negotiate collectively. In 2015, the legislature severely weakened tenure, shared governance, and due process—and, by extension, academic freedom.

This fall, another series of attacks is underway. Without meaningful faculty input, the board recently approved an anti-free-speech proposal allowing for the expulsion of students for “disrupting the free speech of others.” It announced a plan to merge the system’s two- and four-year institutions. And it changed the procedures governing searches for chancellors and presidents.  Right now, there is a bill before the state legislature that would abolish a partnership that allowed university employees to work and train students at Planned Parenthood.

Please add your name to protect higher education for the common good.

The AAUP


One Faculty, One Resistance

After last November’s election, we expressed our concern about unique threats posed by the new administration to core institutions of our democracy and to academic freedom. In the months since, we have seen these threats begin to unfold.

Faculty members are being targeted and harassed, the freedom to join together on the job is in jeopardy, and producers of independent thought and knowledge, including faculty, scientists, and journalists, are threatened. The academic year has begun with a spate of racist incidents on campus, another travel ban aimed primarily at Muslims, the decision to end the DACA program that grants residency to many of our students, and, just last Thursday, a decision by the Supreme Court to take up a case that could strip workers in unions of rights.

We believe that democracy thrives on dissent, critical inquiry, free speech, and free research. And that means that we must do more than witness these events; we must resist them.

That’s why we invite you to check out our One Faculty, One Resistance campaign.

The AAUP is the voice of the profession. As such, we’ve been speaking up for academic freedom for more than 100 years. And in these troubled times, we’re doing it with renewed urgency and vigor.

We’ve created a central space for our campaigns and materials related to these threats– materials to help you fight against targeted harassment of faculty and for the right to teach and conduct research freely, and to resist political interference and litmus tests in higher education.

Take a look around and share news of the campaign! A powerful resistance requires collective action and voice. Click here to share.

Graphic of the website

We’ll be in touch soon.

Rudy Fichtenbaum
President, AAUP


Action against the “travel ban” and a win for science

One of the things your membership supports is our work in the courts to protect academic freedom. I’m writing today to update you on recent legal developments.

Last night the AAUP joined with the American Council on Education and other higher education groups in an amicus brief to the US Supreme Court opposing the Trump administration’s travel ban. We argue that people from the six countries identified in the ban should not be barred or deterred from entering the United States and contributing to our colleges and universities.

As the brief notes, the ban has caused specific harm to higher education. From the moment the executive order containing the ban was signed, recruits were deterred from accepting faculty positions in the United States. Some scholars have pulled out of academic conferences here, either because they were directly affected by the ban or because they were concerned about its impact.

In the brief, we emphasize the international exchange of scholarly work, and explain how the ban “jeopardizes the vital contributions made by foreign students, scholars, and faculty by telling the world in the starkest terms that American colleges and universities are no longer receptive to them.”

The amicus brief is part of the AAUP’s continued work to combat the chilling effects that the administration’s border policies are having on faculty and higher education. We are also looking into legal issues related to a regulation that authorizes border patrol officers to search a traveler’s electronic devices at the borders without any basis for suspicion. In conjunction with the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, we are seeking information from affected faculty members; if you have had an experience of this kind, please read more and submit information here.

Another facet of our legal work involves defending scientists against a campaign of harassment being carried out by a group that opposes climate science and has stated that it intends to “keep peppering universities around the country” with requests for climate science research records. On Friday, we got some good news as the Arizona Court of Appeals rejected attempts by this group to use public records requests to compel two University of Arizona faculty members to release emails related to their research.

In an amicus brief in support of the scientists, the AAUP had argued that state statute creates an exemption to public release of records for academic research records, and that a general statutory exemption protecting records when in the best interests of the state, in particular, the state’s interest in academic freedom, should have been considered. The appeals court agreed. Read more here.

Lastly, I’d like to take a minute to thank you for standing with the AAUP.  In busy times like this, it is important to remember that members like you make this work and our victories possible.

Regards,
Aaron Nisenson
AAUP Senior Counsel

P.S. Please consider supporting the legal defense of higher education through a donation to the AAUP’s Foundation’s Legal Defense Fund.