AAUP@FHSU


podcast@aaup (2022 ep1): Student Debt and the Fight for Florida

In our first new episode of 2022, I talk to Kaitlyn Vitez, federal government relations specialist in AAUP’s national office, and Jessica Sponsler, art historian and adjunct professor and AAUP’s Pennsylvania state conference president, about student debt and its impact on faculty and higher education. With more than 45 million borrowers saddled with $1.7 trillion dollars in debt, a movement to cancel debt and expand opportunities for debt forgiveness is underway as the return to repayment of federal loans, paused during the pandemic, looms in May. Listen here.

In episode five of our inaugural season, I sit down with Paul Ortiz, professor of history at the University of Florida and president of the United Faculty of Florida-UF to talk about ongoing attacks on academic freedom in Florida and how the faculty from the University of Florida has fought back against what Paul calls “anticipatory obedience,” awakening a growing movement of faculty who are ready to, as he puts it “get their hands dirty” and fight political and legislative attempts to diminish faculty right and chill academic freedom. Here’s the episode.

We stay in Florida for the sixth episode. The AAUP’s Kelly Benjamin talks to Michele Rayner, a member of the Florida House of Representatives, about attacks on academic freedom, the motivation for anti-critical race theory bills, and the state of the broader political situation in Florida. Play that episode here.

The episodes are on the AAUP website at aaup.org/aaup-presents, where you’ll find links to listen to them on major platforms like Apple Podcasts and Spotify. We plan to release more episodes this spring. Have an idea for an episode? Email me at mquinn@aaup.org with your suggestions.

Happy listening.

Mariah Quinn
Digital Organizer, AAUP

Episode logo in a graphic


Lawsuit Challenges Classroom Censorship

Yesterday, a group of plaintiffs including the University of Oklahoma chapter of the AAUP filed a lawsuit challenging an Oklahoma law, known as HB 1775, which severely restricts faculty at public universities and K–12 public schools in the state from teaching and talking about race and gender in the classroom.

Oklahoma is one of eight states that have passed similar legislation seeking to suppress discussion about race and gender in the classroom. This is the first federal lawsuit facially challenging one of these statewide bans—that is, arguing that the law is unconstitutional as it is written, not only as it has been applied. The lawsuit argues that HB 1775 chills students’ and educators’ First Amendment right to learn and talk about these issues, and also prevents students from having an open and complete dialogue about American history.

The enactment of HB 1775 has already harmed teachers and students. In public universities, professors fear sanctions for continuing to teach material related to race, gender, and sexual orientation, and some professors have restructured their pedagogy to avoid such topics. Oklahoma school districts have instructed teachers not to use terms including “diversity” and “white privilege” in their classrooms, and have removed important works of literature such as To Kill a Mockingbird and Raisin in the Sun from a list of “anchor texts.” Multiple Oklahoma public schools have also scaled back or eliminated diversity, equity, and inclusion trainings.

In the words of Michael Givel, president of the OU-AAUP chapter, the law “directly curtails academic freedom in public universities in Oklahoma. It has a chilling effect on academic freedom as it can and has purposely targeted Oklahoma public school teachers and administrators from imparting a complete history in our schools, free from censorship or discrimination. Curriculum decisions and what is taught in a college classroom for the promotion of a balanced education are unequivocally protected from outside political requirements and interference. University professors are not sock puppets for the biased ideological agendas of elected politicians.”

The groups are asking the court to declare the law unconstitutional under the First and Fourteenth Amendments and are urging the court to issue a preliminary injunction.

This lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma by the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Oklahoma, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and pro bono counsel Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP.

More information about the wave of bills seeking to suppress teaching about race can be found on the AAUP website here. More information about this lawsuit can be found on the ACLU’s website here.

In solidarity,
Risa Lieberwitz, AAUP General Counsel


Teaching the truth about race

As fall terms get underway on campuses, so too do state legislative campaigns seeking to restrict teaching about the history of race and racism in the United States. Three states have already pre-filed bills for the 2022 legislative season, and several more have active legislation that will carry over from the 2021 session.

The bills are a naked attempt to manipulate curricula to advance partisan or ideological aims. Many attack the scholarly field of critical race theory, but their purpose is much broader: to suppress teaching and learning about racism.

We’d like to know if and how these bills, or related attempts to chill the free exchange of facts and ideas about American history, have affected you. Please let us know by taking this brief survey.

The AAUP is working to protect faculty’s ability to teach the truth about American history, and to further racial justice in higher education and in our own organization. Here are some resources and initiatives we’d like members to know about:

More information about the wave of legislation seeking to suppress teaching about race is here. Other resources about racial justice are here.

In solidarity,

Glinda Rawls

Chair, AAUP Racial Justice Committee