AAUP@FHSU


Update on Educational Gag Orders

The academic year is winding down and so are many state legislatures. Activity has decreased significantly around educational gag orders as state legislatures adjourn and/or bills die in committee. We’ve gone from tracking more than 150 bills to just sixty. To date, nearly sixty of the bills we were tracking have died in committee or otherwise failed.

On April 15, Wisconsin governor Tony Evers vetoed another educational gag order that had been passed by the state legislature. And two bills in Iowa failed when that legislature adjourned the week of April 18.

Unfortunately, a handful of EGOs have been signed into law. In Tennessee, the Governor recently signed H.B. 2670, which doesn’t ban the teaching of “divisive concepts” but says neither students nor staff can be required to “endorse” a divisive concept, nor can they be penalized for not doing so. As with many of these bills, the language is troublingly vague, as it does not define or give examples of what it means to “endorse.” Does it include answering questions on a test or completing homework assignments? The bill doesn’t say. A bill in South Dakota was also signed into law at the end of March.

In states like Tennessee, where bills have been enacted, the next important step is to address these ambiguous terms. It will be vital for the state attorney general or similar office to weigh in on or outright define these words. It’s important to pressure state AGs for clarity, and equally important for faculty to make strong arguments as to why classwork should not be included in definitions related to H.B. 2670 or similar bills in other states.

With about twenty states still in session, and dozens of active educational gag orders, threats to academic freedom remain, and we expect to see another wave of activity in the fall seeking to suppress teaching about race and racism.

You can find more information and resources here.

The good news is that faculty, including AAUP members, have been instrumental this year in fighting against and defeating some of the worst legislation.


Working With the Faculty Senate to Fight Educational Gag Orders

State legislatures across the nation have passed legislation barring the teaching of “divisive concepts.” In some states, this legislation excludes teaching about race and gender at the university level. Faculty senates at Michigan State, Portland State, DePaul University, Molloy College, and the Universities of Alabama, Colorado, Delaware, Minnesota, and Oregon have all passed resolutions defending academic freedom and rejecting such educational gag orders.

We’re pleased to offer a webinar on faculty senate resolutions on behalf of our coalition partners at the African American Policy Forum. Please join in a discussion on Thursday, February 17, at 1 p.m. ET, about the importance of these resolutions to the preservation of education and why institutions of higher education need to commit to ideologically free classrooms.

Two members of the African American Policy Forum, DePaul University professor Valerie Johnson and Portland State professor Jennifer Ruth (who also serves on the AAUP’s Committee A), will lead the webinar and answer questions about how to use shared governance to fight back against this assault on academic freedom. Resources to pursue the resolution campaign on your campus will be provided.

Register at https://www.aaup.org/event/webinar-using-faculty-senate-fight-educational-gag-orders.

Best wishes,
Gwendolyn Bradley, AAUP Senior Program Officer


Efforts to Restrict Teaching about Race

At this time, when our nation is confronting deep-rooted racial inequity and having honest and long-overdue conversations about our history, legislators in a number of states have moved to shut down the conversation by restricting teaching about oppression, race, and gender.

The details vary, but generally the bills prohibit teaching or training in public educational institutions about vaguely defined “divisive concepts,” including racism and oppression. Some apply only to K–12 education, while others include higher education. Many include prohibitions on teaching about “critical race theory,” though most of the bills extend far beyond this. While many of the bills in question have not yet advanced, some have been signed into law — and they all have the potential to chill the free exchange of ideas at universities and colleges, and violate core AAUP principles. In some states, college courses have already been cancelled over concerns that they might run afoul of this legislation.

We are taking this attack on teaching very seriously, and are working with a wide coalition of organizations to protect the ability of faculty to teach freely. With three partner organizations, we are releasing a statement today opposing these bills and affirming that Americans of all ages deserve nothing less than a free and open exchange about history and the forces that shape our world today. We’re proud that more than seventy other organizations have endorsed this statement. These bills violate fundamental tenets of academic freedom and shared governance, the foundations of higher education.

In addition, the AAUP has developed resources to help members address legislative interference in the teaching of the role of racism in US history and society.

Decisions about curriculum and teaching materials belong in the hands of educators–not politicians. Join in our fight to keep it that way.

In Solidarity,
Irene Mulvey, AAUP president

PS–If your state conference wants to take action on bills proposed in your state, contact AAUP government relations officer Kaitlyn Vitez and she can connect you with resources.