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


A Target on Her Back

Hundreds of vituperative emails. Threatening phone calls to my home. Hate mail that arrived both at work and at home—it was overwhelming.

That was my first brush with a right-wing maelstrom of anger at an extra credit opportunity I offered to students in my freshman English class in 2015.  My son returned from a deployment in Afghanistan only to find his mother under attack, with campus police walking me to my car after my night classes, and the chair of my department and my dean getting phone calls demanding that I be fired.

My offense was offering extra credit for students to attend—as protesters, observers, or participants—and write about a rally featuring both Democrats and Republicans on the state’s plan to cut funding for the Wisconsin university system. The hate mail and the calls diminished after a time, but the uneasiness remained.

Late last year, it all started up again. With the dubious distinction of being one of the first professors to be named to the Professor Watchlist, there I was again—with my name and email address in the public eye along with a brief description of my crime (no more factual than its initial appearance online).

When I returned to class this semester, my place on the watchlist came with me in a multitude of ways. Speculating whether students in my classroom know I’m on the Watchlist. Wondering whether they believe what they’ve read or heard. Looking over my shoulder as I walk to my car after a night class. Feeling just a little nervous about being in my office when there’s no one else on my floor.

While I didn’t at first take much notice of the AAUP’s online petition of support for professors on the Watchlist, when I saw that over 10,000 had signed it in the first couple of weeks—that was amazing.

That support and the clarity of mission in fighting to ensure that faculty have a voice and protections for academic freedom are why I’m an AAUP member.

Donate to the AAUP Foundation and support the fight for academic freedom.

We need to keep our message to students, to fellow faculty, to administrators, and to the public consistent and strong. Education is about learning. It’s about being exposed to new ideas. It’s about debating openly and without fear. Watchlists be damned.

Beth L. Lueck
Professor of English,
University of Wisconsin, Whitewater