AAUP@FHSU


Is a Campus “Free Speech” Bill in Your Legislature?

The answer is: Extremely likely.

Due to a surge in efforts to chill dissent, undermine academic freedom, and destabilize higher education, over a dozen states currently have a campus “free speech” bill in their state house or senate.

Use this free tool to search for the bill in your state, track its progress, and capture contact information for the legislative committee members reviewing the bill. Simply click on your state, select “Bills” at the top, and type “campus free speech” into the search bar to the right. For committee members, click “Committees” at the top.

Then see the AAUP’s Campus “Free Speech” Toolkit for a phone script, talking points, a primer, and a full report on the issue. With the toolkit, it’s easy to make a quick call or fire off an email to the appropriate legislator.

You’ll be glad you did. Campus speech legislation is an example of legislative interference in the autonomy of universities and colleges. It undermines academic freedom, and chills dissent on campus. This damaging legislation often has some or all of the following characteristics:

  1. Forbids public institutions from disinviting speakers and requires that they remain neutral on “issues of public controversy.”
  2. Establishes mandatory minimum penalties for students or others found to have twice interfered with the free expression of others. Suggested minimum penalties are suspension and expulsion.
  3. Provides that individuals who believe that their free speech has been disrupted or prevented on a public campus may sue the institution to enforce the legislation and can recover court costs and attorney’s fees.
  4. Requires that public institutions create an oversight committee, sometimes called a “Committee on Free Expression,” to oversee the implementation of campus free-speech law and to produce an annual report about the management of free speech on campus.
  5. Requires public institutions to provide training to incoming students, faculty, and staff on their free speech rights under the new law.

Concerned? We all are.

You can make a difference. First, track the bill here.

Then review the AAUP’s Campus Free Speech Toolkit.

Thank you for defending higher education from this unnecessary and speech-chilling legislation.

Monica Owens
Political Organizer, AAUP

P.S. Want to get more involved in defending against campus “free speech” legislation? Click here and an AAUP organizer will get in touch.


How to Fight for Higher Ed as a Public Good

As states divest from public higher education, our colleges and universities face unprecedented threats from undue donor influence and corporations seeking to privatize our public institutions. Here is some information about resources that you may find helpful as we work nationwide to ensure that higher education continues to serve the public good, and not the interests of a wealthy few.

Fight Undue Donor Influence

As a faculty member and president of the AAUP chapter at George Mason University, I’ve been involved in the fight against undue donor influence. Together, faculty, students, public-education allies, and concerned citizens have been working to expose what the Koch brothers and other members of their dark-money network have gotten from over $100 million in restricted gifts to GMU. Turns out—it’s a lot! We’ve exposed donor influence over faculty hiring and retention, research and scholarship, and affiliated centers and institutes.

Now, UnKoch My Campus, with the help of grant funding from the AAUP Foundation, has developed a report with model donor policies that you can download here. The report provides a roadmap for protecting your institution from undue donor influence and includes  templates for faculty senate motions, gift acceptance procedures, and approval processes for donor-sponsored centers.

Fight Privatization and the Primacy of Profit

As we work to end undue donor influence at GMU, we are also confronting the privatization of our public university through expanding online initiatives—and the potential for a fully online university under the Mason brand modeled after Purdue Global. Like many other institutions, GMU is contracting with a for-profit company to do much of the technical work and some of the core academic work to expand online education offerings. It is also considering the creation of a public-private online university that would further privatize higher education in Virginia. Such public-private contracts often benefit shareholders of the private companies rather than students and faculty.

To shape the quality of online education at your institution, check out the AAUP’s Education Not Privatization toolkit here.

No doubt, there is much work to do. Let’s dig in. Check out the tools on offer from AAUP and UnKoch My Campus. Together we can protect academic freedom and higher education as a public good!

In Solidarity,
Bethany Letiecq
Associate Professor, Human Development and Family Science, GMU


Reclaim Online Education from Corporate Control

Faculty across the country are experiencing a major trend toward privatization of higher education. For-profit online education corporations like Academic Partnerships, Kaplan, Wiley, and Pearson contract with institutions to provide digital platforms for educational content, recruit students, manage enrollment, facilitate the development of course materials, and more. According to a Century Foundation report, the vast majority of US public colleges and universities that offer online education programs or courses now rely on external companies.

While the use of digital platforms and online teaching tools can enrich higher education, the for-profit nature of these contracts can compromise educational quality, student privacy, the reputation of the institution, and faculty governance.

AAUP chapters across the country are building a movement to challenge corporate control of online education. Will you help by answering a few brief questions about for-profit online education contracts on your campus?

AAUP faculty have been successfully building power against for-profit online education for years. In 2013, the Rutgers AAUP/AFT chapter successfully challenged the institution’s partnership with Pearson and organized colleagues to opt-out of Pearson-run courses that compromised educational quality and academic freedom.

Now faculty at Purdue University, Eastern Michigan University, and others are taking on for-profit online education deals that compromise educational quality, faculty governance, and the reputation of the institution. Just last week Purdue faculty and the Indiana AAUP scored a huge victory in the campaign to bring an end to required nondisclosure agreements at Purdue University Global, the new Kaplan-run online branch of Purdue University.

AAUP faculty are joining together to reclaim online higher education from corporate control, and we need your help. Answer a few brief questions about for-profit online education contracts on your campus here.

Together we can reclaim faculty power and online education from corporate control.

Monica Owens
Political Organizer, AAUP


AAUP Releases Investigation of Campus Protest Case

I’m writing to you today about a case that crystallizes the current right-wing assault on higher education. It involves issues that the AAUP has been working on intensively this year: faculty harassment and exaggerated controversies over free speech on campus.

The case concerns Courtney Lawton, a graduate student, and part-time lecturer at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. At the beginning of the fall semester, Lawton protested an on-campus recruitment table of Turning Point USA, a conservative organization that maintains the Professor Watchlist. Her protest was recorded by the undergraduate student staffing the table, and the resulting video was widely disseminated online—one of the primary strategies of right-wing groups in their attacks on higher education—leading to threats against her and the university.

While Lawton was under vicious attack for her protest speech, state legislators launched a campaign of political pressure on the university, suggesting that Lawton’s conduct toward the student staffing the recruitment table was representative of a campus climate hostile to conservative views and calling for her dismissal. The Nebraska Republican Party filed open-records requests for email correspondence related to the case, and “campus free-speech” legislation was introduced in a clear example of legislative overreach.

Under pressure, the university administration suspended Lawton from her teaching responsibilities and subsequently refused to reinstate her to the classroom, thus extending her suspension to the end of her term of appointment. This action was tantamount to summary dismissal, as the administration did not afford her any academic due process. An AAUP investigation found that “the conclusion seems inescapable that the basis for Ms. Lawton’s dismissal was related to the political content of her speech and thus may have violated her academic freedom, a conclusion that stands unrebutted absent the affordance of a dismissal hearing.”

We’ll be discussing the case during a Facebook Live tomorrow, May 11, at 1:30 EST. Click here to RSVP.

Campaigns of targeted harassment against individual faculty members and legislative attempts to impose misguided rules on institutions of higher education are on the rise. The AAUP believes that democracy thrives on dissent, critical inquiry, free speech, and free research. That’s why we investigated the case at the University of Nebraska and why we’ve developed resources for you to use in fighting harassment of faculty and misleading “free-speech” legislation on your own campus.

Read our investigative report here.

Hans-Joerg Tiede
Senior Program Officer, Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure, and Governance


A New Age of Activism

From teacher strikes in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona to faculty walkouts in the UK, we’re reminded of how activism can breathe life into movements. Thanks to these amazing demonstrations of solidarity and a renewed focus on education and educators in the media, we have an opportunity to remind the public why faculty and higher education matter.

Summer is a great time to get more involved with this work.

Our Summer Institute will be held July 19 to 22 in Durham, New Hampshire. We bring in organizers, data analysts, seasoned campaigners, and issue experts to build your skills as an advocate for AAUP principles, collective bargaining, and higher education. Learn more here.

You can also take the summer to dive into two of our recently released toolkits, one focused on the targeted harassment of faculty and the other on “campus free-speech” legislation.

  • Campaigns of targeted harassment pose a profound challenge to higher education’s most fundamental values. Our toolkit pulls together resources for addressing it, focusing specifically on Turning Point USA, the right-wing organization behind the Professor Watchlist. Find out more here.
  • “Campus free-speech” legislation, increasingly prevalent in state legislatures, is a solution in search of a problem. Bills purporting to protect free speech on campus have become a popular method for chilling campus dissent and undermining the institutional autonomy of public colleges and universities. Read more and access the toolkit here.

With a potentially damaging decision in the Janus case expected by the end of June, a strong and organized academic workforce has never been more important. Our collective voice is a powerful force to set standards, protect and create better workplaces in our country and in higher education. Standing together also makes it possible for us to negotiate affordable healthcare, a fair return on our work, and the ability to retire with dignity. To learn more about this case, check out our resources on preparing for the challenges ahead.

National AAUP staff and leaders will be busy this summer as well. We’re working to protect your rights to organize and bargain collectively. When opportunities arise, we file amicus briefs in court cases that impact union rights, academic freedom, and other key issues. We respond to incidents of faculty harassment and violations of academic freedom. And we help chapters organize and grow stronger to face the challenges ahead.

Make sure to connect with us on Twitter and Facebook to get regular updates.

Mariah Quinn
Digital Organizer, AAUP


Free Speech on Campus: A Solution in Search of a Problem

“Campus free-speech” legislation, increasingly prevalent in state legislatures, is a solution in search of a problem. Threats to free speech on campus have received outsized media attention in relation to issues with more widespread incidence and deleterious effects, such as diminished public funding of higher education, the adjunctification of the faculty, and a student debt crisis. One thing is clear: bills purporting to protect free speech on campus have become a popular method for legislatures to interfere with and undermine the institutional autonomy of public colleges and universities.

This week, we’re taking a look at the drivers of the current environment of legislative interference on campuses, and giving you tools to help you stay informed and active.

Check out our toolkit on free speech on campus on our One Faculty, One Resistance site.

A little background: the most prevalent campus free-speech legislation being introduced in state legislatures today is drafted from model bills produced by the right-wing think tank the Goldwater Institute. Goldwater-inspired legislation allows individuals to sue an institution if they feel their free-speech rights have been impinged upon on campus and calls for strict disciplinary penalties, such as expulsion or suspension for up to one year for students who are found to have interfered with free expression. While ostensibly meant to protect speech, this approach creates a litigious atmosphere that could cause administrations to become overly cautious, suppressing dissenting voices out of fear of being sued. And the harsh penalties would have serious repercussions for students, in some cases making punishments for interrupting a speaker more severe than those for more serious offenses.

The AAUP, along with other academic groups, has long held that academic administration should be in the hands of academics. Where there are legitimate threats to free speech on campus, they are best addressed by campus administration and faculty–not through the imposition of statewide legislative measures.

Here’s what you can do:

We’ve created a one-page fact sheet to get you up to date on the issue. We’ve also pulled together some effective, easy actions you can take to ensure that heavy-handed legislation doesn’t impinge on your rights on campus. Want to talk to colleagues about this issue? We’ve got some talking points to help guide your discussion and your activism.

The whole free speech toolkit can be found on our One Faculty, One Resistance website. Click here to explore what you can do on this issue.

Want more? Stay tuned — we’ll be talking more about free speech legislation on our Facebook page on Thursday, April 19 at 1:30 ETRSVP here.

Monica Owens,
Political Organizer, AAUP


Shared Governance under Attack in Wisconsin

Since its founding in 1915, the AAUP has sought to ensure meaningful faculty participation in institutional governance.

Last fall, we spoke out when the University of Wisconsin system board of regents announced a plan to merge the system’s two- and four-year institutions—a plan made without meaningful faculty input. It was the latest in a number of unilateral and secretive actions taken by system leaders, the state legislature, and Governor Scott Walker, condemned at the time by the AAUP and AFT Wisconsin as constituting “a concerted attack on the university as a public good and on the university’s role in fostering democratic participation.”

The day after the news of the proposed merger, President Cross, facing backlash from faculty, staff, and students, wrote the following in an email message to a system regent: “Getting hammered by the ‘shared governance’ leaders because they weren’t involved in the process; however, had they been involved we wouldn’t be doing anything!!”

President Cross’s remarks, which came to light last week, have drawn quick condemnation. The lone student representative on the twenty-five-member restructuring committee immediately released a statement that read in part: “It is my sincere hope that divisive sentiments toward the employees and students of the University of Wisconsin System will no longer be tolerated. The comments made were simply inappropriate and must be addressed immediately.”

The UW-Madison chapter of the AAUP followed with an open letter to President Cross, expressing its “deep concern about your willful disregard for the role of shared governance” and concluding:

“With the surfacing of your emails, it is particularly difficult for people who are supposed to share responsibility with you in governing this institution to have any confidence in your leadership. When you treat the core principle of shared governance as a concept so worthy of derision and disregard that you surround it with ‘air quotes’ in an email to a member of the Board of Regents, it is difficult to envision ever regaining that confidence. In short, your attitude and words have done further damage to an already damaged relationship.”

The AAUP’s Committee on College and University Governance joins the growing chorus of voices denouncing President Cross’s ill-judged remarks and calling on him to explain them.

The committee further calls on President Cross to work actively with faculty, staff, and students on developing policies and practices that will restore a meaningful and productive system of shared governance.

The importance of shared governance to protecting academic freedom and quality higher education cannot be overstated. The AAUP’s Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities notes that “a college or university in which all the components are aware of their interdependence, of the usefulness of communication among themselves, and of the force of joint action will enjoy increased capacity to solve educational problems.” And a recent white paper on shared governance issued by the Association of Governing Boards concludes that “shared governance is an essential component of America’s higher education institutions that needs to be preserved and enhanced.”

The AAUP will continue to monitor the situation in Wisconsin.

American Association of University Professors