AAUP@FHSU


I Was a Target

Last summer, the right-wing website Campus Reform misrepresented social media postings that I made, leading to a barrage of online and voicemail threats against me and others at my institution, Trinity College in Connecticut. Like other faculty who have been threatened and harassed this year, I was targeted over remarks I made that drew attention to racism. The threats were so severe that I feared for my safety and that of my family.

I expected administrators at my school to defend academic freedom against the right-wing outrage machine that is targeting faculty across the country. Instead, they placed me on involuntary leave and publicly criticized my comments, as if the threat was coming from me.

Fortunately, the AAUP was there. The AAUP chapter on my campus and a large group of other colleagues signed a statement noting that the decision to place me on leave was a clear violation of AAUP standards. Chapter leaders consulted with the national AAUP, which urged the Trinity administration to reinstate me. Ultimately, the administration acknowledged that my posts were protected by academic freedom, noting that “Our understanding of academic freedom in America today is rooted largely in a joint statement from 1940 by the American Association of University Professors and the Association of American Colleges that asserted the fundamental importance of academic freedom for the common good and the advancement of truth.”

Now more than ever, we need an organization that exists to protect academic freedom, and that stands up against targeted harassment of faculty. Thank you for being there.

Regards,

Johnny Williams
Professor of Sociology at Trinity College


In Depth: Academe Tackles Targeted Harassment

The latest issue of Academe magazine comes at a timely moment, as it takes an in-depth look at the right-wing assault on academia. The issue includes a series of articles that specifically examine the targeted harassment of faculty.

A profile of the AAUP chapter at Trinity College in Connecticut offers insight into how the newly formed chapter mobilized over the summer on behalf of Professor Johnny Williams after he was attacked on social media and subsequently suspended by the school’s administration. A group of sixty colleagues demanded that the administration rescind its decision, and the chapter’s executive committee issued a statement of support for Williams, citing concerns about academic freedom, due process, and the stifling of “critical engagement with issues of race.” Read more here.

A feature article by Joshua A. Cuevas of the University of North Georgia documents how he was targeted by white supremacists waging a cultural war on what they perceive as the left-wing, intellectual elite. He details the waves of attacks he personally endured as a victim of targeted harassment and argues, “Academia has been too timid in countering such movements. We should not have to speak in hushed tones when we condemn hate groups. We should not have to be apprehensive when we promote democratic ideals and equality.” Read the full piece here.

If you’re interested in Friday’s Facebook Live conversation with Joan Wallach Scott and Hank Reichman, check out an interview Scott gave to Bill Moyers this past fall. Scott says that while attacks on academics are not new, the Trump election empowered a number of different groups whose aim is to stop the teaching of critical thinking. Check out the interview here.

In a final article of interest, Anita Levy, a senior program officer in the AAUP’s Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure, and Governance, provides summaries of several reports of harassment that the AAUP received after asking faculty last year to share their experiences. She notes that in many cases, the triggering event that led to the harassment occurred in the course of faculty members’ normal academic duties as teachers, researchers, or concerned citizen-scholars addressing the public. Read more here.

We’d still like to hear from you—share your stories or thoughts on targeted harassment using the hashtag #FacultyUnderAttack and we’ll post selections on our social media feeds. And remember to join us on Friday for the Facebook Live conversation on targeted harassment. To read all these articles and to see all our resources for the week, check out our page on One Faculty, One Resistance.

The AAUP


A Political Environment Ripe for Targeted Harassment

One year ago today, Donald J. Trump was sworn in as president. During his administration, the political environment has become increasingly hostile to higher education and academics. We have seen a travel ban targeting people, including faculty and students, from Muslim countries; attacks on campuses that fought to protect their students as part of the sanctuary campus movement; and an expanded platform for radical right-wing groups that target faculty and academic freedom.

The AAUP has been fighting these attacks in the courts and in our daily work. As a result of the spike in cases of targeted harassment that has occurred in the last year, we’re working harder than ever to combat attacks on faculty. Last week we let you know that we’re going to be shining a spotlight on the subject during the week of January 22. Be sure to join us.

And here’s something you can do to fight targeted harassment right now. Sign a petition in support of Laurie Rubel, a professor of mathematics education at Brooklyn College, who has become the latest target of right-wing sites and faces a wave of deeply disturbing harassment.

Learn more and sign here.

Dr. Rubel’s case demonstrates why being informed and ready to act when it comes to targeted harassment has never been more important. Starting Monday, 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 also hear from a faculty member who was the target of an attack that led to his suspension, and on Friday, January 26, we’ll hold a Facebook Live chat with Joan Wallach Scott and Hank Reichman, two leading voices in the fight for academic freedom.

We’ll send you information throughout next week. Want to do more?

Donate to the AAUP Foundation and support its continued work fighting for academic freedom in the courts and enabling us to investigate cases where faculty voices are being curtailed and targeted.

One year in, the fight continues.

The AAUP

P.S. To see all our resources for the week, check out our page on One Faculty, One Resistance.


Targeted Harassment: What to do

What do you do if you or a fellow faculty member on your campus is subject to targeted online harassment?

In the current political climate, this has become everyday reality in higher education, and the AAUP has developed some resources to help guide you and your colleagues when these situations do arise. All of the resources can be found on our One Faculty, One Resistance site.

We’ve created a one-page guide to help you prepare to respond to cases of targeted harassment. By actively engaging with your administration to plan for cases of targeted harassment on campus and ensuring that institutional regulations or collective bargaining agreements reflect that academic freedom includes the freedom of faculty members to speak as citizens, you can help establish procedures for an institutional response when incidents occur.

We also developed a brief guide to social media policies. We believe that while institutional policies can provide guidance to faculty members who post in an official capacity, any such policies must recognize that social media can be used to address matters of public concern and thus that their use by faculty members speaking as citizens is subject to Association-supported principles of academic freedom.

Those guides along with a form to submit cases of targeted harassment and a look at some of work intervening on behalf of professors who have been targeted can be found on our One Faculty, One Resistance website.

Remember to share your thoughts and stories using the hashtag #FacultyUnderAttack

Mariah Quinn
Senior Program Officer, Digital Organizing


Letter to the president of Trinity College

The AAUP has written a letter to the president of Trinity College, urging her to immediately reinstate Professor Johnny Eric Williams to his normal faculty duties after the institution placed him on leave on Monday. Professor Williams, an associate professor of sociology with twenty-one years of service at Trinity College, was the target of a flood of threats following reports about his social media postings by the right-wing media outlet Campus Reform.

Read the full letter from the AAUP here.

The AAUP has long held that academic freedom includes the freedom to address the larger community with regard to any matter of social, political, economic, or other interest without institutional discipline or restraint, save in response to fundamental violations of professional ethics or statements that suggest disciplinary incompetence. The AAUP is concerned that the administration’s actions may have violated Professor Williams’s academic freedom. It also appears that the action taken against Professor Williams is entirely at odds with normative standards of academic due process.

The case of Professor Williams comes at a time of heightened targeted harassment of faculty. We condemn the practice of bombarding faculty members and institutions of higher education with threats. Such threatening messages are likely to stifle free expression and cause faculty and others on campus to self-censor so as to avoid being subjected to similar treatment.

Sign the AAUP’s statement against targeted harassment of faculty now.

The AAUP