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


Fighting Targeted Harassment: Join Us January 22-26

Threats of violence. Vicious attacks from right-wing propaganda sites. Firings and forced leaves. The silencing of faculty.

In addition to harming individual faculty members, campaigns of targeted harassment pose a profound and ominous challenge to higher education’s most fundamental values. The right of faculty members to speak or write as citizens, free from institutional censorship or disciplinary action, is a core principle of academic freedom.

The AAUP is at the forefront of fighting targeted harassment. We work directly with affected faculty, campus administrations, and our chapters and state conferences to ensure that faculty members’ academic freedom and due process rights are protected. And our sister organization, the AAUP Foundation, provides direct support to faculty members whose careers are impacted by targeted harassment.

This month, we’re doubling down: starting January 22 we’ll devote a week to the topic of the insidious problem of targeted harassment.

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 hear from a faculty member who was the target of an attack that led to his suspension, and learn how the work of his AAUP chapter led the administration to step back and acknowledge the fundamental importance of academic freedom for the common good and the advancement of truth.

On Friday, January 26, we’ll hold a Facebook Live chat with Joan Wallach Scott and Henry Reichman, members of AAUP’s Committee A and two leading voices in the fight for academic freedom. You can RSVP here; we’ll send a reminder in advance.

We want to hear your voices! Tweet or post using the hashtag #FacultyUnderAttack and we’ll share your stories on our social media feeds.

The fight against the targeted harassment of faculty comes at a time when harassment has been increasing significantly. In these uncertain times, the more we stand together, the more we can accomplish.

Stay tuned.

Julie Schmid
Executive Director, AAUP


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