AAUP@FHSU


Goodbye 2017 – It Was Quite a Year!

2018 looks to be no different, and we’re starting off strong.

In January, an investigating team will visit the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to look into the case of a lecturer who was dismissed at the behest of Nebraska legislators after she protested a recruitment table for Turning Point USA, a radical right-wing organization that maintains the Professor Watchlist website. Her protest, which included the use of anti-fascist slogans, expletives, and obscene gestures, was filmed by the undergraduate student staffing the table and was subsequently posted on websites such as Campus Reform. This case is one of many troubling recent incidents in which right-wing organizations have fomented outrage against higher education, and actions taken by university administrations or legislators in response have had particularly negative consequences for contingent faculty members and faculty of color. We’ll keep you posted as the case develops.

Starting January 22, we’ll devote a full week to sharing resources and information on the issue of targeted harassment of faculty. We’ll share stories from those who have been targeted, provide information on what you can do before and after an incident occurs on your campus, and hold a Facebook live event with a Q&A. Sign up to become part of our action team to help spread the word to as many faculty as possible. We all need to join in this important fight.

Our work fighting political interference on campus continues with a strong showing in the courts. We scored a victory for science this fall when a court rejected harassing public records requests against two University of Arizona faculty members. The case started with a lawsuit filed by a “free market” legal foundation that targets climate scientists in an effort to “put false science on trial.” In an amicus brief in support of the scientists, we argued that public records laws should not be misused in order to chill academic freedom. The court agreed, but the foundation has vowed to “keep peppering universities around the country with similar requests under state open records laws.”

We’re working to ensure that the free flow of information and international academic exchange is not hindered by dangerous governmental interference like the Trump administration’s travel ban. In September the AAUP joined with the American Council on Education (ACE) and other higher education groups in an amicus brief before the US Supreme Court opposing the travel ban. As the case around the revised ban continues to move through the courts we will likely join ACE again in filing a brief. We’re also heartened by your support on this matter–our petition against the ban earlier this year was widely shared and signed.

In November, we filed an amicus brief supporting a challenge to a Texas mandate compelling faculty to permit concealed handguns in college classrooms. Citing decades of social science research, we argued that the presence of weapons has a chilling effect on the rigorous academic exchange of ideas. Our work on this case is ongoing, and we’ll keep you apprised of developments. Want to continue to support our legal work? Donate to the Legal Defense Fund now.

One case that could have a profound impact on the collective voice of those who teach and research in higher education is Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, set to be heard by the Supreme Court in the spring term. This legal threat to union rights is part of a broad and well-funded attack on working people, including faculty members and other academic professionals. We anticipate submitting an amicus brief in the case.

The urgency that our members and supporters feel in fighting such attacks is evident in the overwhelming response to provisions in the GOP tax bill that would devastate graduate education by reclassifying tuition waivers as taxable income and repeal the current student loan interest deduction, a change that would result in an increased cost of roughly $24 billion to student borrowers over the next decade. Thousands of you signed a petition to key members of the House, and many followed up with calls to the Senate and public activism both online and on the ground.

As we head toward January and prepare to shine a spotlight on the targeted harassment of faculty, it’s nice to be able to report a victory for academic freedom. Earlier this year, Professor Johnny Williams of Trinity College in Connecticut was subjected to threats of violence after the radical right-wing organization Campus Reform inaccurately reported on statements he had made on social media. Rather than receiving immediate support from his administration, he was suspended. When the AAUP came out strongly in his defense, the administration acknowledged that the social media posts were protected by academic freedom. We thank our Trinity College AAUP chapter and all those who worked hard to ensure that Williams’s academic freedom was protected.

We look forward to your active participation in our work as we head toward what promises to be an exciting year!

Thank you.

Rudy Fichtenbaum
President, AAUP


One Faculty, One Resistance

After last November’s election, we expressed our concern about unique threats posed by the new administration to core institutions of our democracy and to academic freedom. In the months since, we have seen these threats begin to unfold.

Faculty members are being targeted and harassed, the freedom to join together on the job is in jeopardy, and producers of independent thought and knowledge, including faculty, scientists, and journalists, are threatened. The academic year has begun with a spate of racist incidents on campus, another travel ban aimed primarily at Muslims, the decision to end the DACA program that grants residency to many of our students, and, just last Thursday, a decision by the Supreme Court to take up a case that could strip workers in unions of rights.

We believe that democracy thrives on dissent, critical inquiry, free speech, and free research. And that means that we must do more than witness these events; we must resist them.

That’s why we invite you to check out our One Faculty, One Resistance campaign.

The AAUP is the voice of the profession. As such, we’ve been speaking up for academic freedom for more than 100 years. And in these troubled times, we’re doing it with renewed urgency and vigor.

We’ve created a central space for our campaigns and materials related to these threats– materials to help you fight against targeted harassment of faculty and for the right to teach and conduct research freely, and to resist political interference and litmus tests in higher education.

Take a look around and share news of the campaign! A powerful resistance requires collective action and voice. Click here to share.

Graphic of the website

We’ll be in touch soon.

Rudy Fichtenbaum
President, AAUP


Action against the “travel ban” and a win for science

One of the things your membership supports is our work in the courts to protect academic freedom. I’m writing today to update you on recent legal developments.

Last night the AAUP joined with the American Council on Education and other higher education groups in an amicus brief to the US Supreme Court opposing the Trump administration’s travel ban. We argue that people from the six countries identified in the ban should not be barred or deterred from entering the United States and contributing to our colleges and universities.

As the brief notes, the ban has caused specific harm to higher education. From the moment the executive order containing the ban was signed, recruits were deterred from accepting faculty positions in the United States. Some scholars have pulled out of academic conferences here, either because they were directly affected by the ban or because they were concerned about its impact.

In the brief, we emphasize the international exchange of scholarly work, and explain how the ban “jeopardizes the vital contributions made by foreign students, scholars, and faculty by telling the world in the starkest terms that American colleges and universities are no longer receptive to them.”

The amicus brief is part of the AAUP’s continued work to combat the chilling effects that the administration’s border policies are having on faculty and higher education. We are also looking into legal issues related to a regulation that authorizes border patrol officers to search a traveler’s electronic devices at the borders without any basis for suspicion. In conjunction with the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, we are seeking information from affected faculty members; if you have had an experience of this kind, please read more and submit information here.

Another facet of our legal work involves defending scientists against a campaign of harassment being carried out by a group that opposes climate science and has stated that it intends to “keep peppering universities around the country” with requests for climate science research records. On Friday, we got some good news as the Arizona Court of Appeals rejected attempts by this group to use public records requests to compel two University of Arizona faculty members to release emails related to their research.

In an amicus brief in support of the scientists, the AAUP had argued that state statute creates an exemption to public release of records for academic research records, and that a general statutory exemption protecting records when in the best interests of the state, in particular, the state’s interest in academic freedom, should have been considered. The appeals court agreed. Read more here.

Lastly, I’d like to take a minute to thank you for standing with the AAUP.  In busy times like this, it is important to remember that members like you make this work and our victories possible.

Regards,
Aaron Nisenson
AAUP Senior Counsel

P.S. Please consider supporting the legal defense of higher education through a donation to the AAUP’s Foundation’s Legal Defense Fund.