Violence at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech)
On April 16, 2007, five faculty members and twenty-seven students were killed at Virginia Tech. We grieve this senseless loss of life, a grim reminder that our campuses are not immune from acts of violence that can disfigure the broader society. We extend to the faculty, students, and administration of Virginia Tech our collegial sympathy and our deep admiration for their determination to continue to teach and learn in the aftermath of this horrific carnage. Colleges and universities face complex challenges and difficult choices in guarding their communities against individuals intent on taking lives. They cannot become fortresses of security, but they must take every reasonable step to protect those who study, work, and live on their campuses. This annual meeting encourages the continuing search for realistic and appropriate measures that will help ensure campus safety.
Arrests in Iran
The Ninety-third Annual Meeting of the American Association of University Professors deplores recent actions by the government of Iran to detain or arrest three Iranian-Americans, two academic researchers and a journalist, as well as a French-Iranian journalism student, on grounds of having worked "against the sovereignty of the country." Particularly outrageous is the case of Dr. Haleh Esfandiari, director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. She was prevented from leaving Iran last December after one of her periodic visits to her elderly mother, was questioned at length over several months by Iranian intelligence officials about the activities and programs of the Wilson Center, and was jailed in the notorious Evin prison on May 8.
We are appalled that a scholar can be imprisoned because government authorities are displeased with scholarly projects with which she is associated. Such action not only injures the individuals but also potentially impairs opportunities for the educational and scientific exchanges that are vital to our academic endeavors. This meeting joins with others in calling upon the government of Iran to release Dr. Esfandiari immediately from prison and allow her to return to her academic work in the United States. We also urge Iranian authorities to free the other researcher and journalists who have been detained and allow them to leave Iran if that is their wish. We urge the government of the United States to be unremitting in peaceful efforts to secure their freedom.
In Appreciation of Duane Storti
In 2004, Professor Duane Storti, president of the AAUP chapter at the University of Washington but acting on his own initiative, brought a class-action lawsuit against the university for violating provisions of the faculty handbook by having failed to provide a two-percent salary increase to faculty for the 2002–03 academic year. In an October 2005 decision, a state court ruled that the university had breached its "mandatory duty" to award faculty an annual increase as required by the faculty handbook. In March 2006, the University of Washington agreed to pay $17.45 million in back pay and interest to settle the lawsuit.
The Ninety-third Annual Meeting of the American Association of University Professors commends Professor Storti for his singular achievement in protecting the economic interests of the faculty of the University of Washington and the authority of the university’s faculty handbook. We applaud his initiative in behalf of the University of Washington faculty and of the profession.
The Fiftieth Anniversary of Sweezy v. New Hampshire
This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the United States Supreme Court's decision in Sweezy v. New Hampshire. In an investigation conducted by the attorney general of New Hampshire to determine whether there were "subversive persons" in the state, Paul Sweezy, a visiting scholar at the University of New Hampshire who had given a lecture on Marxism, answered most questions asked of him but refused to answer questions related to the content of the lecture. Ruling in favor of Sweezy, the court expressly recognized for the first time that college teachers may claim legal protection for their expressions and affiliations. Chief Justice Earl Warren, writing for the majority, declared that "the essentiality of freedom in the community of American universities is almost self-evident," adding that "teachers and students must always remain free to inquire, to study and to evaluate, to gain new maturity and understanding; otherwise our civilization will stagnate and die." Justice Felix Frankfurter, in an eloquent concurring opinion, gave even greater stature to the embryonic constitutional doctrine of academic freedom. Although faculty interests have not always prevailed in litigation, the Supreme Court has never disavowed or even seriously questioned the principles it first announced in the Sweezy case, and has applied those principles in myriad contexts beneficial to the academic community.
Consistently during the past half century, the AAUP has played a vital role in the shaping and strengthening of the legal principles that protect academic freedom, chiefly by filing amicus curiae briefs in cases that challenged disclaimer-type loyalty oaths, intrusive legislative investigations, and other government actions that threaten or diminish free expression and free inquiry in the academic community. Indeed, on several occasions courts have invoked AAUP statements and policies as authoritative sources of views and values to guide relations between the campus and the larger world. This process began precisely a half century ago.
The Association's Ninety-third Annual Meeting, noting this anniversary of judicial recognition, in the Sweezy case, of basic precepts of academic freedom reaffirms the Association's commitment to academic freedom as essential to institutions of higher learning.