Robert M. O’Neil has been appointed to serve as AAUP general counsel for 2010–12. O’Neil is the founding director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression and former president of the University of Virginia as well as of the University of Wisconsin system. He is an expert on academic freedom and the author of several books, including Academic Freedom in the Wired World (2007), The First Amendment and Civil Liability (2001), Free Speech in the College Community (1997), The Rights of Public Employees (second edition, 1993), and Classrooms in the Crossfire (1981), in addition to many articles in law reviews and other journals. For the past five years, O’Neil has been director of the Ford Foundation’s Difficult Dialogues Initiative.
O’Neil has served the AAUP in various capacities, including as chair of Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure and as chair of the Special Committee on Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans Universities and the Special Committee on National Security in Time of Crisis. He has served two previous terms (1970–72 and 1990–92) as general counsel.
“In myriad ways, from persistently probing abuses of academic freedom, to asserting professorial rights in the courts, to effectively representing faculty interests through collective bargaining and establishing major policies to enhance due process and fairness in academic governance, the AAUP has been an uncompromising champion of professorial freedoms,” O’Neil says. “Anyone who has served the Association as I have for nearly a half century has seen it evolve in countless ways, while maintaining a constant and compelling presence in the academy."
O’Neil will work closely with the AAUP’s legal staff to pursue Association activities, which include advising on higher education legal issues; preparing amicus briefs; monitoring legal developments in higher education around the country; and keeping the Association apprised of new and emerging legal issues that may have implications in areas such as labor and employment law, freedom of expression, and intellectual property rights.