AAUP Calls for Academic Freedom in Polarizing Times

By Kelly Hand

In a series of four statements issued last fall, the AAUP addressed ten­sions on college and university campuses amid the crisis in the Middle East, focusing on the aca­demic freedom issues at stake. The first statement appeared in October, as protests proliferated in response to the Israel-Hamas war, followed by another statement in November and two in December, as external pressure on colleges and universities to restrict campus discourse about the conflict escalated. The state­ments draw on AAUP principles of academic freedom, asserting the rights of faculty members and students to express controversial views and calling on institutional authorities to refrain from sanction­ing them for such views.

Emphasizing the duty of higher education institutions to protect principles of academic freedom and free and open inquiry on campus, the statements insist that admin­istrators must resist efforts by politicians, donors, and trustees to exert control over campus speech, conduct, or safety measures and to penalize those who speak out, teach, or conduct research about the current conflict. Such interfer­ence, whether at public or private institutions, undermines institu­tional autonomy and threatens the principles of academic freedom and shared governance that underlie higher education’s fundamental purpose: “to foster free and open inquiry that can produce knowledge for the public good in a democratic society.” The statements appear as updates on the AAUP website at https://www.aaup.org/news/whats-new-aaup/2023.