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AAUP Foundation Supports Faculty First Responders

By Kelly Hand

The AAUP Foundation’s Academic Freedom Fund has awarded a grant to Isaac Kamola, associate profes­sor of political science at Trinity College in Connecticut, to continue and expand work on his Faculty First Responders project, which assists faculty members who have experienced harassment related to coverage of their activities by right-wing news websites. Donor-funded “watchdogs”—including Campus Reform, College Fix, and Turning Point USA—enlist student reporters who often generate controversy by misrepresenting faculty members with teaching and research interests that focus on race and racism or other topics susceptible to partisan polarization.

The Faculty First Responders project has monitored stories about faculty published on Campus Reform’s website and compiled them in a database with the help of research assistants. Kamola reaches out to targeted faculty members with informational resources and guidance about how to respond to attacks and about appropri­ate administrative responses. He used information from the project database to collaborate with the AAUP on a survey and a data snapshot, based on its results and published online in the spring 2021 issue of Academe, about the impact on faculty of being targeted by Campus Reform. Kamola also works with journalists, faculty members, and administrators who want to learn more about Campus Reform and the threat of targeted harassment.

By covering the cost of a course release, the Foundation grant will enable Kamola to broaden the reach of Faculty First Responders through a project website, a steer­ing committee of faculty members who will assist with monitoring additional news sites and ensur­ing the project’s sustainability, and public presentations and outreach to faculty and administrators.

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