Resource on Political Interference in Higher Education

By Michael DeCesare

A new statement, which was published on the AAUP’s website in January, begins by identifying four recent trends in political interference in higher education: restricting aca­demic freedom by limiting teaching about race, gender, and sexuality; requiring intellectual and viewpoint diversity statements and surveys; cutting funding for diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts; and weaken­ing faculty rights by eliminating tenure and placing restrictions on collective bargaining.

After describing the deleterious effects of these trends on academic freedom, tenure, and faculty governance, the statement suggests a number of practical ways faculty members might mobilize resources and build power through organiz­ing, including by increasing the government relations capacity of AAUP chapters and conferences, conducting a review of the state legislature’s 2023 legislative session and preparing for the 2024 session, and holding the governing board and administration accountable when an institution experiences political interference.

The statement includes two appendixes. The first presents talking points based on AAUP-recommended policies and pro­cedural standards to inform faculty members’ discussions with legislators, reporters, and other nonacademic audiences. The sec­ond contains a sample resolution that faculty senates and similar bodies may adopt calling upon their institutions’ governing boards and administrations to promote and defend AAUP-supported principles and standards of aca­demic freedom, tenure, and faculty governance in response to political interference.