Taking a Stand Against Harassment

By Kelly Hand

In September, the AAUP issued a joint statement with the American Federation of Teachers and the Association of American Col­leges and Universities denouncing the disturbing trend of faculty members being singled out for campaigns of harassment in response to remarks they have made—or are alleged to have made—in public speeches, on social media, or in the classroom. In recent months, a number of faculty members—many of them African American—have received threats of violence and even death, sometimes directed against their families. These attacks and threats endanger not only the individuals concerned but also the fundamen­tal values of higher education.

Campaigns of harassment often include calls for colleges and universities to dismiss or discipline faculty members who have made provocative remarks, some of which were misconstrued, misattributed, or never made at all. The joint statement expresses concern that administrators have responded to such outside pres­sures equivocally or inadequately and urges them instead to follow the example of Syracuse Univer­sity chancellor Kent Syverud, who declared an unyielding commit­ment to academic freedom and free speech. He said, “Our faculty must be able to say and write things—including things that provoke some or make others uncomfortable—up to the very limits of the law.”

The statement calls on college and university presidents, members of governing boards, and other academic leaders to stand against harassment campaigns by endors­ing the statement and refusing to tolerate threats to individual members of the academic commu­nity, to academic freedom, and to freedom of expression on campus. Early endorsers of the statement include the American Studies Asso­ciation, the Council of University of California Faculty Associations, the president of Wesleyan University, and the executive dean of the College of Letters and Science at the University of California, Berkeley.

Institutional representatives who would like to endorse the statement should contact Debra Hanible at dhanible@aaup.org.

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