Victory at Rutgers

By Hans-Joerg Tiede

In August, the AAUP learned of an investigation by Rutgers University’s Office of Employment Equity into complaints over Facebook posts on gentrification and white privilege by history professor James Livingston. The investigation concluded that his posts “were not protected by the First Amendment and furthermore violated the university’s policy on discrimination and harassment.”

At the request of the Rutgers AAUP-AFT chapter, the Association’s staff wrote an advisory letter to the chapter, expressing concern that any discipline stemming from that report would likely violate long-standing principles of academic freedom that are recognized in Rutgers’s own policies and collective bargaining agreement. The inclusion of these principles in the institution’s policies dates back to the removal of Rutgers from the Association’s list of censured administrations in 1958 and also to a well-known academic freedom case at the institution that led the AAUP to bestow its Alexander Meiklejohn Award upon Rutgers president Mason W. Gross and the board of governors in 1966. The letter concluded that “it would be a matter of great disappointment to this Association if the Rutgers administration were now to fail to live up to the example set by their predecessors.”

The chapter later provided the advisory letter to Rutgers president Robert Barchi. The next day Barchi announced that he had remanded the report to the Office of Employment Equity and asked that the office “more rigorously analyze the facts and assumptions underlying its conclusions.” The president further announced the establishment of an advisory group “to provide guidance on alleged policy violations that involve First Amendment and academic freedom questions.” The Association will continue to monitor the situation.

Comments

Agreed -- the reconsideration of an outrageous decision reached by the administration's staff is progress, however let's not declare victory until the final result is in.

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