Victory at Trinity College

By Hans-Joerg Tiede

In June, the administration of Trinity College in Connecticut placed Johnny Williams, an associate professor of sociology with twenty-one years of service at the institution, on involuntary leave after reports on the website Campus Reform about his social media posts were followed by threats and the closure of the campus. The AAUP responded by issuing a letter urging Trinity College president Joanne Berger-Sweeney to reinstate Williams to his regular duties immediately. AAUP staff also informed the administration of plans to send a committee of inquiry to visit the college the following month, and the Trinity College AAUP chapter organized expressions of solidarity and opposition to the administration’s actions.

In a victory for academic freedom, the administration acknowledged in early July that Williams’s social media posts “were protected by academic freedom and did not violate Trinity College policies.” A statement from the administration observed that “our understanding of academic freedom in America today is rooted largely in a joint statement from 1940 by the American Association of University Professors and the Association of American Colleges that asserted the fundamental importance of academic freedom for the common good and the advancement of truth.” The statement also noted that “the initial report by Campus Reform led to distortions and an ensuing harassment that has become troublingly common for people of color and those who speak out on issues of race and racism.” Williams has agreed to remain on a leave of absence through the fall semester.

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