Taking a Stand Against Harassment, Part of the Broader Threat to Higher Education

In a statement issued today, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) denounce vicious threats of violence and even death directed against faculty members, their families, or their institutions following remarks they have made, or are alleged to have made, in public speeches, on social media, or in the classroom. The threats are often accompanied by calls for college and university administrators to summarily dismiss or otherwise discipline the offending faculty member. A large number of those threatened have been African American or are involved in race and gender studies.

Prominent cases from last week include Mark Bray, a lecturer at Dartmouth, and Kenneth Storey at the University of Tampa. Other recent high-profile cases involved Johnny Williams (Trinity College), Keeanga Yamahtta-Taylor (Princeton University), Lisa Durden (Essex County College), Dana Cloud (Syracuse University), Sarah E. Bond (University of Iowa), Tommy Curry (Texas A&M University), and George Ciccariello-Maher (Drexel University). The statement refers to only one instance in which an administration’s response served as a best-practice and notes:

[T]hese campaigns of harassment endanger more than the faculty member concerned. They pose a profound and ominous challenge to higher education’s most fundamental values. The right of faculty members to speak or write as citizens, free from institutional censorship or discipline, has long been recognized as a core principle of academic freedom. While colleges and universities must make efforts to provide learning environments that are welcoming, diverse, and safe for all members of the university community and their guests, these efforts cannot and need not come at the expense of the right to free expression of all on campus and the academic freedom of the faculty.

The groups call on college and university presidents, members of governing boards, and other academic leaders to “resist this campaign of harassment by endorsing this statement and making clear to all in their respective institutions that threats to individual members of the academic community, to academic freedom, and to freedom of expression on campus will not be tolerated." 

Read the full statement here.


Institutional representatives who would like to endorse the statement should contact Debra Hanible at [email protected].

Media Contact: 
Laura Markwardt - [email protected] / 202-594-3635
Publication Date: 
Thursday, September 7, 2017