"A Moment of Clarity for Higher Education" – AAUP president Irene Mulvey denounces continued House Committee higher education interference

Ahead of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce hearing on May 23, this time with the presidents of Rutgers, Northwestern, and UCLA, AAUP president Irene Mulvey released the following statement:

The House Committee’s continued efforts to interfere with, undermine, and delegitimize American higher education in the minds of the public are deplorable. The message conveyed by these hearings—that politicians have the right to control what is or is not taught in a college classroom and the authority to dictate what can or cannot happen on a college campus—is repressive and completely unacceptable in a free society.

Democracy thrives when knowledge production, research, teaching, and learning take place in independent colleges and universities with institutional autonomy. Academic freedom is essential to promote open inquiry, debate, and discussion, and to provide an environment to support education in service of understanding and an appreciation of different points of view, even in disagreement.

Any administrative response to campus demonstrations or protests should be derived from considerations of the primary mission of education. Responses to antisemitism and other hate on campus should be based on the educational mission of the institution. We applaud those colleges and universities who have worked with their students and moved forward through a process of educational engagement.

We hope that the latest batch of college presidents summoned to appear before the committee to play a predetermined role in the next act of disingenuous and performative political theater will have learned something from the earlier hearings. Defensiveness and lawyerly obfuscation cost the presidents of Harvard and Penn their jobs. Throwing academic freedom and faculty under the bus led to an overwhelming faculty vote of no confidence against the president of Columbia, and her attempt at appeasement did not prevent a call for her resignation from the Speaker of the House.

We strongly disagree with those who say the presidents need to “balance” the needs of donors and trustees with competing constituencies. This is a moment of clarity for higher education. America needs these college presidents to stand on principle and give a robust defense of academic freedom as an essential component of a free society, and to declare their intentions to protect academic freedom for faculty as well as free speech and freedom of assembly for all on their campuses.

Publication Date: 
Wednesday, May 22, 2024