Public Remarks By Delegates On Censure Of University of Nebraska

These are public remarks made by delegates at the 104th Annual Meeting of the AAUP on the issue of adding University of Nebraska-Lincoln to the list of censured administrations. The remarks are reprinted with permission.

My name is Stephen Ramsay, and I’m here representing the AAUP chapter at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (which is an advocacy chapter). This year has been a very difficult one for my institution. The report issued by the investigating team indicates a variety of failures on the part of the University of Nebraska administration, including disregard for the principles of academic freedom and faculty governance. Courtney Lawton, the main subject of the report, was removed from teaching without the required hearings for either a faculty member or a student, without the input of the faculty charged with evaluating her fitness as a teacher, and according to a varied and changing set of rationales manifestly unrelated to her abilities as an instructor. The overall conclusion of the report is disquieting indeed: “There is little doubt that political pressure played a significant role in the Lawton case; in one sense, it is at the very heart of it.”

Sadly, we are compelled to agree with this assessment, since we consider the principles set forth in the Association’s Statement of Principles [on Academic Freedom and Tenure] to have been openly violated. We therefore feel obliged to vote in favor of censuring the University of Nebraska-Lincoln administration, and we encourage the members here gathered to do the same. We would like to thank the three members of the investigating team—Nicole Monnier, Shannon Freire, and Susan Jarosi—for their time, effort, and careful work, and also Joerg Tiede, Associate Secretary in the Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure, and Governance, whose support was invaluable throughout this last difficult year.


My name is Tom Coffey.  I am Interim president of the Nebraska conference of the AAUP and a member of the AAUP since 1970.  This has been a difficult year for academic freedom in the state of Nebraska.  There have been a number of threats to academic freedom within the state. While Nebraska is not alone in experiencing such threats, it appears that we have endured some egregious incidents this year.

In response to one incident at UNL, Committee A sent a team of investigators to the state to examine the effective dismissal of a faculty member for the exercise of free speech.  The report that the team generated is, in our view, meticulous and accurate.  It is with sadness that we witness attacks on those who have devoted themselves to the discovery and dissemination of knowledge and truth.  Without any sense of joy, I cannot do other than vote in favor of the motion to censure the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. On behalf of the Nebraska conference, I wish to express gratitude and appreciation to the national office of the AAUP and especially to Committee A, to Joerg Tiede, its liaison, and to the investigating team.


Publication Date: 
Tuesday, June 19, 2018