Academic Freedom and Institutional Matters

Wade v. University of Michigan, SC: 156150 (Mich. Nov. 6, 2020)

On March 1, 2021, the AAUP joined an amicus brief with Brady: United Against Gun Violence (formerly the Brady Center) and Team ENOUGH filed in the State of Michigan Supreme Court in support of an appeal affirming that the University of Michigan’s prohibition on firearms does not infringe on Second Amendment rights. The brief argues that the university’s firearm prohibition furthers its compelling and critical interest in maintaining an environment that safeguards the free speech and academic freedom interests of university faculty to research and teach controversial topics and advance the university’s core institutional objectives and the students’ ability to freely exchange ideas, engage in political or issue activism, and peacefully protest on the university campus.

Margaret DeWeese-Boyd v. Gordon College, D. Michael Lindsay, and Janel Curry, 163 N.E.3d 1000 (Mass. Sup. Ct. 2021)

In a great win for faculty at religious institutions, and consistent with the AAUP’s arguments in an amicus brief, the Massachusetts Supreme Court held that plaintiff Margaret DeWeese-Boyd is not a minister of defendant Gordon College for the purposes of the First Amendment “ministerial exception” and thus she was entitled to protection by Massachusetts employment laws. The AAUP amicus brief explained why the ministerial exception, which is intended to prevent government intrusion into a religious institution’s relationship with its ministers, does not apply to the typical faculty member like DeWeese-Boyd at a religious college. The court agreed, finding that the “ministerial exception” did not apply because, while Gordon College was a religious institution, DeWeese-Boyd was not a minister based on what “DeWeese-Boyd actually did, and what she did not do” as a faculty member.

City & Cty. of San Francisco v. Trump, 897 F. 3d 1225 (9th Cir. 2018)

The Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit declared unconstitutional the Trump administration's executive order withholding federal funds from sanctuary cities and counties. The AAUP joined an amicus brief opposing the executive order and supporting a permanent injunction preventing its enforcement. The appeals court held that under the principle of Separation of Powers and in consideration of the Spending Clause, which vests exclusive power to Congress to impose conditions on federal grants, the executive branch may not refuse to disperse the federal grants in question without congressional authorization. Because Congress has not acted, the panel affirmed the district court’s decision finding that the Executive Order was unconstitutional. The appeals court upheld the permanent injunction preventing enforcement of the order against the city and county of San Francisco and in California, but lifted the nationwide injunction and sent the case back to the lower court for a more searching inquiry into the need for such relief.

Kincaid v. Gibson, 236 F.3d 342 (6th Cir. 2001)

Plaintiffs sued, alleging a violation of their First Amendment rights when college administrators banned the distribution of a student-created college yearbook based on its cover and contents.

Urofsky v. Gilmore, 216 F.3d 401 (4th Cir. 2000)

Several Virginia public college and university  professors challenged a law that restricted the ability of state employees to access sexually explicit material on state-owned or state-leased computers, alleging that the law interferes with their academic freedom to research and teach.

Schrier v. University of Colorado, 427 F.3d 1253 (10th Cir. 2005)

Dr. Robert Schrier, a tenured faculty member, alleged that university employees terminated his chairmanship in retaliation for his public speech about the financial feasibility of moving a health sciences center. The district court opined that Dr. Schrier's status as a university professor did not entitled him to rights distinctive from those of any other public employees. 

Association of Christian Schools International, et al. v. Roman Stearns, et al., 362 Fed. Appx. 640 (9th Cir. 2010)

The  plaintiffs argued that  the University of California’s admission process ,which evaluated high school courses to ensure they were college preparatory, violated their First Amendment rights. The AAUP’s amicus brief urges the Ninth Circuit to affirm the district court’s decision that the University of California’s admission process is constitutional and emphasizes that faculty involvement in the university’s admissions process is crucial to academic freedom.  

Crue v. Aiken, 204 F. Supp. 2d 1130 (C.D. Ill. 2002); Crue v. Aiken, 370 F.3d 668 (7th Cir. 2004 )

This case involves a challenge by faculty and students at the University of Illinois-Champaign to the administration's policy prohibiting them from communicating with prospective student athletes.