Center for the Defense of Academic Freedom


New Paper Examines Partisan Megadonors' Funding of Attacks on Higher Ed (May 2024)

AAUP Receives Mellon Grant for Academic Freedom Center (February 2024)

New Fellows Announced for the Center for the Defense of Academic Freedom (June 2024)


White paper: Manufacturing Backlash: Right-Wing Think Tanks and Legislative Attacks on Higher Education, 2021–2023 (pdf)

About the Center

With funding from the Mellon Foundation, the AAUP has established a Center for the Defense of Academic Freedom, with the aim of examining and confronting the recent surge of political and ideological attacks on American higher education. The center will bring together higher education and academic freedom experts over two years (2024–25) to develop a comprehensive understanding of the scope and nature of political interference in higher education and develop means of countering this assault.

The Center for the Defense of Academic Freedom will compile a database of the political organizations, think tanks, donors, and political operatives most responsible for the current wave of attacks and evaluate their success in shaping the trajectory of US higher education. Using this research, the AAUP intends to formulate a strategic campaign to fight back to protect academic freedom in America’s colleges and universities and ensure that the unrestricted search for knowledge in service of the common good remains the guiding force in American higher education.

Center Director

Isaac Kamola

Program Coordinator

Allison Puglia 


Timothy R. Cain is professor in the University of Georgia’s Louise McBee Institute of Higher Education and the author of Establishing Academic Freedom and Campus Unions.

Sumi Cho is the director of strategic initiatives at the African American Policy Forum. 

Eve Darian-Smith is professor and chair of the Department of Global Studies and International Studies at the University of California, Irvine.

Mary Anne Franks is the Eugene L. and Barbara A. Bernard Professor in Intellectual Property, Technology, and Civil Rights Law at George Washington Law School.

Sandy Grande is professor of political science and Native American and Indigenous studies at the University of Connecticut.

Eli Meyerhoff is a visiting scholar and program coordinator in the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke University.

Liz Montegary is associate professor of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at Stony Brook University.

Nancy MacLean is the William H. Chafe Professor of History and Public Policy at Duke University.

Demetri L. Morgan is part of the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education at the University of Michigan.

Donald Moynihan is the McCourt Chair at the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University. 

Naomi Oreskes is the Henry Charles Lea Professor of the History of Science and affiliated professor of earth and planetary sciences at Harvard University.

Vineeta Singh teaches in the interdisciplinary studies program at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Barrett Taylor is professor and coordinator of the higher education program at the University of North Texas. 

John Warner has been blogging about higher education at Inside Higher Ed for over a decade.

Joy Ann Williamson-Lott is dean of the graduate school and professor of social and cultural foundations in the College of Education at the University of Washington.

See more information about the center's fellows here