Defending Academic Freedom on Campus

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A gate at Harvard University showing the school’s motto, “Veritas,” or “Truth.”Credit…Adam Glanzman for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Academic Freedom Under Fire,” by Jennifer Schuessler (The Arts, Feb. 17):

Reading this article one might think that the only people concerned about academic freedom are newly formed faculty groups that have “sprung up” at Harvard, Yale and Columbia. In fact, the American Association of University Professors, with about 43,000 members, has defined and defended academic freedom since 1915.

The vast majority of higher education faculty members today are in contingent appointments. They are not eligible for tenure, and so most have no protection when they are disciplined as a result of violations of academic freedom. Faculty everywhere — despite job title or job category — are entitled to academic due process, and that’s where our energies should be channeled.

Since 1915 and urgently since Oct. 7, the A.A.U.P. has advocated a robust concept of academic freedom. We have urged administrators to provide an environment in which no voices are silenced, no ideas are suppressed, and the most deeply held beliefs are subject to challenge.

Faculty members in A.A.U.P. chapters, including at Penn, N.Y.U., Cornell, Columbia and Rutgers, have spoken out against attempts by administrations, donors and politicians to limit the exchange of ideas on campuses.

The A.A.U.P. understands that the academic freedom cases on which it is most important to take a stand are, in fact, the “unclear cases,” and we are never afraid to do so.

Irene Mulvey
The writer is president of the American Association of University Professors.

To the Editor:

Jennifer Schuessler exposes disagreements over campus free speech. It’s a helpful overview of the state of the debate. What is missing is a clear sense of what academic freedom is not.

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