Defend Academic Freedom

CGEU defends the right of academics to write, lecture, and teach without threat to their jobs, privacy, or safety. It is the role of University leadership to defend faculty and students from attacks on those freedoms.

We have recently witnessed several large scale attacks on academic freedom led by the extreme right wing. In the case of Steven Salaita, a highly organized campaign targeted University donors, and administration, encouraging them to invalidate the hiring decision of the American Indian Studies Department at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champagne. More recently, an internet-based racist campaign targeted historian Keeanga Yamhatta-Taylor, making threats against her life, and causing her to cancel a lecture tour. A similar campaign targeted political theorist George Ciccariello-Maher, causing his administration to launch an investigation, in spite of tenure.

The thread connecting these incidents is the administration’s unwillingness to defend academics attacked for their views; and oftentimes, their collaboration with the attackers. These universities give the appearance of caring more about their image in the eyes of the far-right than about the principle of academic freedom.

Academia’s weakness in the face of these attacks is a likely reason for their continuation. The fascist attack on our rights is not to be considered as a “point of view” in a debate; it is to be recognized as an attack. It does not seek to voice a disagreement or even a grievance; it seeks to silence through threats, violence, and administrative control. Therefore, be it resolved:

We extend our solidarity to Keeanga Yamhatta-Taylor, George Ciccariello-Maher, Steven Salaita, Tommy Curry, and all other academics attacked by far-right reactionaries;

We reject the political attempts of university administrations to overturn departmental hiring and promotion decisions;

We call on universities to honor academic freedom irrespective of institutional bias towards any particular discourse, and to condemn any ideological positions that seek to perpetuate discrimination against oppressed groups, while encouraging the maintenance of standards of academic merit and integrity.

We call on university administrations to vigorously defend those employees whose rights are under attack.