Professors promote resolution on academic freedom


Academia needs a tougher, more organized response to the wave of state laws or board policies restricting teaching of race and other so-called divisive concepts. This is the idea behind an effort to get as many senators as possible to pass a resolution entitled “Defend the Academic Freedom to Teach on Racial and Gender Justice and Critical Race Theory.”

More than a dozen faculty senates have already adopted or are considering adopting the model-based resolution, which says that the given Senate “resolutely rejects any attempt by bodies outside the faculty to restrict or dictate the academic curriculum on any matter, including issues related to racial and social justice, and will strongly oppose it. encroachment on the authority of the faculty by the legislature or the boards of directors.

The model resolution calls on the president and rector of the given institution, by name, to do the same. It also states that the Senate faculty donated stands alongside K-12 colleagues facing similar challenges when it comes to teaching “the truth in the history and civics of states. -United”.

Finally, the resolution affirms the “Joint Declaration on Efforts to Restrict Education on RacismWhich was published earlier this year by the American Association of University Professors, PEN America, the American Historical Association, and the Association of American Colleges & Universities and endorsed by other groups.

The model was written by three professors who are work with the African American Policy Forum, in collaboration with the American Association of University Professors. Co-author Valerie Johnson, an endowed professor of urban diplomacy at DePaul University, said the document’s aim is to “raise awareness of the stealthy encroachment of the law on academic freedom.”

For now, she said, “The problem is mostly under the radar at colleges and universities. Those who are aware of the problem believe that it is confined to primary and secondary education.

While it is true that much of the public debate on critical race theory in education takes place in K-12 school board meetings, bans on teaching concepts related to race race have already had an impact on the post-secondary curriculum. A faculty-supported learning outcomes update for a diversity requirement has derailed this year at Iowa State University, for example, due to that state’s new law against teaching divisive concepts. . Oklahoma City Community College has suspended a fully-enrolled summer course in race and ethnicity for respiratory therapy students, and classes in Idaho and Kansas have received extensive review for similar reasons.

“This is an important question that marks an inflection point in American education, both at the K-12 level and at the post-secondary level,” Johnson said. “Anti-CRT legislation is a total attempt to whitewash education by erasing the historical record of and gender oppression and its contemporary consequences. This approach undermines efforts for racial and social justice or diversity, equity and inclusion in American society, especially in predominantly white institutions It is essential to recognize how this is all intertwined.

She added: “If there is no trace of oppression, there is no need for restitution or reparation for its effects. “

Jennifer Ruth, professor of film studies at Portland State University who co-wrote the model with Johnson and Emily Houh, Gustavus Henry Wald professor of law and contracts at the University of Cincinnati, did the praise of the joint statement on academic freedom cited in the model. resolution, as well as PEN America’s recent report on “Educational Gagging Orders” in Different States. But beyond statements and studies, said Ruth, “we need to organize. And we need professors to be careful on every campus, so that when things start happening to their colleagues, they are already informed. They have already spoken about it.

Ruth continued, “We,” as faculty members, “have long had priority over the curriculum. This is our role. It’s about getting teachers to think about this, instead of thinking, “I’m not doing critical race theory” or “I’m busy with my book.”

Another goal of the model is that it gives faculty a united voice on these issues, said Ruth – a voice that will ideally strengthen university presidents’ support for academic freedom, or, less ideally, defend academic freedom. when a president does not. .

“We just don’t see enough hindsight”

The Faculty of System Council at the University of Colorado and the Faculty Assembly on the Boulder Campus of the System adopted resolutions this fall based on the model. In Colorado, faculty members were largely reacting to a separate resolution before the System’s Board of Regents that would have prohibited the use of “race, ethnicity, or gender as a consideration when hiring faculty. or personnel or administration of university programs or program evaluation ”. with a multitude of topics in class. Among these ideas: that “an individual, by reason of race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously”, and that “everyone should feel discomfort, guilt, anxiety or any other form of psychological distress due to race, ethnicity or gender.

The Colorado Board of Directors resolution was moved by Regent Heidi Ganahl, a current Republican running for governor of Colorado. The council’s academic affairs committee was split on the resolution, 2 to 2, but the full council rejected it last month, 3 to 6. (Likewise, the University of Nebraska System Regents Council earlier this year rejected an anti-critical racial theory proposal written by Regent Jim Pillen, a Republican candidate for governor of Nebraska.)

In discussing the model-based resolution ahead of its vote, members of the Boulder Faculty Assembly expressed concern about the effect of the board’s proposal on the program, which has long been viewed as the traditional field of disciplinary experts: the faculty.

“It undermines faculty control over the program,” said Alastair Norcross, associate professor of philosophy at Boulder at the time. “We should all be prepared to die on this hill. This is incredibly important and affirms a basic principle of faculty governance at the university. “

The Ohio State University Senate also recently passed a resolution similar in spirit to the Model and which incorporates language about the Ohio State’s core values. In Ohio, faculty members are faced with legislation known as HB 327, which would prohibit teaching, defending or promoting concepts that divide in public institutions.

Member of the Senate Jared Gardner, Joseph V. Denney Professor of English at Ohio State, said drafting and passing a resolution “was a matter of course for us.” Defending K-12 colleagues against this legislation was an “urgent matter,” he said, and teachers within their own institutions “are required to defend themselves against censorship and politically motivated attempts. to rewrite history to serve ideological agendas ”.

Kristina M. Johnson, President of the State of Ohio, wrote separately to state lawmakers opposing HB 327, saying that academic freedom “already means that belief systems should not be forced upon them. professors or students, and this bill violates that fundamental principle ”. Further, she said, the bill “will hamper Ohio’s public higher education institutions in our ability to attract and retain top talent. Concerns about infringement of academic freedom will grow. teachers to private establishments not included in this legislation or to states which have not adopted statutes. “

Ellen Schrecker, professor emeritus of history at Yeshiva University who called anti-critical legislation on racial theory and related affronts to academic freedom “the new McCarthyism“said,” There isn’t much you can do to stop this formidable steamroller that is trying to wipe out all real content from American education at all levels, Kindergarten to Grade 12 and higher education as well. But the idea of ​​getting the official organs of the Senate of faculties to make a collective statement and address their administrations and boards of directors to explain what is wrong, and ask them to mount some resistance, is absolutely one of the few really brilliant ideas that has emerged as a way to combat this. We just don’t see enough hindsight.


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