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NEWSLETTER, PSU-AAUP

PSU-AAUP on Abuses of Academic Freedom

March 09, 2021 / PSU-AAUP

On March 2, 2021, the Portland State University Faculty Senate passed a resolution on academic freedom. As the resolution reminds the PSU community, “University policies that spell out the commitment to academic freedom also recognize responsibilities that come with it.” It calls attention to the importance of differentiating between “the responsible use of academic freedom and the abuse of academic freedom.” President Percy and Provost Jeffords issued a statement affirming the Senate’s resolution, reiterating the necessity of “guarding against abuses” of free speech and academic freedom. “Our values as an institution,” they wrote, “include creating a safe space for a variety of perspectives and debate of intellectual ideas, advancing racial justice, supporting student success and fulfilling our role as a civic leader and partner within our community.”
 
PSU-AAUP welcomes the Faculty Senate’s resolution and the administration’s affirmation of the values voiced therein. We defend our members’ academic freedom and their right to express it in public forums. However, when this public engagement takes the form of, and indeed encourages, bullying, harassment and intimidation of our colleagues, in violation of the Professional Standards of Conduct Policy, all the while invoking academic freedom as a shield, academic freedom is being abused and undermined. In fact, PSU-AAUP has filed a Division A grievance on behalf of members who have been targets of online bullying and harassment occurring under the guise of academic freedom. 

Even before this Faculty Senate resolution passed and President Percy and Provost Jeffords affirmed it, PSU-AAUP bargained with Administration over these very issues. Although PSU has in place various practices and procedures for dealing with intimidation and harassment at the workplace, we argued that academic freedom is increasingly chilled by public campaigns targeting particular faculty and programs, and that PSU needs to update and disseminate its protocols as part of its commitment to uphold academic freedom. As President Percy and Provost Jeffords noted in their message to campus, one outcome of bargaining over these issues is that the administration and PSU-AAUP agreed to develop a guide for responding to harassment, intimidation, or other pressure from individuals and groups off campus. When individuals on campus participate in or endorse these abusive tactics, they are claiming academic freedom in bad faith.

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