President’s Column: Challenges and Opportunities in the Year Ahead

Posted by  Ashley Bromley   in       Jan 5, 2018     1201 Views     Comments Off on President’s Column: Challenges and Opportunities in the Year Ahead  

by Michael Dreiling, President, AAUP-Oregon

As we wrap up our brief winter holiday, I have a few locally relevant wishes. First, let’s pass Measure 101 in 2018.  We have an important special election in Oregon coming this January for ballot Measure 101. Read more about it here, and be sure to get your ballot in by January 23. Please vote yes for healthcare for 350,000 Oregonians, most of whom are children.

Secondly, our world needs some liberation from the twisted bigotry that is spewing across the globe. Faculty, graduate employees, and students across Oregon have witnessed an upsurge in activity by white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups in the last year. Like elsewhere in the country, neo-Nazis are postering campus bulletin boards, marking spaces with Nazi and white supremacist graffiti, engaging in acts of violence and hate, and infiltrating groups on our campuses. Faculty are reporting instances where white supremacists are more vocal with their opinions in university classrooms. How do instructors deal with the heightened toxicity of racism in the classroom?  Does students’ academic freedom empower them to speak out in ways that are offensive or frightening to other students? When dealing with speech-related offenses, there is no ready script. But it is important to evoke some old principles here. Referencing a classic AAUP statement, we recall that instructors “are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject…” (AAUP 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure).  A necessary part of that freedom entails developing expectations for both classroom conduct and standards of scholarly exchange. Ideas and opinions that have no standing in a field – such as holocaust denial – can be rebutted, but also proscribed as having no scholarly legitimacy.  In this sense, the freedom of expression that students (and the public) find on campus is not the same as their freedom of expression in the classroom. Faculty can and do exercise control in their classrooms, though certainly within bonds, and should do so in ways that administrators should not on the campus as a whole.

I wish you all a revitalized 2018!