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Nationwide, Faculty Fight for Academic Freedom

Will the truth disappear from American colleges? Not if Jennifer RuthValerie Johnson, and Kimberlé Crenshaw can help it. Ruth, a professor of film studies at Portland State University, Johnson, a political scientist at DePaul University, and Crenshaw, a pioneering scholar who teaches at Columbia University and University of California–Los Angeles law schools, have been organizing faculties to fight back against the proposals now coursing through dozens of state legislatures that would prevent teachers from dealing with racism and other politically charged subjects.

Worse than McCarthyism, which only targeted individual dissenters, today’s repressive measures invade the curriculum and the classroom and threaten to deprive students of the rigorous examination of real-world problems that citizens of a democratic society need. While these educational gag orders originally focused on K-12 education, colleges and universities have also come under attack. And professors are fighting back as never before.

Displaying an unprecedented solidarity, the academic community is mobilizing to confront what its members rightly perceive as an existential assault on their professional work and values. Faculty organizations, learned societies, even student groups are forming new coalitions and strengthening old ones as they engage in collective action to stem the tide of repressive legislation—and stiffen the spines of university administrators.

Because it turns out faculty power can work. In several incidents within the past year, professors managed to prevent their institutions from violating their colleagues’ rights. One such victory occurred at the University of Texas, where pressure from on- and off-campus groups forced the administration to reverse its cancellation of a research project studying the effectiveness of anti-racism training for white children after a retired economist affiliated with the conservative American Enterprise Institute disingenuously complained that the study discriminated against Black kids. In an even more egregious case, the University of Florida’s attempt to bar three political scientists from testifying against a bill restricting voting rights was reversed after a massive local protest spurred a tsunami of outrage from individual professors throughout the United States.

Read entire article at The Nation