September 13, 2017
President Janet Napolitano
University of California, Office of the President
1111 Franklin Street, 12th Floor
Oakland, CA 94607
Dear President Napolitano,
The Council of UC Faculty Associations board has endorsed a statement, “Taking a Stand Against Harassment,” issued on September 7 by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), and now ask you to endorse it as well.
The statement denounces vicious threats of violence and even death directed against faculty members, their families, or their institutions following remarks they have made, or are alleged to have made, in public speeches, on social media, or in the classroom. The occurrence of these threats has been increasing exponentially in recent months due to the general political polarization in the country, and so have misguided and misplaced calls for college and university administrators to summarily dismiss or otherwise discipline the offending faculty member. A large number of those threatened have been African American or are involved in race and gender studies.
Prominent cases from past weeks include Mark Bray, a lecturer at Dartmouth, and Kenneth Storey at the University of Tampa. Other recent high-profile cases involved Johnny Williams (Trinity College), Keeanga Yamahtta-Taylor (Princeton University), Lisa Durden (Essex County College), Dana Cloud (Syracuse University), Sarah E. Bond (University of Iowa), Tommy Curry (Texas A&M University), and George Ciccariello-Maher (Drexel University). The statement refers to only one instance in which an administration’s response served as a best-practice and notes:
[T]hese campaigns of harassment endanger more than the faculty member concerned. They pose a profound and ominous challenge to higher education’s most fundamental values. The right of faculty members to speak or write as citizens, free from institutional censorship or discipline, has long been recognized as a core principle of academic freedom. While colleges and universities must make efforts to provide learning environments that are welcoming, diverse, and safe for all members of the university community and their guests, these efforts cannot and need not come at the expense of the right to free expression of all on campus and the academic freedom of the faculty.
CUCFA shares AAUP-AFT-AAC&U analysis and concerns. We know you do as well. We thus urge you to consider endorsing publicly their statement, as several others are doing, and to give it visibility throughout the UC System.
Co-Vice President for External Relations
Council of UC Faculty Associations and
Associate Professor of Italian Studies, UC Santa Barbara