The American Association of University Professors said Wednesday it “rejects the characterization of pro-Palestinian speech or critiques of the Israeli state as invariably antisemitic.”
“Proponents of overly broad definitions of antisemitism and proponents of eliminating teaching about the history of racial and other violence share a desire to mobilize the government to enforce particular, emaciated accounts of history, harm, and injury,” the AAUP’s online statement says, quoting from the group’s 2022 statement on what it then called “Redefinitions of Antisemitism and Racism.”
In the aftermath of Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israeli civilians and soldiers, the new statement says, “Powerful campus outsiders—including donors, legislators, and well-funded political organizations—have escalated demands that institutions crack down on what can be said or expressed on campus.” And “as external demands for action escalated, academic administrators criticized, investigated, suspended, or fired outspoken faculty and staff members who expressed unpopular views.”
This isn’t the first time that the AAUP, which wrote the landmark 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure alongside the American Association of Colleges and Universities, has urged institutions to protect academic freedom amid the ongoing war. On Oct. 24, it released a statement saying, “Academic freedom not only protects faculty speech in teaching, research, and institutional decision-making,” but it also guards faculty members’ right to “address the larger community” regarding matters of social and political interest.
The AAUP asks institutional administrators to “recommit” to protecting faculty academic freedom and student free expression, both on and off campus. That means, among other things, rebuffing demands from fellow faculty members that would interfere with academic freedom. And the group counsels more silence on certain issues from the administrators themselves.
“Administrators who claim to defend academic freedom and then condemn the content of faculty and student speech … risk chilling speech and expression and eroding the very academic freedom that they claim to protect,” it says.
“College and university leaders have no obligation to speak out on the most controversial issues of the day,” the AAUP says. “Their duty is to protect the academic freedom, free speech, and associational rights of faculty and students to speak on all topics of public or political interest without fear of intimidation, retaliation, or punishment.”