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The American Association of University Professors is starting what it is calling a Center for the Defense of Academic Freedom with a grant of more than $1.5 million from the Mellon Foundation.

In a news release Wednesday, the AAUP said the center aims to study and confront “the recent surge of political and ideological attacks on American higher education” and “will bring together higher education and academic freedom experts over the course of the next two years to develop a comprehensive understanding of the scope and nature of political interference in higher education and develop means of countering this assault.”

The center will also create a “record of the political organizations, think tanks, donors, and political operatives most responsible for the current wave of attacks,” the release said.

Hans-Joerg Tiede, senior program officer in the AAUP’s Department of Research and Public Policy, told Inside Higher Ed that he thinks the grant will primarily go toward hiring “maybe 12 to 15” fellows, likely to be faculty members, before the start of summer. The fellows “will make recommendations about how to best defend academic freedom in the future,” Tiede said.

“There’s been a long-standing campaign, I would say, to vilify higher education” and characterize it “as a left-wing indoctrination factory,” he said. He said there’s been little effort to provide a counternarrative, and the center is designed to do that.