The American Association of University Professors on Thursday condemned a recent pattern of threats against faculty members for their public comments. “We are dismayed that another faculty member, John Eric Williams of Trinity College [in Connecticut], has become the target of a flood of threats following reports about his social media postings by the right-wing media outlet Campus Reform,” AAUP said in a statement. “We support and stand with our colleagues and campus communities whose academic freedom is threatened. The free exchange of ideas is incompatible with an atmosphere of fear.”
Williams was threatened, triggering a temporary campus shutdown this week, after Campus Reform and other websites shared some of his Facebook posts about race; Williams has since said they were taken out of context.
“This is the second time this month that an institution of higher education has had to close down in response to threats, disrupting education and creating an environment of fear on campus,” AAUP said, referring to another temporary campus shutdown at Evergreen State College over threats related to a faculty member’s public questioning of a planned day of protest there. Several other faculty members on other campuses also have been physically threatened and harassed online in recent weeks.
“We condemn the practice, becoming all too common, of bombarding faculty members and institutions of higher education with threats,” reads AAUP’s statement. “When one disagrees with statements made by others, threats of violence are not the appropriate response. Such threatening messages are likely to stifle free expression and cause faculty and others on campus to self-censor so as to avoid being subjected to similar treatment. Targeted online harassment is a threat to academic freedom.”
The association earlier this year released a set of institutional recommendations for dealing with targeted online harassment of professors.