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The American Association of University Professors, the American Federation of Teachers and the Association of American Colleges and Universities released a joint statement today denouncing harassment campaigns against faculty members for their public speech. In recent months, numerous scholars -- many of them minorities -- have been physically threatened and weathered public calls for their termination over comments they’ve made about race or other controversial issues.

The groups ask college and university presidents, members of governing boards, and other academic leaders to endorse their stance and “resist” harassment campaigns by “making clear to all in their respective institutions that threats to individual members of the academic community, to academic freedom and to freedom of expression on campus will not be tolerated.”

Targeted harassment endangers “more than the faculty member concerned,” the statement says, in that it poses “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 attempt to provide learning environments that are “welcoming, diverse and safe for all members of the university community and their guests,” it says, “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.”