A faculty member at the University of Nebraska at Omaha resigned last week as president of the state conference of the American Association of University Professors, saying she couldn’t defend a graduate student and former lecturer, the Omaha World-Herald reported. Courtney Lawton, a graduate student in English at the Lincoln campus, was removed from the classroom as a lecturer last semester after she was recorded protesting an on-campus recruiting table for Turning Point USA, the conservative group behind Professor Watchlist. The incident, in which Lawton made an obscene gesture to an undergraduate, led state Republican legislators to question campus climates and criticize Lincoln’s English department, in particular.
The AAUP has largely defended Lawton’s right to due process and academic freedom until now. But Donna Dufner, an associate professor of information systems and quantitative analysis at Omaha who took over as state conference president on Jan. 1, said she could not support the graduate student. “I couldn’t represent the AAUP in the Lawton case because I kept coming down on the side of the administration,” she told the World-Herald. AAUP’s national office is currently investigating the situation at Lincoln for alleged violations of academic freedom.