AAUP Responds on Academic Freedom

Gary Rhoades at AAUP responded to my original post. My own response is below the fold.

Dear Mr. Crowther,
Apparently patience is not one of your stronger virtues, at least not in this case. If you were really interested in my response, or in the position of the AAUP, you might have had the courtesy to give me a reasonable amount of time to respond to your letter below (which came to me at 3:33p.m. EST today, whereas your posting below was 1:24 p.m today, though the time zone is not posted).
Upon returning to my emails late this afternoon, after addressing some other pressing matters
earlier in the afternoon, I come to find that you have already posted the following on your organization’s website:

He pastes in this blog post.

The tone of your piece is, I note, somewhat different than your email to me below. It assumes and prejudges my response and the position of the AAUP.
In fact, you wrote:
“I e-mailed Mr. Rhoades to see what he had to say (as you’ll see below, I think I already know what he’ll say).”
In this case, Mr. Crowther, you need to reexamine your certainties about what others think and/or will say.
So let me respond, and ask that in the interests of fair play, you publish my response, in its entirety, on your web site.
It seems that I must disappoint you, Mr. Crowther.
I am happy to correct your inaccurate view of the AAUP’s position on external speakers.
The position of the AAUP on external speakers is quite clear, and is without reference to the particular positions or views of the speakers.
In fact, as our statement makes explicit:

In its 2005 statement, the Association laid out its basic policy on invited speakers. It articulated these fundamental principles:

  • Many colleges and universities permit student and faculty groups to issue their own invitations to outside speakers. That practice is an important part of academic freedom and institutions should respect it.
  • When an authorized faculty or student group invites an outside speaker, the institution is not thereby expressing its approval or disapproval of the speaker or what the speaker has said, or will say.
  • Colleges are free to announce that they do not officially endorse a speaker or the views a speaker expresses, but they should not cancel a speech because people on campus or in the community either disagree with its content or disapprove of the speaker.
  • Institutions should ensure that all legitimately invited speakers can express their views and that open discussion can take place.
  • Only “in the most extraordinary circumstances” may invitations be canceled out of concern for safety.”

In short, Mr. Crowther, contrary to what you suggest, we defend the right of all legitimately invited speakers to be heard. And yes, that would include Ben Stein. If you read our statement and press release carefully, you will see that we did not target any institutions for rescinding invitations to speakers. Nor do we provide a “list,” as you seem to suggest, of speakers who we defend, intimating that if one is not on the list we do not support their right to be heard. I trust that this clarifies our position.
Gary Rhoades
General Secretary, AAUP

As I wrote back to Rhoades, the AAUP has hardly been supportive of the rights and freedoms of scientists and scholars in academia who support intelligent design, or even just question some parts of modern evolutionary theory. Many such scientists have been harassed, such as Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez, Dr. Robert Marks, and Dr. Scott Minnich. In the case of Gonzalez the AAUP was silent when he was denied due process and ultimately denied tenure in spite of a stellar academic and publishing record. His case was a travesty, an ideological witch hunt in which he was punished for views he holds outside the classroom. Additionally, the AAUP adopted a resolution that inaccurately claims that academic freedom bills that protect teachers who present scientific evidence that challenges Darwinian evolution as being the same as “intelligent design.” That’s simply false. It shouldn’t be surprising to either anyone that I am skeptical about the AAUP’s actual regard for academic freedom.
As for the “list”, the statement AAUP issued Friday indeed reads that way.

“Recent weeks have witnessed an increasing number of attempts by groups ranging across the ideological spectrum to prevent various speakers from addressing campus audiences. Among those speakers have been biologist Richard Dawkins, education professor William Ayers, political scientist Norman Finkelstein, and Nobel laureate Bishop Desmond Tutu. Perhaps no attempt to ban a speaker has drawn more attention than the effort by off-campus groups to prevent President Barack Obama from delivering this year’s commencement address at the University of Notre Dame.”

I am still wondering if the AAUP will revise that release to include Ben Stein. Or, does the AAUP only support academic freedom for those left of center? Everyone they mention certainly could be described that way.