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Restatement of PSU-AAUP’s Defense of Academic Freedom

The latest conflict between Israel and Palestine has recently been the subject of a great deal of discourse on the Portland State campus. Many people have deeply-held beliefs on the matter, and some of the debate among both faculty and students has become contentious and in some cases confrontational. This emotional intensity is not surprising given the complicated political, religious, and cultural histories involved. To add to this, many members of our campus community have personal ties to the region.

The heated debate on campus has caused some PSU-AAUP members to be concerned about threats to academic freedom. Differing opinions on the conflict could result in attempts by members of the PSU administration to silence or retaliate against faculty members with whom they disagree. Situations might emerge in which academic freedom rights are not adequately recognized by management or the administration.

On October 24, 2023, AAUP’s national leadership released a statement titled “Academic Freedom in Times of War.” The statement includes a paragraph that succinctly captures the concern. “College and university officials are obligated to defend academic freedom; they must resist demands from politicians, trustees, donors, students and their parents, alumni, or other parties to punish faculty members for exercising that freedom. At this moment of heightened tension on college and university campuses, the AAUP calls on college and university administrations to fully protect the academic freedom of their faculties to teach, conduct research, and speak out about important issues both on and off campus.”

PSU-AAUP is fully aligned with AAUP’s national leadership on this matter. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that institutional authorities will respect faculty members’ rights. As a result, PSU-AAUP feels it necessary to confirm its commitment to defending academic freedom for all faculty members, regardless of their views on the Middle East or any other subject.

One of the union’s bedrock duties is to protect all faculty members against any form of institutional infringement on academic freedom. In performing this duty, there is no place for giving preference to one viewpoint over another. The union’s concern is not the viewpoint being expressed, but rather the faculty member’s right to express that viewpoint without fear of interference or reprisal from management or institutional leadership. Should the administration engage in any improper curtailing of these rights, the union has a clear and unambiguous responsibility to defend those who have had their academic freedom impacted-- full stop.

PSU-AAUP remains resolute in its commitment to defend against any and all attempts to infringe on academic freedom. Should the university make any such attempts, the union will take the action necessary to ensure that its members and the rights of academic freedom are defended.

If you believe that the administration has engaged in acts of intimidation, censorship or retaliation in response to the exercise of academic freedom, we encourage you to contact PSU-AAUP immediately so the matter can be investigated and so we can do the important work of defending the irreplaceable rights that are so meaningful to us all.