AFA Case Updates
PRINCETON, NJ – The Academic Freedom Alliance (AFA) today issued the following updates on three cases in which it is involved.
Letter to the University of Illinois regarding Jason Kilborn
The AFA sent a letter to the University of Illinois on Monday regarding the ongoing complaints concerning Professor Jason Kilborn. In December 2020, Professor Kilborn included on his final exam in a civil procedure class a hypothetical involving redacted slurs. He was suspended without adequate process or justification, and a university investigation found most of the allegations to be meritless. The law school reached an agreement with Professor Kilborn allowing him to resume his professional activities, but students have continued to call for sanctions against him and the law school has failed to adhere to its own agreement. He has been denied the annual raise provided to all of his colleagues despite his positive job evaluation, and the law school has imposed new demands that he complete sensitivity training before fully resuming his duties.
- The AFA’s letter to the University of Illinois, calling the disciplinary actions a breach of the University’s own stated commitment to academic freedom.
- Coverage of the case in Inside Higher Education
- Commentary on the case from AFA member Andrew Koppelman in the Chronicle of Higher Education, calling it a “witch hunt.”
Successful Conclusion at Truckee Meadows Community College
The president of Truckee Meadows Community College has accepted a faculty committee recommendation that Professor Lars Jensen not be terminated. Professor Jensen was subjected to disciplinary review after he expressed concern during a Math Summit about changes in the math curriculum and the maintenance of academic standards. The AFA sent a letter to the college in support of Prof. Jensen on October 22.
Regarding the college’s decision not to terminate Professor Jensen, the AFA’s Keith Whittington said, “We are grateful that Truckee Meadows Community College heeded our call to stand by its commitment to academic freedom by declining to subject Professor Jensen to termination or further disciplinary action. All professors have a right to engage in constitutionally protected speech, as Professor Jensen did at the Math Summit, regardless of who might be offended or upset by the criticism.”
Update on Allyn Walker and Old Dominion University
The AFA sent a letter last week to Old Dominion University after it suspended Professor Allyn Walker over controversial views on criminal justice issues. Walker has subsequently resigned. Regarding Walker’s resignation, Keith Whittington of the AFA released the following statement:
“This is an unfortunate outcome for academic freedom. Although Professor Allyn Walker’s work is controversial, it is essential that universities be places where controversial research can be freely undertaken. If a scholar’s research is mistaken, then it can be criticized or ignored, but it is never acceptable for a scholar to be threatened. It is critical that universities stand up for their faculty and vigorously respond to pressure and threats and refuse to sacrifice academic freedom when emotions run high. If we are to better understand and respond to disturbing social phenomena, we need to be able to carefully and without preconceptions study such phenomena. Scholars will need the freedom to go where their evidence and analysis takes them and not feel compelled to shade the truth if they find themselves led to unpopular conclusions.”
The Academic Freedom Alliance is a diverse alliance of college and university faculty members who are dedicated to upholding the principles of academic freedom and professorial free speech. These principles are central to the mission of our institutions of higher education for the pursuit of truth and knowledge. The AFA is committed to defending universal principles of academic freedom and will come to the assistance of professors regardless of their individual views. The Academic Freedom Alliance itself takes no position on the merits of the substantive content of faculty speech or writing.