AFA Sends Letter to San Diego State on Professor’s Suspension
University suspended Professor for mentioning racial epithets in class on race
PRINCETON, NJ – The Academic Freedom Alliance (AFA) sent a letter to San Diego State University over its suspension of Professor J. Angelo Corlett for mentioning racial epithets in a class on race. According to published reports, Professor Corlett showed a slide in his class on Philosophy, Racism and Justice and his class on Critical Thinking and Composition that listed racial epithets. On March 1, the university suspended Professor Corlett from teaching both classes based on student complaints.
“You are quoted as saying that your removal of Professor Corlett’s from his courses because of how he taught his courses is ‘not about free expression or academic freedom,’” wrote Keith Whittington, chair of the AFA’s academic committee, in the letter to J. Luke Wood, Vice President for Student Affairs and Campus Diversity at SDU. “I write on behalf of the Academic Freedom Alliance to express our firm view that these disciplinary actions directed toward Professor Corlett are an egregious violation of his academic freedom.”
Whittington continued, “For San Diego State University to sanction a member of its faculty for making relevant instructional use of words in a class session that some students found offensive would violate its own contractual commitments to academic freedom and to the university’s obligations under the First Amendment and would send a chilling message to every member of its faculty who must discuss difficult and controversial material as part of their teaching duties. The Academic Freedom Alliance stands firmly behind Professor Corlett in this matter and calls on San Diego State University to adhere to its academic principles and to immediately and without prejudice reinstate Professor Corlett to his teaching duties.”
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. As always, the AFA is not concerned with the substance or merits of a professor’s ideas but with the principle that universities should be places that tolerate controversial ideas and allow free inquiry and debate, not public opinion or political pressure, to separate error from truth.