AFA Sends Letter to Texas A&M Regarding Censure of Professor

Jul 31, 2023 | Press Release

AFA Sends Letter to Texas A&M Regarding Censure of Professor

University suspended and investigated Prof. Joy Alonzo for criticizing a state official

PRINCETON, NJ – The Academic Freedom Alliance (AFA) today sent a letter to Texas A&M regarding reports that it suspended and investigated a faculty member over comments critical of Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick. According to published reports, Professor Joy Alonzo in the Department of Pharmacy Practice at Texas A&M participated as a guest lecturer on the opioid crisis at the University of Texas on March 7, 2023. When a student in the class complained about her comments, she was suspended and investigated by Texas A&M and formally censured by course leaders. She was cleared of wrongdoing, but leaders at both the University of Texas and Texas A&M sent emails clearly designed to discourage constitutionally protected speech in order to avoid offending students or state politicians.

“I write on behalf of the Academic Freedom Alliance to express our firm view that the university’s actions represent an egregious violation of the principles of academic freedom and the university’s responsibilities under the First Amendment,” wrote Keith Whittington, Founding Chair of the AFA’s Academic Committee, in the letter to Chancellor John Sharp of Texas A&M. “Texas A&M is a state university subject to the limits of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution as well as its own contractual commitments.”

Whittington continued, “The university needs to take explicit steps to reaffirm its commitment to academic freedom and to reassure the faculty that they will not be threatened with termination if they say critical things about state policy when the discussion of such policies is entirely germane to the courses being taught. State university classrooms are not a ‘safe space’ for state politicians, and university officials should be prepared to explain to state officials that students and faculty have a constitutional right to say critical things about them in the course of their activities in an institution of higher education.”

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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.

Learn More About the Academic Freedom Alliance

No one, at any academic institution, should fear suppression or retaliation for speaking out publicly in any form. We encourage you to join the movement in supporting the flourishing of intellectual life and the pursuit of knowledge and truth at institutions of higher learning.