AFA Sends Letter to University of Dayton on Speaker Disinvitation

Mar 2, 2022 | Press Release

AFA Sends Letter to University of Dayton on Speaker Disinvitation

University disinvited speaker over her position on abortion

PRINCETON, NJ – The Academic Freedom Alliance (AFA) sent a letter to the University of Dayton on its recent decision to disinvite Dr. Tlaleng Mofokeng from participating as a keynote speaker in the Social Practice of Human Rights conference on October 28, 2021. The disinvitation was only recently publicly reported. The university administration concluded that Dr. Mofokeng could not speak on campus because her “work as an abortion provider” made her presence on campus a “sharp conflict with the University’s Catholic, Marianist mission and the right to life.” 

“By canceling Dr. Mofokeng’s lecture, the University of Dayton violated its own stated commitments to academic freedom, sending a chilling message to its faculty and students that their rights of intellectual inquiry will not be respected when objections are raised and diminishing its own standing as an institution of higher education,” wrote Keith Whittington, chair of the AFA’s academic committee. “The Academic Freedom Alliance stands firmly behind the Human Rights Center in this matter. We call on the university to reaffirm its commitment to academic freedom and the ability of its faculty to host scholarly events reflecting a diverse set of participants and views without the threat of intervention by university leadership.” 

Whittington continued, “We do not quarrel with the right of religiously affiliated institutions to govern themselves in line with the precepts of their sponsoring religious bodies, and to pursue their faith-based missions. We insist, however, that all institutions, including religiously affiliated colleges and universities, live up to their free speech and other academic freedom commitments, and honor the formal and informal contracts the institutions have made with their faculty and students.”

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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.