December 2023

Jan 2, 2024 | Monthly Newsletter

December Update from the Academic Freedom Alliance

Dear Members and Friends,

It’s been a busy 2023 at the AFA and in the broader world of academic freedom. The events of October 7 and resulting controversies on campuses have brought our issues into the international spotlight like never before. Even apart from these high profile events, 2023 brought notable cases and controversies that have further proven the importance of our advocacy and collective defense. Here are some highlights from the year:

Timeline of Key Events in 2023:

  • January 2: We sent a letter to Hamline University condemning its dismissal of a professor for showing a famous medieval painting of the Prophet Muhammad in an art history class. The controversy captured the attention of the academic community, with the AFA’s letter receiving media coverage in outlets including the Washington TimesAFP, and The Dispatch.
  • January 9: We released a statement calling for an end to “divisive concepts” policies, which have become increasingly common in state legislatures over the past year.
  • February 13: We took up the case of Prof. William Moravits of St. Philip’s College, who had been escorted by police out of his classroom and barred from campus without explanation. The matter was resolved favorably in November, nine months later.
  • March 8: The AFA celebrated our two year anniversary. 
  • June 6: We sent a letter to the Mayo Clinic denouncing its treatment of Dr. Michael J. Joyner over his comments to The New York Times about transgender athletes. We have since also provided financial support for Joyner’s lawsuit against the Mayo Clinic. The case is ongoing. 
  • June 20th: The AFA filed an amicus brief in a case against Florida’s “Stop W.O.K.E. Act,” arguing that the Act violates the First Amendment to the Constitution by preventing faculty from discussing “a wide range of concepts that appear in debates at the heart of many university courses.” 
  • June 11 and 12: We held our first ever in-person AFA leadership conference in Princeton. 
  • July 31: We sent a letter to Texas A&M regarding its suspension and investigation of Prof. Joy Alonzo over comments critical of Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick. With our support, Prof. Alonzo’s case was resolved favorably. 
  • August: We joined others in calling attention to the release of the Princeton Principles for a Campus Culture of Free Inquiry, which were authored by multiple scholars who are also AFA members. 
  • November 12: We sent a letter to the University of Southern California regarding its decision to place Prof. John Strauss on leave after an encounter with student protesters. Our letter was covered in The LA Times and Fox News
  • November 14: The AFA released a guidance statement about the war in the Middle East.
  • November 15: We sent a letter to Spelman College denouncing its decision to terminate Professor Kendrick Morales over harsh grading practices, as well as the actions of administrators to adjust his grades without consulting him. 
Other Highlights from the Year:
  • We added 110 new members in 2023, bringing our total membership to 829.
  • Including those mentioned above, we helped resolve a total of 5 cases, bringing our total victories to 15. Many of the cases we take on are not publicly reported to protect the privacy of those involved.
  • We welcomed Lucas Morel as our new Academic Committee chair and Abigail Thompson as a new Academic Committee member.
  • We released ten interviews with leading scholars and AFA members. Some examples include Steven PinkerJeffrey Flier, and Jonathan Zimmerman
  • We co-sponsored five different events on academic freedom around the country.
  • We launched a section on our website called Spotlight, dedicated to highlighting other groups that defend academic freedom. We have highlighted 11 such groups this year.

With 2023 behind us, we’re looking ahead to another critical and busy year. We’re grateful for your support and continued friendship. As always, we welcome your recommendations for new members and any donations you are able to provide. We couldn’t do our work without you. If you have any questions or need assistance, please contact AFA Director of Operations Howard Muncy at hmuncy@academicfreedom.org.

Wishing you all the best for a happy and healthy new year.

Sincerely,

The AFA

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.