February 2024

Mar 1, 2024 | Monthly Newsletter

February Update from the AFA

Throughout February, the AFA has continued providing financial support in several cases, the details of which are currently private. We are in the process of reviewing several additional support requests from professors under fire for speech or conduct. Here are some additional updates on our activities from this month:

Joint Statement in Support of Institutional Neutrality

On February 7, the AFA joined with the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) and the Heterodox Academy (HxA) to send an open letter urging America’s colleges and universities to restore truth-seeking as the primary mission of higher education by adopting a policy of institutional neutrality on social and political issues.

“In recent years, colleges and universities have increasingly weighed in on social and political issues that do not concern core academic matters or institutional operations,” we wrote in our joint letter. “This has led our institutions of higher education to become politicized and has created an untenable situation whereby they are expected to weigh in on all social and political issues.”

The statement called for institutions to adopt the University of Chicago’s Kalven Report, crafted in 1967 in response to campus protests. 

Spotlight on Columbia

The AFA is continuing to spotlight other organizations working to promote academic freedom. This month, we shined the light on The Columbia Academic Freedom Council, an organization of faculty and research officers at Columbia University dedicated to promoting open inquiry, intellectual diversity, and civil discourse in the university community. 

Since at least 2015, members across multiple faculties of Columbia University have gathered informally to discuss their concerns regarding the state of academic freedom and freedom of expression at Columbia University. In October 2023, the group organized the CAFC with an initial membership of over 70 faculty members. The CAFC hosts a series of events for faculty and advocates for academic freedom in the university community.

In the Press

The AFA and one of our founding members, Professor Robert P. George of Princeton, were featured in a major article in the New York Times on the future of academic freedom in America by Jennifer Schuessler. See an excerpt below and read the full article here:

Academic freedom is a bedrock of the modern American university. And lately, it seems to be coming under fire from all directions… Over the past year, faculty groups dedicated to academic freedom have sprung up at Harvard, Yale and Columbia, where even some liberal scholars argue that a prevailing progressive orthodoxy has created a climate of self-censorship and fear that stifles open inquiry. …

“The mission of a university is to sponsor truth-seeking scholarship and provide non-indoctrinating teaching,” said Robert P. George, a professor of jurisprudence at Princeton and a founder of the Academic Freedom Alliance, a multi-campus group created in 2021. And for that to happen, George said, “we must be free to challenge any view or belief.”

Continued Growth

We added 9 new members in October, bringing us to a total of 851. We continue to accept new members on a rolling basis. Please send any nominations to AFA Director of Operations Howard Muncy at hmuncy@academicfreedom.org.

As we continue to expand our membership and casework, we’re grateful to everyone who has donated to our organization and hope all of our members and friends will consider contributing here. We could not do our work without your generous support. 

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.