Letter to Linda Mills on the Campus-Wide Crackdown Against Pro-Palestine Speech

February 2, 2024

Dear Linda and Gigi,

We are writing in haste at the alarming escalation of punitive activity targeting the most vulnerable members of our academic community: adjunct faculty and students, whose expressed political opinions are being punished through sudden firings, suspensions, and disciplinary hearings. Much of the punitive retribution appears explicitly to be initiated from objections to social media posts and other speech expressions which are critical of the state of Israel or the political ideology of Zionism. We are equally concerned about the disciplinary hearings faced by students, many of whom are students of color, in retribution for their participation in a poetry reading in the Library on January 26th. We would like to remind you – and your administration – that retaliatory punishment for social media posts is a clear violation of academic freedom and AAUP principles that protect extra-mural speech. Punishing students or faculty for reading poetry in the Library is also a breach of the university’s commitment to the freedom of speech and assembly.

As you may appreciate, we are educators and instructors. We, like you, care deeply about our students and our colleagues, about our shared conditions of learning and everyday life at the University. We care that our students are able to express themselves, as they discover the world around them and find their communities of support and comfort in a violent and divided world. We are alarmed at how purposefully the University is pursuing censorship of expression, and at how threatening this is for colleagues and students, as well as for their families and friends. We believe that the 10-Point Plan announced by the administration does not supersede basic speech rights and due process on this campus. And while we agree that we are living in exceptional times, we maintain that this requires that we adhere ever more fiercely to our basic principles of freedom and openness, of support for our most vulnerable.

We call upon you to reverse the firings and suspensions; to cancel the disciplinary hearings of students and faculty; and to help preserve the general conditions for all our community members for the learning, searching, and exploring for which this university is justly well-known.

The AAUP Executive Committee