Academic Freedom Crisis Toolkit

Academic Freedom Crisis Toolkit

The Campus Plan calls for expanding faculty outreach and engagement with the public. Yet deepening political polarization and the role of social media in quickly spreading disinformation and inflammatory rhetoric has led to increased incidence of public harassment and defamation of faculty for their research, scholarly public engagement and positions taken in the classroom. This has also led to the publicization of internal conflicts related to grading policies and campus activities.

This trend affects faculty across disciplines due to the politicization of science as a whole and an anti-intellectual agenda targeting the “academic elite.” Well-funded organizations have evolved, with the mission of surveilling the voices of faculty, with the overall aim of undermining public support for higher education. Women, faculty of color, and those who speak out on issues of racial, gender, and economic justice are most often targeted.

While most systematic attacks in recent years come from the right, due to well organized funding, some threats to faculty free speech and academic freedom come from the left as well, often among internal constituents. Climate change research and public health scholarship is also commonly under attack, in addition to ongoing harassment of professors who conduct ethical and institution-approved research on animals. In some states, public universities that research and teach about “subversive concepts” are being threatened with educational gag orders by their state legislatures with the consequence of budgetary cuts. Such attacks can lead faculty to self-censorship.

The university fully acknowledges faculty’s right to academic freedom, regardless of politics. The university encourages victims of attacks not to be intimidated and to continue teaching, researching, and publicly discussing those issues over which they have spent their careers building expertise.

Yet, it is important that faculty feel safe and supported as they conduct their everyday work life. That's what this toolkit is for.

These resources were developed by Jennifer Lundquist, Senior Associate Dean for Research and Professor of Sociology, in consultation with the Academic Freedom Taskforce of the Faculty Senate.

For additional information please reference: 

  • Appendix 1: Examples of Institutional Statements
  • Appendix 2: Email Recommendations and FOIA Request Details
  • Appendix 3: MSP's Suggestions for How to Protect Your Classroom Materials

The Academic Freedom Crisis Toolkit is licensed under CC-BY 4.0, by the University of Massachusetts Office of Faculty Development, 2024. Cite to Jennifer Lundquist and the University of Massachusetts Amherst Office of Faculty Development, “Academic Freedom Crisis Toolkit.” 

For Faculty Members Being Targeted

Are you being targeted? Consider the following resources.

What should you do first?

What should you know?

Longer term prevention and preparation