AFT 1493 Statement on Academic Freedom and Political Activities on Palestine

As members of the board and administrators know, faculty members across SMCCCD have been threatened after raising and discussing resolutions to support students impacted by the violence in Gaza. 

The AFT 1493 Executive Committee would like to remind faculty of their rights with regards to academic freedom. The American Association of University Professors states that academic freedom is “the freedom of a teacher or researcher in higher education to investigate and discuss the issues in his or her academic field, and to teach or publish findings without interference from political figures, boards of trustees, donors, or other entities. Academic freedom also protects the right of a faculty member to speak freely when participating in institutional governance, as well as to speak freely as a citizen (link here).” This definition is upheld by ASCCC’s position paper Protecting the Future of Academic Freedom during a Time of Significant Change, as well as in a resolution adopted at the Spring 2023 Plenary. 

We believe that the ability to be able to engage in conversations on current political topics using our professional and academic expertise inside the classroom if relevant to the course, and outside of the classroom—including Academic Senate and other professional activities—without intimidation is a fundamental right of faculty. As such, we are asking the board to reaffirm its commitment to and follow its own policy on this topic. Our District’s Board Policy 3.65 states that “Academic freedom encompasses the freedom to study, teach, and express ideas, including unpopular or controversial ones, without censorship or political restraint.” 

These recent events, together with other situations when academic freedom was questioned in recent semesters, underscore the need for academic freedom language in our faculty contract.  In fact, the Academic Senate of California Community Colleges supports and encourages contract language on academic freedom in faculty contracts, and many districts have negotiated it.  In the past, our District has refused to include a contract article on academic freedom.  AFT invites members to join our union’s efforts in advocating for this important addition to our contract in the next contract negotiations cycle.  

In Solidarity,

The AFT 1493 Executive Committee