About

Academics have often resisted governments' attempts to silence thought and speech. Above are pictured a few who put their careers and often their lives on the line to preserve freedom. Clockwise from upper left: Heinrich Otto Wieland, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Sophie Scholl, Edward Tolman, Esther Brunauer, and W.E.B. Du Bois.

Academics have often resisted governments' attempts to silence thought and speech. Above are pictured a few who put their careers and often their lives on the line to preserve freedom. Clockwise from upper left: Heinrich Otto WielandDietrich Bonhoeffer, Sophie Scholl, Edward TolmanEsther Brunauer, and W.E.B. Du Bois.

 
 

It all started when...

News reports surfaced about a conservative organization sponsoring a watchlist of professors who teach ideas that are counter to conservative ideals. The professors on that list include those that teach about racism, sexism, climate change, and a number of other subjects. It is the job of the academy to challenge our students, to promote truth and critical thinking. Such a 'blacklist' is reminiscent of the McCarthy era in US history and even darker times in pre-WWII Germany. Professors and other educators in institutions of higher learning have a responsibility to protect academic freedom. This freedom supports a free society.

What professors did: In response to this attempt by Professor Watch List and its parent organization, Turning Point USA, to blacklist professors, over 100 professors at the University of Notre Dame asked to be included with the two Notre Dame faculty members whom the watch list targeted. At the same time and for the same reasons, we at FreeAcademics were trying to figure out a way to add our names to the watch list. We are as guilty as those on the list of teaching seditious topics like the validity of evolution, climate change, and racism, to name a few. We wrote our letter modeled after that from the Notre Dame faculty. This eventually became FreeAcademics.net, which went live with 1200 signatures 5 days after the letter started circulating among friends and colleagues. As of December 15 the letter had over 2000 signatures. 

One may argue, and indeed many have, that to give these kinds of lists publicity only emboldens those that make them, that we should just ignore them and they will wither away. In a world where the ideals of free speech and freedom of thought are supported, this is a good plan of inaction. However, we academics teach under increasingly higher levels of scrutiny, and in such an environment any threat to academic freedom should be taken seriously. Therefore, we here at FreeAcademics take these watch lists seriously.

Read about the watch lists here:

Original story about the watch list 

Story about the Notre Dame faculty response

Story about Notre Dame and FreeAcademics

Dangerous Academics by UT professor Robert Jensen 

Inside Higher Ed story about the watch list 

I am a dangerous professor (NY Times)