AFT Passes Resolution Condemning Hate and Affirming Freedom of Speech on Campus
WASHINGTON—The American Federation of Teachers’ 47-member executive council has passed a unanimous resolution that calls for respecting intellectual and academic freedom and speech, and fighting the antisemitism, Islamophobia and other racist hate recently witnessed on our campuses.
AFT President Randi Weingarten said: “Our members are living this every day in their communities and on their campuses. The recent wave of violence and hate is unacceptable, as are growing restrictions on everyone’s right to be heard. That’s why, as a union, we must stand up, once more, against antisemitism, Islamophobia and hate and violence of all kinds—and stand for intellectual freedom and open debate that respects the dignity and humanity of all.”
The 1.7-million-member union pledged to provide workshops, guidance and sample resolutions to support the resolution.
The full text of the resolution, “Condemning Hate and Affirming Freedom of Speech on Campus,” is below and online here.
Condemning Hate and Affirming Freedom of Speech on Campus
WHEREAS, intellectual freedom is foundational to a representative democracy and enshrined in the First Amendment freedoms of speech and expression, conscience and assembly; and
WHEREAS, people cannot truly exercise their rights without the open and robust debate of ideas, free from intimidation, violence and threat of violence; and
WHEREAS, U.S. colleges and universities, both two-year and four-year, are central to the development and promotion of intellectual freedom and should be sites of free and open debate, where difficult—sometimes painful—topics and opposing ideas should be discussed, challenged and debated in ways that respect diversity of thought and the dignity and humanity of all; and
WHEREAS, to secure this freedom of thought and expression, institutions of higher education have an obligation to ensure environments where students, staff and faculty are free to engage in these exchanges without facing intimidation or racially, politically or religiously motivated attacks and threats of violence; and
WHEREAS, faculty, staff and students have both rights and obligations in the exercise of intellectual freedom, including the responsibility to exercise their freedoms in ways that respect the rights of those with whom they disagree; and
WHEREAS, higher education as a site of free speech and protest is even more essential and necessary during times of unrest and uncertainty; and
WHEREAS, misinformation campaigns and legislative attacks are used to stoke the culture wars on campus and continue a cycle of hate and bigotry that has resulted in an increase in racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia and anti-LGBTQIA+ hate on campus; and
WHEREAS, the violence, threats of violence and intimidation we recently have seen on campuses create an environment that puts students, faculty, staff and other members of the campus community at risk, making it an environment where freedoms are undermined, our country further divided, and our democracy further eroded; and
WHEREAS, students, faculty, staff and other members of campus communities have been subject to social media attacks, doxing campaigns and death threats; and
WHEREAS, faculty and staff have faced discipline, pressure to resign, and termination as a result of exercising their academic freedom in the classroom and their right to engage in protest and speak out:
RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers will continue to condemn hate in all its forms, affirm the dignity and humanity of all, and promote intellectual freedom and First Amendment freedoms as foundations of our democracy; and
RESOLVED, that the AFT will continue to fight hatred, racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia and anti-LGBTQIA+ hate and will vigorously defend the free speech rights of higher education students, faculty and the community, including the rights to peacefully assemble and protest, as well as defend our members who face discipline or termination of employment as a result of their protected speech or their participation in lawful protests on campus; and
RESOLVED, that the AFT will call on college and university administrations to respect academic freedom and debates on campus; to condemn hate and racially, politically and religiously motivated attacks; and to ensure the safety of all members—whether teaching, working or learning—of the campus community; and
RESOLVED, that the AFT will provide sample resolutions, workshops and guidance to our locals and state federations to support this work at the campus level.
Approved by AFT Executive Council
November 9, 2023
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The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.