Academic Freedom

April News from the Academic Freedom Coalition of Nebraska

A new issue of the AFCON Sentinel just came out and gives some April News from the Academic Freedom Coalition of Nebraska. 

Vicki Wood, President-elect of AFCON, reproduces her statement to the Nebraska State Board of Education concerning attacks on teachers and school librarians accusing them of providing obscene materials to children. Her statement emphasized that librarians are professionally trained to provide collections that serve the needs of all students and that determining whether a work is obscene must be based on the entire work and not on a small number of sentences taken out of context. 

The AFCON testimony critical of LB1077 is summarized. LB1077 is a bill before the Nebraska Legislature that seeks to ban the teaching of certain ideas related to race and sex. The AFCON testimony emphasizes the following reasons for rejecting the bill:

  • the proposed legislation infringes on the work of local school boards, the State Board of Education, the University of Nebraska Board of Regents, and the Nebraska State College System Board of Trustees and represents micromanaging education by the Legislature;
  • Disclaimers requiring that teachers censor certain ideas while respecting academic freedom create an incoherent and impossible to achieve policy.

There is a summary of AFCON’s rejection of LR278CA, which would eliminate the State Board of Education and place control of primary and secondary education in the hands of the governor. 

David Moshman, Professor Emeritus of Educational Psychology at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, discusses his testimony concerning a particular program of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion training conducted in Vermont. His testimony includes a discussion of how education differs from indoctrination and includes examples from the Vermont training that he believes show indoctrination instead of education. Exploring this distinction, clarifying how to recognize it, and applying this understanding to our own teaching would be valuable activities for us to have at Doane.

AFCON Website

Academic Freedom

Nebraska Legislature Moves to Limit Academic Freedom

In the current 2022 legislative session, Nebraska joined 36 other states to introduce an academic gag order that would apply to public schools and public postsecondary institutions. These attacks on academic freedom seek to forbid teaching about race and sex in ways that suggest any systemic or historic problems in American culture with respect to these categories. The Nebraska bill introduced in January 2022 is LB 1077, which can be found on the Nebraska Legislature website at 

Nebraska Legislature: LB1077.

One of several problematic aspects of the Nebraska bill is the forbidding of teaching topics or concepts that cause a person to feel “discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of the individual’s race or sex”. To forbid teaching a subject because it may cause psychological distress is highly problematic since a consensus on standards of proof does not exist and is inimical to free inquiry. To avoid controversy, a faculty member will likely remove many important topics from the curriculum. Removing subjects from the curriculum simply because they may cause students psychological distress is to destroy the concepts of education for the common good and open inquiry that is necessary for a democratic society.

The Executive Committee of the Nebraska State Conference of the AAUP submitted testimony critical of LB1077 when it was discussed by the Government, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee of the Nebraska Legislature on February 24, 2022. The testimony can be downloaded at

NE State Conference of AAUP Executive Committee Testimony on LB1077

Here are some helpful links to remain updated on the educational gag order issue from an AAUP perspective:

AAUP listing of active Education Gag Order legislation

AAUP Statement on Legislation Restricting Teaching about Race

AAUP FAQs on Educational Gag Orders

AAUP Issue Summary: Educational Gag Orders: Legislative Interference in Teaching About Race

Additional academic freedom resources available on the Doane AAUP website can be found at

Doane AAUP: Academic Freedom

Shared Governance

Preparing for the Next Challenge

The Doane community recently went through a challenging experience described benignly as Academic Prioritization. The administration, trustees, and Academic Strategy Partners consultants described the process as a collaboration between all stakeholders. They stated that the goals were to establish a ranking of academic and administrative programs that would eliminate or reduce enough programs to eliminate the expected budget deficit and allow redirecting resources to programs that could better serve the university in the future.  Doane faculty must prepare for the next challenge.

The Beginnings of a Critique

There were several problems with how the process was conducted.  

  • The conditions for a successful process outlined by Academic Strategy Partners consultant Robert Dickerson in his book Prioritizing Academic Programs and Services, did not exist at Doane.
  • The data set ostensibly used for final decisions about program cuts was unreliable.
  • One of the primary directives about the process articulated by President Jacque Carter was violated. This directive was number 2 from the March 5, 2020 memo:

2. The process will be open and transparent, with no a priori decisions having been made, and with decisions based on the published criteria.

President’s Charge to Task Forces – 05/05/20
  • The bulk of the work required of the faculty occurred during the extreme challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Doane faculty would be well-served by a serious study of the academic prioritization process, as it played out from 2019 through 2021. Some of the questions that we should investigate include

Was the working assumption used by the Academic Strategy Partners that declining enrollments on the Crete campus were due to too many academic program offerings a good one?

Was the process used by Doane’s administration and trustees consistent with best practices of shared governance as articulated by the AAUP?

I believe that Doane faculty could have done a better job of organizing against the program cuts pushed by the administration and trustees. We should have made better use of help from the state and national AAUP organizations. The lack of a more successful organizing campaign was due to the multiple challenges presented by the prioritization process and the need to rapidly convert teaching modality from ground-based to online and then to dual-modality modes. We were overwhelmed by the onslaught of work requirements and family responsibilities. 

The Future

I believe that the future will continue to challenge liberal arts programs, and Doane faculty could face similar program reduction campaigns. We must be prepared to organize quickly and effectively to oppose unnecessary program elimination. To begin this preparation, we should look at examples of successful organizing against program elimination conducted elsewhere. One example worth investigating is Guilford College, which faced a severe budget crisis in 2019 due to declining enrollments and some terrible decisions made by the administration and trustees without faculty input. A recent article in Academe summarizes the response of the Guilford College AAUP Chapter, which helped to avoid the worst of the proposed cuts in programs and faculty. The article is a quick read, so I encourage all faculty to take a look at it:

Zweigenhaft, R. (2022). How the AAUP Helped to Save Guilford College. Academe, 108(1).

If anyone is interested in conducting a post-mortem on Doane’s Academic Prioritization experience then contact me at cdwentworth (at) protonmail (dot) com

Doane Chapter News

February Chapter Meeting Agenda

The February Meeting of the Doane AAUP Chapter will have the following items on the agenda:

  • questions surrounding the “professor of practice” designation and the faculty status of librarians
  • Doane’s grievance policy and possible reforms

The following AAUP policy statements would be useful reading for the meeting:

  1. Professors of Practice (statement prepared by a subcommittee of the Association’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, 2004)
  2. Statement on Professional Ethics (2009)
  3. Faculty Misconduct and Discipline (2005)

The chapter meeting will be on Thursday February 3 at 4 pm. It will be a Zoom video conference. The Zoom link is

Zoom Link:
Passcode: 280256

Academic Freedom

News from the Academic Freedom Coalition of Nebraska

The Academic Freedom Coalition of Nebraska (AFCON) just published its February 2022 newsletter. It contains several items of interest to members of the Doane AAUP Chapter including

  • A message from Bob Haller on becoming president of AFCON for the fourth time. 
  • A summary by Julia Schleck of her new book, Dirty Knowledge: Academic Freedom in the Age of Neoliberalism—and a secret code enabling you to purchase the book for just $12! 
  • A new statement on schoolbook censorship from the National Coalition Against Censorship, which was endorsed in December by the AFCON Board of Directors. 
  • A letter to University of Nebraska President Carter from UNL emeriti Dwayne Ball and Dave Moshman on what they see as a loyalty oath in university employment policy.

AFCON Website

Doane Chapter News

February Chapter Meeting

Our February chapter meeting will be on Thursday, February 3, 2022, from 4 – 5 pm. An agenda will be posted on this blog soon. Due to the Omicron COVID wave in our area, we will conduct this meeting by Zoom video conference. Here is the Zoom information:

Passcode: 280256

Academic Freedom

Threats to academic freedom

Keith Whittington, Professor of Politics at Princeton Univesity and current chair of the Academic Freedom Alliance, wrote a perspective piece on threats to academic freedom at public universities for the Washington Post. It’s worth a read:

Keith E. Whittington. (2021, December 15). The intellectual freedom that made public colleges great is under threat. The Washington Post. (Read on Washington Post website)

Doane Chapter News

Launching of the Doane AAUP Website

The Doane University Chapter of the American Association of University Professor recently launched its chapter website, This site will contain information of interest to anyone advocating for academic freedom, shared governance, and economic security for faculty at Doane University.

Our blog will feature news items and relevant information from other news feeds.