WASHINGTON, DC—The American Council of Trustees and Alumni today called upon the president and trustees of the North Hennepin Community College “to meet their obligation to protect academic freedom on campus and to reaffirm the college’s commitment to the First Amendment.”
“The essence of a university experience should be the free exchange of ideas,” wrote ACTA vice president and general counsel Anne D. Neal. A recent lawsuit suggests “that college administrators have arrogated the right to censure and disapprove of ‘controversial’ comments and to deny professors their right to proffer various points of view. We call on you immediately to confirm the College’s adherence to principles of academic freedom.”
ACTA’s call comes in the wake of litigation filed by history professor Jon Willand in federal court charging multiple violations of his free speech rights. According to the complaint, administrators at North Hennepin removed a poster of Gen. George Custer that they deemed “offensive,” and subjected Willand to formal reprimands demanding that the professor avoid future indeterminate “offense” to students. Willand’s complaint also charges that imposition of a computer usage policy prohibiting state employees from using equipment for the “receipt, storage, or transmission of offensive, racist, or sexist information” violates his First Amendment rights.
“The University’s apparent censorship and intimidation are tantamount to a declaration that the First Amendment requires freedom from speech and potential offense,” wrote ACTA. “This is dead wrong.”
The American Council of Trustees and Alumni is a national educational nonprofit dedicated to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability. Its members include alumni and trustees from more than 200 colleges and universities across the country.