WASHINGTON, DC—The American Council of Trustees and Alumni today condemned SUNY’s faculty union for irresponsible name-calling and intimidation. Earlier this month, United University Professions unanimously adopted a resolution condemning SUNY trustee Candace De Russy for remarks critical of black studies programs and called for her ouster from the board. Stony Brook’s African Studies department head characterized the comments as smacking “of McCarthyism” while the union president said they undermined the “time-honored principles of academic freedom.”
“The union should be ashamed of itself for attempting to stifle critical points of view by name-calling and stimatizing. And it should learn a basic lesson—criticism is not a violation of the First Amendment,” said Anne D. Neal, ACTA vice president and general counsel.
“Rather than addressing the substance of the trustee’s comments and debating on the merits, the Union has simply chosen to attack the ‘messenger’—on the phony grounds that her critical comments have violated their academic freedom,” said Neal. “This underscores a troubling mindset too prevalent in academe that anyone who chooses to disagree with faculty is somehow out of line,” said Neal.
“The fact is trustees are legally responsible for the academic and financial well-being of their institutions and it is their obligation to address issues concerning the academic quality of programs,” Neal said.“Suggesting that Dr. De Russy’s comments violate academic freedom is preposterous, since no one’s free speech is being curtailed and her statements are fully within the bounds of permissible discourse.”
“These smear tactics should be condemned broadly—by parents, other faculty and administrators—for what they are: a blatant effort to quell criticism,” said Neal. “If we allow faculty members to cry ‘McCarthy’ every time their actions are questioned, we will have succumbed to strong-arm tactics designed to undermine the robust exchange of ideas that should be the essence of a university experience.”
The American Council of Trustees and Alumni is non-profit based in Washington, D.C. dedicated to academic freedom, academic quality and accountability.