Senate communications

February 28, 2017

CLCM Faculty Statement Regarding Political Harassment and Academic Freedom

A doctoral student and instructor in our Department of Comparative Literature, Cinema & Media, who was among those who protested the appearance of Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos at the University of Washington, has since the event been the target of hateful internet bullying, sexual harassment and violent threats.

Alan-Michael Weatherford, who teaches diversity and queer studies courses, has been subject to a series of homophobic threats such as: “alan-michael-weatherford IS A FAGGOT WHO NEEDS HIS HEAD SPLIT” and “W-would it be gay to rape him? I mean, i-it’s not homosexual if the sex is not consensual right?” He has been falsely denounced on the site RateMyProfessor.com for exchanging grades for sexual favors. Emails of faculty in our department have been circulated so that people could send in letters asking for his removal as instructor. Information about his courses, office hours as well as more personal details about him and his mother have been posted  on internet. He has received threatening packages to his departmental mailbox.

Fearing for his physical safety and that of his students, our colleague asked another instructor to teach his class on Monday.

This is inadmissible. Our classrooms must continue to provide a place where ideas can be exchanged freely and safely. This is what academic freedom is about. The touchstone document on academic freedom, the American Association of University Professor’s (AAUP) 1940 “Statement”, directs academic institutions “to insure that an individual’s ability to conduct teaching and research without interference would not be violated”.

Our colleague’s ability to conduct teaching has clearly been violated due to physical threats that are not covered by the First Amendment. The Supreme Court has cited three “reasons why threats of violence are outside the First Amendment”: “protecting individuals from the fear of violence, from the disruption that fear engenders, and from the possibility that the threatened violence will occur”. R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul, 505 U.S. 377, 388 (1992).

We ask that the UW administration make every effort to protect our colleague from harassment and that it explore vigorously all avenues to hold those responsible for these criminal threats legally accountable. If we let any of us be intimidated and cowed into silence, we will have failed in our mission as educators.

José Alaniz, Associate Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Adjunct Associate Professor of Comparative Literature

Eric Ames, Professor and Chair of Comparative Literature, Cinema & Media

Jennifer Bean, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature, Cinema & Media

Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen, Professor of French and Comparative Literature

Yomi Braester, Professor of Comparative Literature

Marshall Brown, Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature

Laura Chrisman, Nancy K. Ketcham Endowed Chair in English, Adjunct Professor of Comparative Literature

Tamara Cooper, Lecturer in Comparative Literature, Cinema & Media

Gordana Crnkovic, Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures, and of Comparative Literature, Cinema & Media

Terri DeYoung, Associate Professor of Arabic Languages and Civilization

Anthony L. Geist, Professor of Spanish and Comparative Literature, Chair of Spanish and Portuguese

Donald Gilbert-Santamaría, Associate Professor of Spanish, Adjunct Professor of Comparative Literature

Stephen Groening, Assistant Professor of Cinema and Media

Gary Handwerk, Professor of English and Comparative Literature

Monika Kaup, Professor of English, Adjunct Professor of Comparative Literature

Leigh Mercer, Associate Professor of Spanish and Portuguese, Adjunct Associate Professor of Comparative Literature, Cinema & Media

Raimonda Modiano, Professor of English and Comparative Literature

Andrew Nestingen, Professor and Chair of Scandinavian Studies, Adjunct Professor of Comparative Literature

Albert Sbragia, Associate Professor of Italian and Comparative Literature

Naomi Sokoloff, Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature

Henry Staten, Byron W. and Alice L. Lockwood Professor in the Humanities, English, and Adjunct Professor of Comparative literature

Cynthia Steele, Professor of Comparative Literature

James Tweedie, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature

Míċeál Vaughan, Professor of Comparative Literature and English

Shawn Wong, Professor of English and Comparative Literature

Geoffrey Turnovsky, Associate Professor of French, Adjunct Associate Professor of Comparative Literature

Selim Kuru, Associate Professor of NELC, Adjunct Associate Professor of Comparative Literature