Who are we?
We are a group of scholars, teachers, students, staff administrators, and other individuals dedicated to preserving the core values of higher education – the unfettered search for truth, the cultivation of an inclusive democratic culture, and the expansion of access to high quality education for all members of our increasingly diverse society.
What do we support?
We want to sustain and reinvigorate an academic community that creates new knowledge and preserves that of the past while providing a safe haven for the vigorous debate that a healthy democracy requires. We welcome ideas of all kinds as long as they contribute to genuine educational practices – reasoned inquiry, open-mindedness, search for evidence, and respect for the experiences of all participants, including those previously excluded from academic life.
We realize that American institutions of higher learning fulfill many functions. These include individual mobility and economic development. We also believe in the ultimate value of higher learning for contributing to the common good and preparing individuals for civic and political engagement. Education enriches people’s lives by enhancing their capacities to express themselves, build relationships, organizations, and communities, and find meaning and pleasure in their own learning.
Why are we organizing?
For more than forty years the academic community has been the target of a sustained campaign of demonization and defunding designed to undercut its legitimacy as a source of expertise and a haven for dissent. The structure of this anti-education movement is deep, wide, coordinated. It seeks to identify seeming weaknesses within academe to undermine it. The attack is being intensified under the current administration that has manufactured a media crisis around questions of free speech. As a result, we face an unprecedented threat to our institutions of higher learning from specific organizations and a political climate dominated by anti-intellectualism and willful ignorance. Almost every area of academic life is now at risk, whether the threats come from the insistence of outside groups pressuring universities to host speakers who seek only to provoke controversy, the federal government’s attempts to ban Muslims, “Dreamers,” and undocumented students, the attack on science and expertise as elitist and undemocratic, or the underfunding of public higher education and scientific research. This is not only an American issue; the world’s universities are in danger of losing the intellectual distinction and freedom that they have represented and defended.
What do we do now?
The Network focuses on reclaiming and centering the core principles of higher education. Working alongside other organizations—among them the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U), and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)--it seeks to alert the academic community to threats that misunderstand or misrepresent the university’s basic nature and operations, whether these come from government, business, other outside groups, or the university itself.
Our website will serve as a resource, collating information that can serve as a basis for local and national action. Materials are organized in four fields. Legislation Watch alerts readers to pending bills aimed at curbing student and faculty rights. Incident Watch tracks cases of various kinds (administrative handling of controversial speakers and protests against them; targeted harassment of faculty who have spoken out on political issues). Higher Education Management Watch examines the potential impact of rules, risk management procedures, and federal mandates such as Title IX . And Intimidation Watch provides information about the individuals, foundations, and other sponsors of the attack on the academy.
In addition, the Network develops guidelines for and examples of best practices in response to attacks on academic freedom. It serves as a clearing-house for activists and their supporters. It will also link to position papers addressing current events and issue critical commentaries of our own.
The Network is intended as a responsive, interactive resource. We count on you to alert us to important issues and analyses, and to share your own insights and lessons learned. A concerted, coordinated, and collective effort is what we need to effective push back against the formidable political challenges facing higher education today.
Please join us.