Academic Free Speech

May 9, 2024 – We want to share information about university protections and structures supporting academic free speech. As GEs, a lot of whom are instructors of record in courses where difficult and important conversations around current events and critical thinking happen with undergraduate students, we have constitutional protections as educators to do so. Despite these protections, some GEs who include such topics in their teaching may receive unwarranted discipline from supervisors or unit heads. 

As union members, you have a legal right to free speech, and a legal right (Weingarten right) to having a union steward present in any supervisory meeting that might result in disciplinary action. You have the legal right to union support if you face disciplinary action that infringes on your academic freedom. You have the right to inform supervisors of your own rights, and to pursue formal complaints if those assertions of rights are not appropriately attended to.

Claims against any and all university staff, faculty, and GEs are routed through the Office of Investigations and Civil Rights Compliance (OICRC)–this is also the office responsible for Title IX investigations and compliance. Most reports from that office result in investigations that tend toward protecting academic free speech, rather than disciplining people who share thoughts, opinions, and facts that are not well received. Here is the Provost’s policy on Academic Free Speech.

All of this is to say, that supervisors who dole out disciplinary action for protected academic free speech are circumventing university procedures for addressing this. Your steward is empowered to tell them that in meetings, and to raise a grievance on your behalf if the supervisor follows through with discipline.

Here are some more links to relevant university procedures, as of May 6, 2024. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to your VP of Grievances ( if you have questions or concerns.