ACLS Statement in Support of Academic Freedom and New College of Florida

Published February 9, 2023

In recent years, we have seen politicians intensify their effort to re-brand institutions of higher education – specifically, the humanities and social sciences – as hothouses of liberal indoctrination. Their attacks threaten public understanding of our nation’s history and culture, and they undermine key principles of academic freedom and faculty governance. 

The governor of Florida has now moved past rhetoric to direct action with its current “overhaul” of New College of Florida. The state administration uses the word “indoctrination” often and freely. By ousting Dr. Patricia Okker, the president of New College of Florida, and by taking over the college’s Board of Trustees, they reveal themselves as would-be indoctrinators of views that undermine the purpose of higher education in a democracy. Other states are already pursuing similar efforts of intimidation and censorship.

ACLS stands up in support of ex-President Okker, the New College community, and faculty and students at institutions of higher education around the country who are experiencing similar political interventions. We believe that higher education is based on critical thinking and informed debate. We recognize that differences of opinion are vital to academic inquiry, and we support the rights of all students and faculty to freely engage in scholarly conversation and civil debate. This is precisely what is threatened in this moment.

We ask every member of the ACLS community to inform themselves about these dangerous developments and to draw on the resources of ACLS, its member societies, and other groups that are mobilizing to protect faculty governance and advocate for the free circulation of humanistic knowledge.  

We thank those of you already joining the fight in your societies and on your campuses. ACLS invites our community of member societies, member institutions, fellows and grantees, and supporters to sign this statement to affirm their support for sustaining academic freedom in higher education.

ACLS Member Societies and Institutions (as of February 13, 2023)

American Academy of Religion
American Anthropological Association
American Association for Italian Studies
American Association of Colleges and Universities
American Historical Association
American Musicological Society
American Society for Environmental History
American Sociological Association
Association for Jewish Studies Executive Board
Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies
Association of University Presses
College Art Association
German Studies Association
Medieval Academy of America
Middle East Studies Association of North America
Organization of American Historians
National Women’s Studies Association
Rhetoric Society of America
Society for Cinema and Media Studies
Society for Music Theory
Society of Biblical Literature
Society for Ethnomusicology
World History Association

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