Academic Freedom Conference

academic freedom

October 14, 2022


Assaults on public higher education have deep cultural and political roots in the United States. Yet the perils university faculty face today are especially acute, including sanctions from legislators and donors, social media harassment, violent threats and other forms of intimidation. Curricula and research specializations are subject to unprecedented public scrutiny and criticism. In short, the contemporary political landscape has reshaped the contours of academic freedom at public universities.

Galvanized by these new forces and phenomena, the University Oregon’s Office of the Provost (OtP) will host an online conference devoted to Academic Freedom and the Public University on October 14, 2022. Building on the University’s public defense of academic freedom, we invite faculty and administrators from the PAC-12 (comprised of R1 public universities in the West) and other colleges and universities in the Pacific Northwest to participate. This conference will focus on external interference from politicians, civil society, and the media that constrain or impede the faculty exercise of its academic freedom. In addition to stimulating vigorous discussion, both within and across universities, this conference aims to identify institutional strategies, policies, and practices that successfully promote, bolster, and protect the faculty’s academic freedom.


Keynote Speakers

Lynn Pasquerella

President of AAC&U

Eric K. Ward

Senior Advisor at Western States Center

Irene Mulvey

President of AAUP

James Grossman

Executive Director of AHA

Sumi Cho

Director of Strategic Initiatives at AAPF


Panels and Panelists


The last few years have seen increasing coercion by state actors, including governors and state legislatures, in academic matters such as curricula, pedagogy, expert testimony, and public speech. In this panel, participants will discuss the distinct threat this growing political (and politicized) climate of surveillance and control poses to academic freedom.

Moderator: Joe Lowndes, Professor and Provost’s Fellow, University of Oregon

Panelist Position
Lynn Comella Professor and Chair, Department of Interdisciplinary, Gender, and Ethnic Studies, UNLV
2021-2022 Fellow at the University of California Center for Free Speech & Civic Engagement
Sharon Wright Austin Professor, University of Florida
Jonathan Friedman Director, Free Expression and Education Programs, PEN America
Christopher Newfield

Director of Research at the Independent Social Research Foundation
Distinguished Professor Emeritus, University of California: Santa Barbara



This panel will discuss the role of civil society organizations, donors, and the media that are showing an increased interest in academic matters such as scholarship, curricula, programming, and pedagogy. Though universities value their relationships with these entities, there are instances of interference from these groups that present challenges to administrators, impact faculty and students, and impinge on academic freedom.

Moderator: Charise Cheney, Associate Professor and Provost Fellow, University of Oregon

Panelist Position
Ralph Wilson

Author of Free Speech and Koch Money and Co-founder and Research Director of the

Corporate Genome Project

Isaac Kamola

Author of Free Speech and Koch Money
Associate Professor of Political Science at Trinity College
President of Trinity College's AAUP chapter
Founder of Faculty First Responders

Katy Krieger  Project Manager, University of Oregon
Cassandra Woody Assistant Teaching Professor, University of Oklahoma
George Ciccariello-Maher Visiting Associate Professor, Vassar College



This panel will offer a discussion on the threats and challenges to academic freedom posed by current debates about memory laws, the teaching of national histories, and the censorship of critical histories of the nation-state throughout the country. Critical Race Theory, for instance, has been targeted as a body of scholarship that counters the epic narrative of white settler colonialism in the U.S. and the academic freedom of scholars working within that particular framework is currently under attack. The panel will stage some of these debates as presented in the forthcoming issue of the Journal of Academic Freedom under the title “Memory Laws or Gag Laws? Disinformation Meets Academic Freedom.”

Moderator: Pedro García-Caro, Associate Professor and Provost Fellow, University of Oregon

Panelist Position
Lori Latrice Martin Associate Dean in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences Professor, Louisiana State University
JAF contributor
Michael Dreiling Professor, University of Oregon
Past President of United Academics (Faculty Union)
Past President of AAUP Oregon
JAF co-editor
Tabitha Morton Assistant Professor, Prairie View A&M University
JAF contributor

Conference Schedule - October 14

Time Topic Notes
9:00 - 9:15 a.m. Opening Remarks by Interim President Patrick Phillips  
9:15 - 9:45 a.m. Keynote: Lynn Pasquerella Introduction by Acting Provost Janet Woodruff-Borden
9:45 - 10:00 a.m. Break  
10:00 - 10:45 a.m. Panel #1: Political Interference Moderator: Joe Lowndes
10:45 - 11:00 a.m. Break  
11:00 - 11:30 a.m. Keynote: Eric Ward Introduction by Joe Lowndes
11:30 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. Panel #2: Donors, Media, and Civil Society Organizations Moderator: Charise Cheney
12:15 - 1:00 p.m. Break  
1:00 - 1:30 p.m. Keynote: Irene Mulvey Introduction by Pedro García-Caro
1:30 - 2:00 p.m. Keynote: Jim Grossman Introduction by Gabe Paquette
2:00 - 2:45 p.m. Panel #3: New Directions in the Study of Academic Freedom Moderator: Pedro García-Caro
2:45 - 3:15 p.m. Keynote: Sumi Cho Introduction by Kevin Reed, Vice President and General Counsel
3:15 - 3:20 p.m. Concluding remarks by the Office of the Provost  
3:20 - 3:30 p.m. Transition time for in-person event at UO  
3:30 - 5:00 p.m. In-person reception