Opinion: AU drops investigation of protected political speech, but questions remain about expressive freedom on campus
An open letter cosigned by AU faculty
This article is an opinion piece and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Eagle and its staff.
As this letter was going to press in The Eagle, we received word that the investigation into one of the students involved in this case had been dropped. We are nonetheless publishing the letter, because the case raises important questions about how AU’s harassment policy and commitment to protecting free expression relate to each other. We hope the AU administration will clarify the underlying questions about AU’s policies on such matters and encourage members of the community to make their views known on these important issues.
- Lara Schwartz and Thomas Merrill
July 6, 2022
We, the undersigned faculty, write to express concern about an ongoing investigation of eight Washington College of Law students.
Based on the publicly available information about the conversation and the notice the Office of Equity and Title IX sent to the students, the students are being investigated for political speech protected by American University’s policies on expression and dissent, and that would be protected First Amendment speech if AU was a public institution.
Investigating students for political arguments violates students’ rights under our policies and endangers the mission of a university. This is a matter of urgency; community members need reassurance that expressing political disagreement — which is their right under our policies and central to the mission of a university — will not expose them to an investigation.
If some unprotected conduct is not apparent in the public record or notice has taken place, American University should clarify that conduct is being investigated.
We ask that the University promptly conclude this investigation and reaffirm its commitment to protecting its community members’ expressive freedom.
Lara Schwartz SPA/Government
David Lublin, Department of Government
Alan G. Isaac, Economics
Joe Young, School of Public Affairs and School of International Service
Robert A. Blecker, Economics/CAS
Gregg Ivers, Department of Government/SPA
Amos Golan Economics
Jon D. Wisman, Economics
Unice Lieberman Government/SPA
Elizabeth Suhay, Department of Government/SPA
Gabriel Mathy, Department of Economics
Tony Ahrens, Department of Psychology
John Willoughby, Professor, Department of Economics
Scott Parker -- CAS/Psychology (Professor Emeritus)
Andrew Ballard, Assistant Professor, Department of Government
Adrienne LeBas, Department of Government, School of Public Affairs
G. Borden Flanagan, Department of Government
David Barker, Government
Andrew R. Flores / Government - SPA
Elizabeth Anderson Worden, Associate Professor, SOE
Christopher Utter, Department of Government, American University
Garret Martin, SIS
Thomas Merrill, Government/SPA
Jeremy Janow, Department of Government
Kimberly Cowell-Meyers, Govt
Jane Palmer, SPA/JLC
Kiho Kim, CAS/Environmental Science
Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include a link to the letter. The signatures on this op-ed have been updated since publication.