Educational Psychology, Department of


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©2017 Oath Inc.


Does academic freedom protect giving students the finger? On August 25, University of Nebraska-Lincoln sophomore Kaitlyn Mullen set up a table on campus outside the student union to promote Turning Point USA, a campus-based libertarian/conservative organization. TPUSA is known for its Professor Watchlist, which seeks to “expose and document college professors who discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.” Before long, there were people demonstrating against her. Ultimately, Mullen was harassed and intimidated by several individuals employed to teach at UNL, with the apparent intent of suppressing her intellectual freedom. One of them labeled her a “neo-fascist” and gave her the finger. The encounter received extensive publicity, as a result of which UNL has been denounced and threatened by donors, state senators, and others. Many have demanded that those responsible for Mullen’s treatment be punished. Others have responded that the instructors involved are protected by academic freedom. Obviously UNL should not punish anyone or violate its normal processes just to satisfy external demands. But does academic freedom really protect giving a student the finger? I think not. ...