The American Association of University Professors said Wednesday that it may not remove the University of Nebraska-Lincoln from its censure list because of Regent Jim Pillen’s proposed resolution condemning the teaching of critical race theory.
Pillen, a gubernatorial candidate, plans to bring the resolution to a vote at the Board of Regents’ Aug. 13 meeting. The resolution states, among other details, that the regents will “oppose any imposition of Critical Race Theory in curriculum.”
In a statement Wednesday, the AAUP said, “An institution whose governing board dictates the subjects that its faculty members may or may not address in their classrooms fails to honor the basic tenets of academic freedom that enable institutions of higher learning to seek the truth and promote the common good.”
The AAUP also said it will suspend its virtual UNL visit pending the outcome of the Board of Regents’ vote.
UNL has been on the AAUP’s censure list since 2018 as a result of the campus’ actions against Courtney Lawton, a student-lecturer, following an August 2017 incident where Lawton berated a UNL sophomore who was recruiting students for Turning Point USA, a conservative organization.
Following the incident, UNL removed Lawton from the classroom for what administrators alleged were safety precautions. Lawton’s contract ran out without a due process hearing before a faculty committee, and her contract wasn’t renewed.
AAUP and NU leaders had been negotiating to get the school off the list, but those discussions appeared to have been set back by Pillen’s proposed resolution.
In a statement, Pillen said: "If doing our job as regents and addressing critical race theory means UNL has to continue to carry a meaningless 'censure' for protecting its students, so be it. We should wear it as a badge of honor. Courtney Lawton harassed a conservative student for expressing her views, and was rightfully punished for her totally unacceptable behavior. I will always protect the freedom of expression and inquiry for our students. As an elected member of the Board of Regents, I am responsible only to the voters of Nebraska.”
NU President Ted Carter and chancellors from each campus released a statement Wednesday expressing “significant concerns” about Pillen’s resolution.
In an interview with The World-Herald, UNL spokesperson Leslie Reed said the school respects the AAUP’s announcement.
“We respect their right to change their process,” she said. “We look forward to continuing to work with them in the coming weeks.”