The Academe Blog

The blog of Academe Magazine. Opinions published here do not necessarily represent the policies of the AAUP.

Major Attack on Academic Freedom in Michigan

In the Michigan Senate, the Appropriations Higher Education Subcommittee included in its budget proposal a penalty against any public college or university that teaches a labor-related course or offers a labor-studies program.

Michigan State University has been considering an agreement to adopt a portion of programming from the National Labor College. A spokesperson for the university said in testimony before the subcommittee: “’We do also provide training for other groups, business groups, others on the other side of the aisle for how to work with unions on the management side. We also teach de-certification of unions as well.’”

Apparently the state senators found that testimony insufficiently reassuring, for the proposed legislation imposes a sort of draconian neutrality on the topic of labor issues by prohibiting any courses and programs, existing or new, that either advocate or criticize labor unions.

Specifically, SB 768 prohibits “the encouragement or discouragement of union organizing of employees, including, but not limited to, participating with any business or union, or group of businesses or unions, in hosting, sponsoring, administering, or in any way facilitating an academy, seminar, class, course, conference, or program that provides instruction, in whole or in part, in techniques for encouraging or discouraging employees in regard to union organizing.”

The AAUP Committee on Academic Freedom will have much more to say on this legislation in the coming week.



About martinkich

I am a Professor of English at Wright State University, where I have been a faculty member for almost 25 years. I serve as the president of the WSU chapter of AAUP, which now includes two bargaining units, as the vice-president of the Ohio Conference of AAUP, and as a member of the executive committee of AAUP's Collective Bargaining Congress. As co-chair of the Ohio Conference's Communication Committee, I began to do much more overtly political writing during the campaign to repeal Ohio's Senate Bill 5, which would have eliminated the right of faculty to be unionized.

13 comments on “Major Attack on Academic Freedom in Michigan

  1. mem13
    March 28, 2014

    Reblogged this on mem13 and commented:
    This scares me.

  2. teacherken
    March 29, 2014

    apparently those Senators have never read the 1st Amendment. The state senate is a government body whose actions are restricted by the incorporation of the protections of freedom of speech. I would think a current professor whose course would be affected would have no trouble going into Federal District Court and getting a restraining order against such legislation on Constitutional grounds. Heck, I would think a student at a state university might have an even stronger case.

  3. meganmclaughlin509
    March 29, 2014

    And meanwhile, our administration is attempting to move the labor education program into the business school–a less direct, but equally effective way of killing discussion of labor issues.

  4. Shlomo Abrin
    March 30, 2014

    This isn’t about the 1st Amendment. It’s about using money to force their views on the universities. The Republicans will win this fight. Next time, they will demand that biology and astronomy classes teach young/flat Earth theory. They will threaten to withhold funding. The university will buckle.

    Religion and corporatism are run amok and they are ruthless purveyors of ‘ends justifying means’. I’m just glad I will be able to remember America as it was before they took over.

  5. Pingback: Major attack on Academic Freedom and Unions in Michigan | flexosaurus

  6. Bob at State U.
    March 31, 2014

    How about the SC House trying to “fine” two public colleges with budget cuts because they didn’t like their reading lists. This is the coming innovation in Republican state politics.

    • martinkich
      March 31, 2014

      Please see my previous posts “Academic Freedom Issues in South Carolina” [] and “When Demonstrations of Political Conformity and Loyalty Oaths Are Requirements for a University Degree” [].

  7. geobean
    March 31, 2014

    At least one state university in Michigan has been forcing out faculty union leaders for the past 2-3 years. Some wonder if there has been a mandate or at least influence from the state government. This seems to answer that.

  8. Pingback: Tim’s Tips: Lawmakers Want to End Union Education at Michigan State | Center on Diversity and Community

  9. Pingback: Universal student allowances remove a barrier to education | TEU - Tertiary Education Union

  10. Pingback: Almost Too Many Thursday Links, Really, If You Ask Me | Gerry Canavan

  11. barrym
    April 4, 2014

    It’s easier to spread propaganda with an uneducated populace. Of course, they would blame professors for political activism in the classroom.

  12. martinkich
    June 28, 2014

    Reblogged this on Ohio Higher Ed.

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