POSTED BY KELLY HAND
In his article recently published in the January–February issue of Academe magazine, “A New Reality? The Far Right’s Use of Cyberharassment against Academics,” Joshua A. Cuevas offers a firsthand account of being targeted by malicious online attacks using fabricated information. In counteracting these efforts to sabotage his professional reputation, Cuevas documented the harassment and secured the support of the administration at his university, University of North Georgia.
Following publication of the article, the University of North Georgia chapter of the AAUP wrote on Friday, January 26, to the UNG president, Bonita C. Jacobs, to request a public statement of the administration’s support for Professor Cuevas and the principles of academic freedom.
A UNG faculty member has published an essay in Academe, the distinguished publication of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), citing harassment he has received apparently from students inspired by hyper-partisanship and in clear opposition to the principles of academic freedom and liberal education. The UNG Chapter of the AAUP requests that the University make a clear public statement that the University decries the forms of harassment cited in the Academe essay and stands always for academic freedom and discourse free of intimidation or threat.
On Saturday, January 27, the following message was sent by President Jacobs.
Dear UNG Faculty and Staff:
Fundamental to our university community is the ability to express and discuss diverse perspectives with respect, not fear of retaliation or harassment. Unfortunately, this is increasingly difficult in our society.
Dr. Joshua Cuevas, associate professor in UNG’s College of Education, had an essay published this week in a publication of the American Association of University Professors that chronicles his experience as a victim of cyber-harassment. The incident stemmed from an online political discussion Dr. Cuevas was engaged in as a private citizen, outside of his professional role and responsibilities at UNG. However, individuals who disagreed with his opinion subsequently used false identities and fabricated emails in an attempt to malign Dr. Cuevas professionally and incite reactions from the university, students and political groups.
Dr. Cuevas has had the support of the university throughout this course of events, including consistent communication to his colleagues, students and individuals who inquired about their validity that the messages were fabricated and a malicious and unfounded attack on Dr. Cuevas. I am grateful to our colleagues in the College of Education, Student Affairs, Public Safety, IT, General Counsel, Human Resources, and University Relations for their support in this unusual issue.
The protection of individuals’ rights under the First Amendment is essential to our society, and harassment as a result of personal expression is unacceptable. A dynamic learning environment requires open dialog of factual information, critical thinking skills, and civility that respects viewpoints different than our own. As educators, this is one of the most valuable lessons we can teach our students, and I thank you for helping instill this in our future leaders.
Bonita C. Jacobs, Ph.D.
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