AAUP censures UNL for punishing lecturer who bullied student
- The American Association of University Professors has followed through on its threat to "censure" the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for disciplining an instructor who publicly berated a conservative student on campus last year.
- The AAUP claims that UNL violated "generally recognized principles of academic freedom" by punishing Courtney Lawton, but UNL counters that Lawton turned down an opportunity to have a hearing on the matter.
A national organization of academics has put the University of Nebraska-Lincoln on its censure list for suspending an instructor who berated a conservative student on campus last year.
In a June 16 statement, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) announced that it put University of Nebraska-Lincoln administrators on its censure list, condemning the administration for disciplining lecturer Courtney Lawton after she verbally harassed student Kaitlyn Mullen while she was recruiting for a conservative organization on campus.
“Delegates to the 104th Annual Meeting of the AAUP voted today to add the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) to the AAUP’s list of administrations censured for failing to observe generally recognized principles of academic freedom and tenure,” the group wrote. “An AAUP investigation found that UNL may have violated principles of academic freedom in suspending and failing to reinstate Ms. Courtney Lawton from her teaching responsibilities.”
As previously reported by Campus Reform, Lawton joined several other faculty members in belittling Mullen while she tried to recruit new members for UNL’s Turning Point USA chapter last August.
While the other instructors held signs critical of TPUSA, Lawton circled Mullen’s table, extended her middle finger, and accused the student of being a “neo-fascist Becky” who wants “to destroy public schools, public universities, [and] hates DACA kids.”
The altercation was harshly condemned by state lawmakers, who demanded that the school explain why its faculty members are hostile toward conservative students. In response to the inquiry, university President Hank Bounds announced that Lawton will not be teaching at the institution and acknowledged that the lecturer had “mistreated” the student.
In May, the AAUP published a report blasting the school for its decision to dismiss Lawton, arguing that the move was a result of “political pressure” from lawmakers and announcing that its members would decide whether to formally censure UNL at the organization’s annual meeting in June.
“Censure by the AAUP informs the public as well as the academic community that the administration of an institution has not adhered to the generally recognized principles of academic freedom and tenure,” the organization explained last week.
Notably, though, censure by the AAUP does not carry any actual ramifications, serving merely to inform AAUP members of “unsatisfactory conditions” so that they can decide whether they wish to “refrain from accepting appointment to an institution so long as it remains on the censure list.”
“I would have preferred that NU’s administration respected academic freedom and due process in handling my case in the first place, rather than getting censured after the fact,” Lawton said in an email to The Omaha World-Herald.
According to the newspaper, UNL has countered that its response to Lawton’s actions was misinterpreted by AAUP, asserting that the lecturer was allowed continue her research until the end of this academic year, and was even given an opportunity for a hearing, which she rejected.
Spokespersons for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln did not immediately respond to Campus Reform’s request for comment.