UNL profs complain of 'sustained attack' by lawmakers

Hundreds of University of Nebraska, Lincoln professors have signed a letter urging state officials to stay out of university affairs after an August incident put the school in the national spotlight.

As Campus Reform reported, several professors harassed and bullied the president of the school’s Turning Point USA chapter while she was recruiting on campus, even flashing her the middle finger and calling her a “neo-fascist.”

Among the hecklers was Teaching Assistant Courtney Lawton, who was later removed from her teaching duties and informed that she wouldn’t be invited back to teach after her contract expired.

[RELATED: Lecturer dismissed after harassing conservative student]

Following the incident, three Nebraska State Senators wrote an open letter questioning the university’s treatment of conservative students.

“Are professors at UNL hostile towards conservative students?” the letter asked. “Can the university's administration conduct an honest investigation when a conservative student is involved?”

Their letter went on to question the efficacy of the English Department, observing that words such as “classical literature studies,” “writing,” “poetry,” and “novel” are missing from its mission statement, while generic statements like “pursuing social justice” and “affirming diversity” are included.”

Now, 300-plus professors from across a variety of university departments have responded, accusing the senators of leveraging “a single campus interaction into a sustained attack on the university that has greatly surpassed the scope and import of the initial incident.”

[RELATED: Profs rally for colleague who bullied conservative student]

“We fear that financial hostage-taking by members of the state government will result in changes by the administration in the intellectual offerings of the University and opportunities for our students,” the letter reads.

“Their lack of consistency in protecting and respecting students’ political views, particularly those that diverge from their own, reveals the political nature of this manufactured crisis,” it continues, saying government interference with the university has put both the value of a degree from the school and “intellectual freedom” at risk.

Professor John Bender, one of the signatories, told Campus Reform that while he believes “it is appropriate for state legislators to be interested in and aware of what is going on at all publicly funded institutions, including universities, it is not appropriate for them to be involved in matters of hiring, firing, disciplining, and other administrative matters.”

“They can set overall policies, but they should not be engaged in what are essentially administrative functions. This is the principle of separation of powers,” he added, suggesting that the August incident has been “played out of proportion by people with a political agenda.”

Notably, Sen. Steve Erdman, one of the three senators who penned the initial letter to the school, recently wrote an article in which he discusses the contents of a Public Records Request filed by Conservative Review.

The request found that Vice Chancellor Ellen Weissinger had admitted in an email to a colleague that “campuses have to become more tolerant and welcoming to conservative students and faculty.”

[RELATED: UNL admins deny allegations of hostility towards conservatives]

“This has worried me for years. I don’t think it is ‘safe’ to be conservative on our campus,” she added, while additional emails showed that spokesman Steve Smith had suggested using surrogates to write op-eds for local newspapers “to start peeling away at the right wing’s central narrative that has unfortunately been parroted by the mainstream media.”

Both Smith and Chief Communication and Marketing Officer Teresa Paulsen resigned the same day those emails were released.

“I want our flagship university to become a champion for free speech, a safe place for conservative students, and a model for all other universities to follow,” Erdman concludes his article.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @kassydillon