Free speech for faculty? Not if Chicago State University can help it.
Today’s Chicago Tribune features a shocking report about Chicago State’s efforts to control all faculty speech to the media. Jodi Cohen reports:
In an email sent March 22 to faculty and staff, Sabrina Land, the university’s director of marketing and communications, wrote that all communications must be "strategically deployed" in a way that "safeguards the reputation, work product and ultimately, the students, of CSU."
The policy applies to media interviews, opinion pieces, newsletters, social media and other types of communications, stating that they must be approved by the university’s division of public relations.
"All disclosures to the media will be communicated by an authorized CSU media relations officer or designate," the policy says.
Simply put: You gotta be kidding me. And I’m not the only one to have this reaction:
"Frankly, this policy is an obscenity and absurdity and is not tolerable," said Cary Nelson, president of the American Association of University Professors.
Pancho McFarland, an associate professor of sociology at Chicago State, fears the policy could restrict all types of communications by professors, including speaking engagements.
"It will put a chilling effect on our ability to speak in a number of venues," he said. "It is part of this bigger history to quiet criticism of the administration."
FIRE’s Robert Shibley echoed these concerns:
Robert Shibley, a senior vice president at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, said he’s heard about colleges and universities asking faculty members to alert the media relations office when they talk to the press, but he hasn’t heard of a policy that forbids them from talking.
"It is certainly one of the most restrictive and misguided policies that I have seen," Shibley said.
He said the policy is so broad that it could restrict professors from participating in interviews about their research, for example.
If he worked at Chicago State, he said he "would certainly think my job would be in jeopardy" if he spoke out.
Chicago State’s brazen effort to implement top-down control of faculty speech must fail. Check out the whole article here, and stay tuned to The Torch for more developments.