University leaders voice support for academic freedom, denounce threats


The University of Michigan is taking several steps as part of a larger effort to address growing concerns and experiences of harassment, threats and intimidation against faculty members as a result of their research or academic work.

This spring, the university will launch a survey of faculty members to better understand the scope of the problem and serve as a guide for how better to support them. 

That effort is being led by the Office of the Provost and will be developed and administered in partnership with U-M’s Institute for Social Research, the world’s largest academic social science survey and research organization.

Provost Laurie McCauley announced the effort at the Feb. 15 Board of Regents meeting and shared a strong statement of support for faculty who become the focus of pressure or attack.

“At the University of Michigan, we firmly uphold the principles that empower our faculty to freely conduct research, express their ideas, challenge prevailing notions, and engage in robust discourse without reprisal,” McCauley said.

“In the performance of their academic duties, our faculty may incur criticism, from within the university community or outside it. This is intrinsic to all academic vocations. We recognize there is a crucial difference between robust, civil disagreement with a person’s ideas and harassment designed to make an individual feel unsafe or interfere with their ability to teach and conduct research.

“In addition to the harm that threats and harassment cause our faculty as individuals, such behavior, often deliberately, has the potential to compromise our academic mission. The University of Michigan is committed to offering the breadth of its resources and support to faculty experiencing threats and/or harassment.”

Resources and guidance have been posted on the university’s Public Affairs website, and include mental health, media relations, legal and technology support.

In addition, the university will work to create a coordinated response approach to ensure individuals have access to available resources through a single point of contact.

These actions follow the recommendations from a small working group of faculty and staff that was brought together by the Office of Public Affairs to review existing resources and identify possible improvements.


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