We Support Professor Livingston’s Free Speech

The Rutgers AAUP-AFT stands resolutely in support of faculty, and all University employees, who exercise their right of free speech. That is what Professor James Livingston did when he posted comments on his personal Facebook page objecting to the gentrification of his neighborhood in Harlem.

The administration’s misguided decision to silence Professor Livingston by disciplining him for the expression of opinions unrelated to his job at Rutgers violates his fundamental constitutional rights. The attempt to interfere with and chill his First Amendment rights sets a dangerous precedent and is an unacceptable intrusion into the private lives of University employees.

Once again, the administration has abandoned its articulated principles in the face of some real or imagined confrontation.

President Barchi’s own Statement on Free Speech and Academic Freedom says:

“Both academic freedom and our First Amendment rights are at the core of what we do. Our University policy on speech is clear. All members of our community enjoy the rights of free expression guaranteed by the First Amendment. Faculty members, as private citizens, enjoy the same freedoms of speech and expression as any private citizen and shall be free from institutional discipline in the exercise of these rights.

However, when these principles really matter, the Barchi administration does not uphold them.

We call on every faculty member, indeed every member of the University community, to make clear to the administration that disciplining employees for the exercise of our constitutional rights will not be tolerated.

The Rutgers AAUP-AFT has been a champion of freedom of speech and academic freedom for decades and we are working to strengthen these protections in our contract negotiations with the Administration of this University. Our approach and proposals can be found here.

The punitive actions threatened by the administration against Professor Livingston are not only a threat to his job security, but to the security of all faculty at Rutgers.

The Rutgers AAUP-AFT demands that Rutgers reverse its findings against Professor Livingston and follow the policies and principles articulated by President Barchi in his Statement on Free Speech and Academic Freedom.

—The Executive Council, Rutgers AAUP-AFT