Faculty members from across the country dismayed over investigation of Texas A&M professor

KBTX News 3 at Ten(Recurring)
Published: Jul. 30, 2023 at 8:17 PM CDT
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - July 25, 2023 The Academic Freedom Alliance has sent Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp a letter, expressing concern over the suspension and investigation into a professor for comments she made as a guest lecturer in a college class.

The letter is from the The Academic Freedom Alliance, a coalition of faculty members from across the country and across the ideological spectrum who say they are committed to upholding the principles of academic freedom and professorial free speech.

The letter refers to Joy Alonzo, a Texas A&M University professor who had given a lecture on the opioid crisis at the University of Texas Medical Branch. During that lecture, a student had accused her of disparaging Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick during the talk.

Shortly after, she was suspended and investigated by A&M.

The Academic Freedom Alliance writes to Sharp, saying his office was reportedly intimately involved in these activities.

“The investigation and suspension lasted two weeks, and even though she was cleared of any wrongdoing, university leaders at both the University of Texas and Texas A&M wound up sending out emails that were clearly designed to discourage constitutionally protected speech by members of their faculties in order to avoid offending students or state politicians.”

Academic Freedom Alliance

The letter goes on to say the Alliance is relieved that the investigation was eventually dropped, but that they feel it never should have been launched in the first place, saying “this affair shows a disturbing lack of concern with academic freedom principles in the Texas A&M System. "

“I write on behalf of the Academic Freedom Alliance to express our firm view that the university’s actions represent an egregious violation of the principles of academic freedom and

the university’s responsibilities under the First Amendment.”

Keith Whittington, Founding Chair, Academic Committee, Academic Freedom Alliance

They also stated that Texas A&M University is subjected to the limits of the first amendment of the constitution as well as its own contractual commitments.

The Academic Freedom Alliance called on Texas A&M to publicly affirm in the future it will adhere to “principles of academic freedom and free speech” and to reassure faculty that they will not be threatened with termination if they say critical things about state policy.