Universities normally tout their star professors, celebrating each newspaper op-ed or magazine article that showcases new scholarship and highlights the value of their institutions. The marketing arms of universities effectively use faculty members’ media publications and appearances to advertise their institutions and to recruit students.
However, at Chicago State University, professors are paradoxically being silenced by their administrators. The Chicago Tribune reports that Chicago State University has issued a new policy threatening its faculty members with firing for communicating with any media without administrative authorization.
The Chicago Tribune report indicates that:
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.
Failure to follow the rules “will be treated as serious and will result in disciplinary action, possible termination and could give rise to civil and/or criminal liability on the part of the employee.”
This policy clearly violates the principle of academic freedom and may violate faculty members’ First Amendment rights.
The AAUP has already responded to this outrageous policy, aiming to lift these restrictions on academic speech at Chicago State University. Faculty members at public universities in Illinois and across the nation should be alarmed by these dangerous restrictions on academic speech.