November 17, 2003

Statement protected under academic freedom

Dear Editor:

The "Emory University Statement Regarding Racial Language Incident" that appears on the Emory website raises very serious issues concerning academic freedom and individual rights. This statement and the article that appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Nov. 6, report that Professor Carol Worthman used a "racial expression" during a department panel discussion, a complaint was filed with the university's Office of Equal Opportunity Programs, and now sanctions have been imposed.

According to the newspaper article, Professor Worthman used the expression as a metaphor for the way her own field is regarded by some anthropologists.   Professor Worthman's remark is clearly protected under the principle of academic freedom. The imposition of sanctions for her protected speech is not only a violation of academic freedom, it is a grave threat to academic freedom on this campus. In this regard, it must be said that the University's Policy Statement on Discriminatory Harassment is inconsistent with academic freedom and with an atmosphere of free and open exchange of ideas. This episode should serve as a call to re-examine the policy with a view to repealing it.

The statement on the website also indicated that "mandatory diversity training" is to be conducted within the Anthropology Department. This is a violation of academic freedom and the rights of individuals.

The Georgia chapter of the National Association of Scholars urges you to lift these sanctions, reaffirm the University's commitment to academic freedom and the rights of individuals, and initiate a review of the Discriminatory Harassment Policy.

Respectfully yours,

Ann Hartle
President, Georgia Chapter, National Association of Scholars,
and professor of philosophy


Co-signed by:

Juan Del Aguila,
associate professor of political science

Elizabeth Fox-Genovese,
Eleonore Raoul Professor of the Humanities

Paul H. Rubin,
Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Economics and Law