An Appeal to Defend Free Speech and Academic Freedom

Read about Loretta’s case in The Nation this week!

Signatories:

Noam Chomsky, Institute professor (emeritus), MIT

Michael Ratner, President of the Center for Constitutional Rights*

Jesse Sharkey, Vice President, Chicago Teachers Union*

Dave Zirin, Sports Editor, The Nation

Ahmed Shawki, Editor, International Socialist Review

Anthony Arnove, Editor, Haymarket Books

Scott McLemee, Inside Higher Ed*

David McNally, Professor of Political Science, York University, Toronto

The Coalition Against Corporate Higher Education (CACHE)

Mike Davis, Professor, UC Riverside

William Keach, Professor, Brown University

Deepa Kumar, Associate Professor, Rutgers University

Hector R. Reyes, Associate Professor, Harold Washington College, Vice Chair, HWC Chapter, AFT Local 1600

Helen C. Scott, Associate Professor, University of Vermont

Marvin Surkin, Professor, Long Island University, Ramapo College

Pranav Jani, Associate Professor, English, Ohio State University

*Organizations listed for identification only

URGENT APPEAL

This is an urgent appeal for your support to defend Professor Loretta Capeheart in her struggle with her employer, Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) in Chicago. After four years of legal action, we are now awaiting a key decision from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals—a decision that could set a precedent for free speech rights on campus and possibly move the case on to the Supreme Court.

WHAT IS THIS CASE ABOUT?

“In a case emerging as a major test of the free-speech rights of faculty members at public colleges, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit is being asked to decide whether Northeastern Illinois University could legally punish a professor who advised student activists by deeming her own statements of protest to be job-related.”

—The Chronicle of Higher Education, August 11, 2011 

Capeheart is a ten-year tenured professor at NEIU and a respected union and community activist. Capeheart has been a leader in union struggles, anti-war work and attempts to promote the rights of students and faculty, especially Latino/a faculty.  Unfortunately Capeheart and other campus activists face one of the most repressive and scandal-ridden campus administrations in the country, presided over by NEIU President Sharon K. Hahs, an arrogant opponent of student, worker, and minority rights on campus.  NEIU administrators have engaged in a well-documented history of retaliation against Capeheart for her principled activism. The administration has denied Capeheart a department chair position and earned merit pay increases, and waged in a campaign of slander against her.

In Capeheart v. Hahs et al., a Federal judge concluded that Capeheart could be punished for speaking out against the war because she advised a student club.  The court agreed with NEIU’s lawyers that academics have no right to free speech under the Supreme Court decision Garcetti v. Ceballos (2006).

In Garcetti, the Supreme Court stripped most government workers of their rights to speak in the workplace but made a footnoted exception for professors. In deciding against Capeheart, the lower court effectively ignored this footnote and left faculty—and all workers— with fewer rights. Other federal courts have similarly misapplied Garcetti. Now the pending decision from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals will either reject the new limits on faculty rights set by the lower courts— or further establish them.  Either way, this decision could then proceed to the Supreme Court.

 

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

  • Send emails, phone calls, letters to NEIU President Sharon K. Hahs

S-Hahs@neiu.edu

(773)442-5400

Sharon K. Hahs

President of the University

5500 North St. Louis Avenue

Chicago, IL 60625

  •  Support the campaign financially. Loretta has spent almost $100,000, well beyond her limited means in her attempt to defend free speech. Nobody can or should have to defend our free speech rights all on their own.We need individual and institutional financial backing to continue this fight.  You can make a donation by going to our PayPal button (above under Loretta’s photo).
  •  Show your solidarity by resolutions in your union, your faculty senate, or other organization through which you can gain support.

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