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AAA Strengthens Academic Freedom Protections for Anthropologists

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January 9, 2017

Contact Name: Jeff Martin

AAA Strengthens Academic Freedom Protections for Anthropologists

The American Anthropological Association (AAA) has moved to strengthen its commitment to protecting academic freedom by establishing a Rapid Response Network and activating an affiliation with Scholars At Risk, an international non-profit organization that works to protect threatened scholars and promote academic freedom around the world. These actions come in response to three motions from the floor at the Association’s annual business meeting in November 2016.

“The pattern of events in the US and around the world in 2016 indicates a gathering storm that threatens the academic freedom of anthropologists and other academics,” said AAA President Alisse Waterston. “Historically, these threats have been most effectively mitigated when scholarly and professional associations like ours have investigated and spoken out against attacks on academic freedom.”  

The Rapid Response Network on Academic Freedom, a diverse group of anthropologists with scholarly expertise on academic freedom issues will be chaired by anthropologist Marc Edelman, Hunter College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York. The Network will serve as an advisory group to AAA's president, Executive Board, and membership to be called upon as needs and threats arise. In addition to its affiliation with Scholars At Risk, AAA will maintain its active membership in the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Coalition for Science and Human Rights.

The AAA also reaffirmed its adherence to the American Association of University Professors’ (AAUP) 1940 Statement of Principles, which recognizes that “institutions of higher education are conducted for the common good.” Since the AAUP principles were first articulated eight decades ago, the vocabulary for talking about academic freedom has been elaborated. New legal protections from hate speech and hostile work climates have been instituted, and colleges and universities are newly sensitive to calls for “civility,” “trigger warnings,” and the creation of “safe spaces” on campus. Meanwhile, the digital age affords new forms of and channels for scholarly communication, as well as outright threats of censorship. 

“The AAA will oppose threats to the academic freedom of anthropologists wherever in the world they may be engaged in conducting research, teaching, learning, and other professional activities,” Waterston added.

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Founded in 1902, the American Anthropological Association, with 10,000 members, is the world’s largest scholarly and professional organization of anthropologists. The Association is dedicated to advancing human understanding and applying this understanding to the world’s most pressing problems.

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