Legal Defense

The law is an important tool for protecting academic freedom and quality higher education.

Through its Legal Defense Fund and Passer Legal Defense Fund, the AAUP Foundation supports faculty members in cases at the trial and appellate levels that implicate important legal rights, involve legal issues of national significance in higher education, and affect the careers of academics. 

Recent Legal Defense Grants

  • Supported legal costs associated with the AAUP's preparation and filing of its amicus brief in Texas Attorney General, Opinion Request No. 0421-KP. The brief responds to a request from a state legislator for an opinion on whether teaching certain ideas about race, including critical race theory, would violate Title VI, and it addresses how such attacks on teaching undermine higher education and violate principles of academic freedom. (2021)
  • Supported legal costs associated with the AAUP's preparation and filing of its amicus brief in United Academics of Oregon State University v. Oregon State University, CA No. A174198 (Or. Ct. of App.). The AAUP submitted brief to the Oretgon Court of Appeals explaining that "shared governance" did not protect an administration's distribution of material violating Oregon's union neutrality law. The appeal arose from an Oregon Employment Relations Board decision finding that Oregon State University had violated a state law requiring neutrality in union organizing drives by authoring FAQs and distributing them to faculty. (2021)
  • Supported legal costs associated with the AAUP's preparation and filing of its amicus brief in Wade v. University of Michigan, SC: 156150. The AAUP joined an amicus brief with Brady United Against Gun Violence and TEAM ENOUGH filed in the Michigan Supreme Court in support of an appeal affirming that the University of Michigan's prohibition on firearms does not infringe on Second Amendment rights. The brief supports the university's ability to impose gun control measures that protect faculty and students from the negative impact on academic freedom and freedom of speech of the presence of firearms on campus. (2021)
  • Supported legal costs associated with the AAUP’s preparation and filing of its amicus brief in Energy & Environment Legal Institute v. Arizona Board of Regents, Case No. C20134963 (June 14, 2016 Ariz. Sup. Ct. Pima County) on remand from Case No. 2CACV-2015-0086 (Dec. 3. 2015 Ariz. App. Ct. Second App. Div.). In this decision the Arizona Court of Appeals rejected attempts by a “free market” legal foundation to use public records requests to compel faculty members to release emails related to their climate research. The AAUP brief argued that Arizona statute creates an exemption to public release of records for academic research records. (2018) 
  • Supported legal costs associated with the AAUP’s preparation and filing of its amicus brief in Trump v. Int’l Refugee Assistance Project, 137 S. Ct. 2080, 198 L. ED. 2d 643 (June 26, 2017) (No. 16-1436). The AAUP joined with the American Council on Education and other higher education groups in a brief to the US Supreme Court opposing the Trump administration’s Executive Order instituting a travel ban. The brief emphasized the significant value of foreign academics and the international exchange of scholarly work. (2018) 
  • Supported legal costs associated with the AAUP’s preparation and filing of its amicus brief in Glass et alvPaxton et al., No. 17-50641 (5th Cir. Nov. 20, 2017). The AAUP joined with the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence in an amicus brief filed in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals supporting a challenge to a statute and policy in Texas that compel faculty to permit concealed handguns in college classrooms. The brief argued that the policy and law requiring that handguns be permitted in classrooms harm faculty, deprive them of a core academic decision, and have a chilling effect on their First Amendment right to academic freedom. (2018)
  • Defrayed costs of outside counsel for the AAUP’s amicus brief in the US Supreme Court case of Fisher v. University of Texas (Fisher II), in which the Court upheld the constitutionality of the university’s affirmative action program. The AAUP’s joint brief argued that consideration of race in the admissions process is appropriate and advanced the AAUP’s long-standing view that diversity is essential not only for students but for the entire academic enterprise. (2016)
  • Supported litigation costs for faculty challenging NYU’s Salary Reduction Policy. Professors Marie Monaco and Herbert Samuels, New York University Medical School, had their salaries significantly slashed after NYU arbitrarily imposed a salary reduction policy. The Professors believed that this policy violated their contracts of employment, as well as NYU’s policies and procedures. NYU argued that it was not even bound by the Faculty Handbook. On December 15, 2016, the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Appellate Division, First Department allowed Professors Monaco and Samuels to continue their case against NYU, finding that NYU's Faculty Handbook had the force of a contract and that the salary reductions may have violated that contract. (2016; 2015)
  • Provided assistance with legal fees for adjunct professor summarily dismissed for criticizing institution. Robin Meade, an adjunct professor and active union officer at Moraine Valley Community College, was summarily dismissed after she sent a letter criticizing her college’s treatment of its adjunct faculty. In October 2016, the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois decided that Professor Meade’s letter was a matter of “public concern” and was the motivating factor behind her dismissal. The court also found that Professor Meade had a protected property interest in her position, did not waive any right to due process, and was NOT accorded a proper hearing. Upon hearing of the court’s decision, Moraine settled with Professor Meade. (2015)

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