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University wants to end censure over flap with conservatives

August 20, 2018

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is looking into how to be removed from a national association’s censure list after being criticized for its handling of a confrontation between a university lecturer and a student recruiting for a conservative group.

University officials will form a committee and a panel this fall to examine campus policies and consider how to be taken off the American Association of University Professors’ censure list, The Omaha World-Herald reported . A censure serves as a formal rebuke of a university’s administrators and is typically tied to tenure and academic freedom issues.

The association placed the university on the list in June, saying school officials succumbed to political pressure by suspending and later firing lecturer Courtney Lawton for a confrontation last year. Lawton made an inappropriate hand gesture at undergraduate student Kaitlyn Mullen, who was recruiting on campus for conservative group Turning Point USA. Turning Point maintains a “professor watch list” of faculty deemed radically liberal.

Lawton also called Mullen a “neo-fascist.” Lawton was a graduate student lecturer and didn’t have tenure at the university.

“We do take this seriously,” said Jeff Rudy, president of the university’s Faculty Senate. “Any blemish on our reputation is not something that we relish.”

At least three conservative state lawmakers accused the university of being unwelcoming to conservative viewpoints.

Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts said that the incident “highlighted concerns about the liberal bent of academia.”

The academic group found that the university’s discipline had violated Lawton’s academic freedom. The association also said the graduate student was fired without getting a fair hearing.

An association representative said getting removed from the list requires changes in a university’s regulations, restitution or redress to the faculty members involved and an assessment of the university’s academic freedom.

There are currently 56 colleges on the association’s censure list.

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Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com

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