Academic Freedom Alliance Letter on a Disinvitation at University of Dayton

After an administrative error that prevented a conference on scholarly research from being held at the University of Dayton, the Academic Freedom Alliance sent a letter asking the university for its support.

In December, the University of Dayton hosted a conference organized by The Human Rights Center. Tlaleng Mofokeng was invited as a keynote speaker. This discussion would focus on the health and public safety issues related to the pandemic. Mofokeng works as a United Nations Special Rapporteur. Her South African credentials also make her a doctor, and she has performed several abortions. Mofokeng was disqualified by the university’s leadership. They stated that Mofokeng’s abortion-related actions were against the Catholic mission and would disrupt the conference with “negative reactions”.

Dayton, a religious college, has an academic freedom policy. This simply mirrors the American Association of University Professors standards. The university’s intervention in academic programs and denial of invitations to speakers is an infringement on academic freedom principles. It also violates its stated commitments.

Academic Freedom Alliance received a similar letter from the University of Dayton to that posted by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. It stated that although the university was committed to vigorous debate on campus, Mofokeng’s actions as doctor had made her feel unwelcome at a Catholic college campus. However, this university response shows that they feel free to make faculty decisions regarding how academic events should be built if these events are highly visible and promoted. This contradicts the way universities who adhere to academic freedom traditional principles should act.

If University of Dayton wishes to keep such an administrative veto of scholarly programming organized in its faculty, it should state so clearly and revise their faculty handbook. This will clarify that the University of Dayton’s faculty won’t enjoy the same level of academic freedom enjoyed at American universities.