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Opinion: AU drops investigation into protected political speech, but questions remain about freedom of expression on campus

This article is a piece of opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Eagle and its staff.

While this letter was being aired in The Eagle, we received news that the investigation into one of the students involved in this case had been dropped. We are publishing the letter, however, as the case raises important questions about how the harassment policy and the AU’s commitment to protecting free expression relate to each other. We hope the AU administration will clarify the underlying questions about AU policies on such matters and encourage community members to communicate their views on these important issues.

– Lara Schwartz and Thomas Merrill

July 6, 2022

We, the teachers under the signature, are writing to express concern about a ongoing investigation of eight students of the Washington College of Law.

According to information available to the public about to talk and to notice the Office of Equity and Title IX sent to students, students are investigated for political speech protected by American University policies on expression and dissent, and that will protect speech in the First Amendment if the AU is a public institution.

Investigating students for political arguments violates students ’rights under our policies and puts at risk the mission of a university. It is a matter of instantaneous; Community members need reassurance that expressing political disagreement – which is their right under our policies and central to a university’s mission – will not expose them to an investigation.

If some unprotected conduct not seen in the public record or notice has occurred, the American University must clarify that the conduct is being investigated.

We request that the University immediately conclude this investigation and reaffirm its commitment to protect the freedom of expression of its community members.


Lara Schwartz SPA/Government

David Lublin, Department of Government

Richard Sha/Literature

Alan G. Isaac, Economics

Joe Young, School of Public Affairs and School of International Service

Robert A. Blecker, Economics/CAS

Gregg Ivers, Department of Government/SPA

Amos Golan Economics

Jon D. Wisman, Economics

Unice Lieberman Government/SPA

Robert Feinberg/Economics

Elizabeth Suhay, Government Department/SPA

Gabriel Mathy, Department of Economics

Tony Ahrens, Department of Psychology

John Willoughby, Professor, Department of Economics

Scott Parker – CAS/Psychology (Professor Emeritus)

Andrew Ballard, Assistant Professor, Department of Government

Adrienne LeBas, Department of Government, School of Public Affairs

Mr. Borden Flanagan, Government Department

David Barker, Government

Andrew R. Flores / Government – SPA

Elizabeth Anderson Worden, Associate Professor, SOE

Christopher Utter, Department of Government, University of America

Garret Martin, SIS

Thomas Merrill, Government/SPA

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