California Educator

October / November 2017

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CSU Fullerton lecturer returned to his job this fall after his union, the California Faculty Association (CFA), laid bare the false accusations made against him by a student group. His return to the classroom marked a victory for faculty's rights to academic freedom and free speech, CFA leaders say. "Make no mistake, CFA will stridently defend our faculty who are under attack by forces who have contempt for the univer- sity and for free inquiry," CFA President Jennifer Eagan told CSU trustees in July. Eric Canin, a 20-year instructor of anthropology, was accused of hitting a student and interfering with students' free speech during a counterprotest by campus Republicans in February. Canin denied it, and videos taken at the event did not show the alleged assault. Still, he was quickly vilified on right-wing blogs, which called for his firing. "When the incident happened, nobody really stopped ... to ask themselves whether what they said happened actually hap- pened," Canin told Inside Higher Ed. "e College Republicans put it online, and soon Breitbart, The Washington Times and other media had it, without a shred of evidence. It's a simple yet sophisticated use of media … and this is not an isolated incident." Fullerton fired Canin after a short investigation, which CFA challenged. An independent arbitrator ruled in July that the evidence showed Canin "did not engage in anything resem- bling a fight and did not have any conscious intent to cause any harm to the students in question." It's pos- sible, she wrote, that Canin grabbed a protester's sign — a charge he denies. That the "alternative fact," as Canin calls it, was so quickly accepted and disseminated is not so surprising. In recent months and years, faculty members have become lightning rods for attacks by critics who seek to silence debate, research and academic freedom on campuses. "My colleagues and I are trying to focus on teaching, research, and our students. Yet many of us find ourselves under attack and subject to hateful discourse," Canin told CSU trustees in July. In June, for example, Princeton University assistant profes- sor Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor reported receiving hate mail and death threats aft er delivering a c omm encem ent address critical of President Tr ump. Al so in Jun e, Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, shut down for a day after threats were made against associate professor Johnny Eric Williams, whose Facebook posts about racism had been shared by con- servative websites. Colleges are not always supportive of faculty who fall into the political divide. At Essex County College in New Jersey, administrators suspended adjunct professor Lisa Durden after she appeared on Fox News in June to defend Black Lives Matters protesters. Typically, adjunct professors — like Durden and Canin — have fewer rights and less job security than their tenured peers. However, adjunct pro- fessors, called lecturers in the CSU system , have won job protections through their union representation by CFA. CFA leaders say they aren't just interested in protecting their members' jobs. They 're also in this fight to defend academic freedom, and the pursuit of truth on their campuses — the very things that define higher education as a public good. " We live in a troubling new world," CFA President Jennifer Eagan told trustees. "Wake up and realize there are forces mobi- lizing not just against faculty, but against truth, learning and the university." is story first appeared on " CFA will stridently defend our faculty who are under attack by forces who have contempt for the university and for free inquiry." — CFA PRESIDENT JENNIFER EAGAN CSU lecturer Eric Canin (center) addresses supporters at a rally. Credit: California Faculty Association Victory for Academic Freedom CFA successfully defends CSU Fullerton lecturer By Mary Ellen Flannery A 49 O C T O B E R / N O V E M B E R 2 017 A

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