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Community College of Philadelphia faculty and students fight for academic freedom

By Ian Gallagher |
October 16, 2015
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Rally in solidarity with professor Divya Nair
Rally in solidarity with professor Divya Nair (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Philadelphia, Pa - On Oct. 15 faculty and students at the Community College of Philadelphia (CCP) stood in solidarity with professor Divya Nair, who teaches English. Protesters held signs reading “Reinstate Nair” and circulated a petition with well over 1000 signatures.

One week ago on Oct. 8, CCP administrators suspended Divya Nair without pay after she participated in a protest and spoke out against the militarization of the CCP campus. Nair, an adjunct professor, also participated in an anti-police recruitment demonstration at CCP. The CCP administration claims she violated the employee code of conduct.

Divya Nair is not the only professor facing attacks on their academic freedom. George Ciccariello-Maher, a political science professor at Drexel University was repeatedly targeted, both before and after receiving tenure. Professor Ciccarello-Maher said, “I hope that in the aftermath of the Salaita case - for which the University of Illinois has already paid nearly $1 million in legal fees, for a case they will probably lose - many universities will realize that we won't accept attacks on academic freedom, and that the costs to them will be too high.”

The attacks targeting Divya Nair, George Ciccaiello-Maher and other professors are an example of university management trying to silence professors and narrow the discourse and debate at places of learning. The repression infringes on professors’ First Amendment free speech rights and their right to protest. Universities are targeting professors who speak out against U.S. wars, the increasing militarization on campus and police recruitment of students on campus. It is part of the growing political repression in the U.S., such as the FBI raids on 23 anti-war activists in 2010.

“When an influential teacher is removed from their position, students who look up to them and stand with them on campus events are negatively impacted because suddenly someone who was fighting for what is right is no longer present,” said a Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) statement.

The statement from the national student group concluded, “Students for a Democratic Society fights for academic freedom and stands in solidarity with Divya Nair.”

Political repression in the U.S. is increasing, including on college campuses. Nair is represented in discipline hearings by her union, the Faculty and Staff Federation of Community College of Philadelphia.

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