SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: January 23, 2015

Attack Types: Other

Institution(s):Arizona State University

Region & Country:Americas | United States of America

New or Ongoing:New Incident

Professor Lee Bebout, an associate professor of English at Arizona State University (ASU), has reportedly received threats and harassing messages from white supremacist groups in connection with a course he teaches titled “U.S. Race Theory & the Problem of Whiteness.”

On January 23, 2015, an ASU student who was not enrolled in the class alleged in an interview on Fox News that the course materials pointed “to all white people as the root cause of social injustices for this country.”  Shortly after the interview aired, according to reports, white supremacist groups began distributing fliers labeling Bebout as “anti-white” and photos of Bebout’s family; and contact information for Bebout and his wife, also an ASU professor, were shared on white supremacist message boards and elsewhere; and Bebout began receiving threats via telephone and email. The threats against Professor Bebout reportedly continued through much of February 2015.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about targeted harassment or threats against a scholar, apparently intended to limit or retaliate against classroom activity.  Such actions not only impact the immediate victims, but undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy and the ability of higher education communities to serve their educational, research and social functions, harming all members of these communities and society generally.  States and universities have a responsibility to respond appropriately to such harassment or threats, including where necessary dedicating additional resources to ensure security, in a fashion consistent with academic freedom and institutional autonomy.