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: June 08, 2017

Attack Types: Loss of Position

Institution(s):Essex County College

Region & Country:Americas | United States of America

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On June 8, 2017, Lisa Durden, a professor of communications and a media commentator, was reportedly suspended from her position at Essex County College, apparently due to a complaint lodged against her over recent television appearances.

On June 6, 2017, Professor Durden appeared on the Tucker Carlson Show on Fox News to discuss why a Memorial Day event held by the Black Lives Matter movement was for black attendees only. On June 8, when Durden arrived on campus to teach a class, she was told to cancel her class and report to the Human Resources Department, where she was handed a letter signed by the Vice President for Academic Affairs suspending her until further notice. She was not given a reason for her suspension, but was told they had received an anonymous complaint that Professor Durden had inappropriately associated herself with Essex County College during the program. Reports of her appearance indicate that Professor Durden clarified that her views were her own and that she did not identify herself as a professor at Essex County College. Durden had been scheduled to teach two courses for the upcoming fall, and before her appointment at the college had appeared as a commentator on other Fox News programs several times.

The administration has not commented on the reasons for the suspension but has said that the university’s general counsel handled the suspension in compliance with New Jersey state law.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary suspension of a professor in apparent retaliation for the peaceful exercise of the right to free expression. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and undermine democratic society generally. University authorities have a responsibility to refrain from arbitrary expulsions and other disciplinary measures to restrict the peaceful exercise of internationally recognized rights of academic freedom and freedom of expression.