Academic Freedom: NCA’s New Journey Forward

June 23, 2023
















Over the years, we at the National Communication Association (NCA) have witnessed the efforts of some individuals, federal offices, and statehouses to threaten a range of academic freedoms. In turn, NCA leaders have responded, issuing several statements that not only recognize these threats to academic freedom and freedom of expression but that also put us on record as advocating for their protection.

Today’s political climate stokes increasingly vile attacks, a trend that will continue without a concerted, coordinated, organized, and cross-disciplinary effort to resist. NCA members continue to bear witness on their campuses and classrooms: Book banning, clamping down on the teaching of race- and gender-centered courses, new legislation to cut state-funded diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs on university campuses, and efforts to eliminate tenure, all targeting work that uplifts minoritized or historically oppressed communities. These actions are only a glimpse of what’s happening across the nation—not just in a handful of states. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education’s new DEI legislative tracker, more than 34 bills have been introduced in more than 20 states, and at least four have reached final legislative approval.

What is unfolding nationally, must be understood within a larger historical frame of racism, trans-phobia, and intersecting forms of violence against communities. A new kind of action, engagement, and advocacy response across the Association is needed. That is why I proposed, and the Executive Committee approved (on June 9), the NCA Task Force on Academic Freedom and Tenure in Higher Education in the U.S. The charge for the Task Force, which will be comprised of 11 NCA member-volunteers and leaders, is (a) to gather and track information about national threats to academic freedom and tenure, and (b) propose actions and/or structural changes that NCA can take to be effective advocates for a robust climate of academic freedom across states. We will soon issue the call for applications to fill the four at-large positions on the Task Force. Please check the NCA website and our social media channels for more information.

As our Association prepares to begin this journey, I welcome the sharing of your lived experience regarding how challenges to academic freedom have impacted you and your livelihood. Please respond using this email address ( and include the words "Academic Freedom" in the subject line. In the months to come, I look forward to sharing updates on our efforts with you in this space.