In New York City, Department of Education Chancellor Joel Klein announced that his administration would enforce a longstanding policy prohibiting teachers from wearing campaign buttons when they are at work. In Illinois, the state university ethics office stated in its newsletter that faculty are barred not only from wearing campaign buttons in the classroom, but also from placing political bumper stickers on their cars and attending political rallies on campus.
Reaction was swift and predictable. In a letter to Chancellor Klein, United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten noted that teachers have always “been allowed to express their opinions as citizens, political and otherwise, on their lapels.” American Association of University Professors President Cary Nelson (an emeritus professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana) issued a statement deploring the “chilling effect on speech” of such rules, which, he says, amount to “interference with the educational process.” He asks why “students can exercise their constitutional rights and attend rallies and wear buttons advocating candidates, but faculty cannot?”
Sound familiar, journos? Freedom of speech food for thought.