An association of university and college faculty and other academic professionals called the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), founded in 1915, recently released a statement in which it condemned attempts to define gender as biologically determined at birth, insisting that the traditional position regarding gender has been “thoroughly discredited by over fifty years of feminist, trans, queer, and critical race research and by lived experience.”
AAUP first attacked the Hungarian government for prohibiting gender studies courses in all universities, then ripped the Trump administration for pursuing a new legal definition of gender that would define it as “a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth,” then noted attempts in Poland, Brazil, and Bulgaria to define gender traditionally.
The AAUP complained, “Authoritarian efforts such as these can justify racial, class, and sexual policing that disciplines forms of kinship and homemaking—including same-sex, multi- generational, or other nonnormative households— that deviate from established nuclear family norms … By substituting their ideology for years of assiduous research, they impose their will in the name of a ‘science’ that is without factual support.”
The AAUP concluded by asserting that defining gender traditionally poses a threat to academic freedom:
Attempts to fix the meaning of gender are not simply moves against the “special interests” of certain individuals, although trans, intersex, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming people—and especially poor people and people of color—will disproportionately suffer for it. There is also a potential threat to academic freedom: like attacks on climate science, the effort to establish a legal definition of gender as binary could lead to denying research funding to scholars and to impugning the value and validity of their scholarly work. Fixing the meaning of gender in this way may undermine the open-ended forms of inquiry that define research and teaching in a democracy.
It is relevant to note that the hostility of the AAUP to President Trump dates back to the very advent of his administration. On its website, it was noted:
On November 9, 2016, we awoke to the shocking realization that Donald Trump would be the next president of the United States … Within twenty-four hours of Trump’s victory, the AAUP issued a statement to its members. While acknowledging that our Association does not engage in partisan politics and has never endorsed a candidate for national office, the statement also recognized the widespread fear that Trump’s election “threatened some of the core institutions of our democracy and may be the greatest threat to academic freedom since the McCarthy period.”
Additionally, the website pointed out that that the AAUP had opposed the privatization of universities for years:
Well before Donald Trump emerged as a national political figure, the AAUP was concerned about the now decades-long movement to privatize our public colleges and universities and the concomitant tendency to “corporatize” the management of many private institutions. Some thirty years of privatization have yielded only declining quality, decreased access, and burgeoning student debt. Underlying these developments has been a fundamental abandonment of the core principle that the AAUP has stressed since its founding in 1915: higher education, both public and private, is a common good, not a private commodity.
The AAUP has even gotten involved in immigration issues: “In conjunction with the Knight First Amendment Institute, the AAUP is also looking into legal issues related to a regulation authorizing border patrol officers to search a traveler’s electronic devices at the borders without any basis for suspicion.” It lamented the fact that Neil Gorsuch was on the Supreme Court: “Now, with Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch having replaced Scalia, the Court has agreed to hear the case of Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, which reopens that issue. It is thus likely that by June the justices will overturn precedent and bar such fees in the public sector, which would pose a profound threat to public employee unions, including the AAUP.”