MSUM “Free Speech” Email to Faculty: Protection or “Protection”?

by Rebecca Schuman

In the last few days, I have gotten many emails from individuals very close to the situation at Moorhead State. Some have accused me of journalistic malfeasance, but the vast majority are outpourings of support, gratitude and confirmation of what I’ve written.

ICYMI because you were, you know, celebrating a holiday, I wrote this article in Slate, it went viral, and the university it called out for putting half of its departments on the chopping block–erm, sorry, it slated them for “re-rostering” for “efficiency”–and its shills have accused me of misrepresenting the situation. (By “misrepresenting” they mean, by the way, that I refuse to spin the unconscionable facts so that they make the administration look like the good guys.) 

Anyway, in the past few days I’ve gotten quite a few emails, despite the holiday, from faculty heroes who are writing me from their private email accounts, knowing that even that action puts them at risk for retaliatory dismissal. From what I can tell, the mood on the MSUM campus among faculty in the threatened departments is one of terror mingled with cynical resignation. My heart goes out to all of them, and to the students whose learning experiences and futures this is threatening. 

Speaking of threatening: one of the missives I’ve been copied on is the following, which is from the faculty association. I don’t want to editorialize about it (ha!), but I’ll say that it seems to be “protecting” the faculty the way that Tony Soprano’s gang “protects” you when you pay it off. “Nice faculty job you got there…it would be a shame if something happened to it.” Or maybe I’m just “misrepresenting the situation” again.

At any rate, I’m pasting it below with names redacted, and I’ll let you judge for yourself. In the meantime, in the spirit of Thanksgiving I want to express my deepest gratitude for the messages I have been getting from faculty and students that confirm the article, and thank me for fighting on behalf of the truth and what is right. Thank YOU all for reaching out. I feel 100% vindicated and will continue to stand by this article, no matter how hard the MSUM administration spin machine (a phrase given to me by an informant!) is working through the holiday weekend (HA!) to try to spin this motherfucker.






Subject: [Faculty-IFO] Please be advised: free speech in the workplace

Date: November 20, 2013 10:44:09 AM CST

To: facultyifo <>

To all faculty,

Emotions are raw today in the ranks of the faculty. Unfolding events are generating a great deal of pain and anger. (My own department is marked in the “red zone” of departments.)

PLEASE: THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK. Keep the conversation civil.

I remind you that academic freedom is a limited protection, and applies only to your research and classroom teaching, and, in the case of the latter, to discussion of materials relevant to the course subject. 

Otherwise, faculty can be (and have been) punished for written and oral communication that is disruptive or uncivil.



Minnesota State University Moorhead