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National group may censure UNL over handling of conflict involving conservative student

June 8, 2018 GMT

A major American academic organization appears to be on the verge of censuring the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, which would be a blow to the university.

The situation involves the Aug. 25 conflict between a graduate student-lecturer and a sophomore who was recruiting for the conservative organization Turning Point USA.

The American Association of University Professors responded to UNL’s recent defense of its handling of the case by saying the AAUP “vehemently disagree(s)” with UNL’s interpretation.

The graduate student-lecturer, Courtney Lawton, belittled and criticized the student, and the student eventually left her recruitment table in tears.

UNL officials ultimately removed Lawton from the classroom for both semesters of 2017-18. The national organization contends this amounted to a dismissal. Among other things, the AAUP quoted UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green as saying Lawton “will not teach at our university going forward because of inappropriate behavior.”

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The AAUP also says Lawton deserved a hearing before a UNL faculty panel and didn’t receive one.

UNL argues that it continued to pay her to the end of the school year and reassigned her to research. UNL contends the AAUP has misstated what happened after the Lawton episode.

UNL spokeswoman Deb Fiddelke said the university respects the AAUP, but “we had hoped to have a constructive dialogue with them regarding the specifics of these inaccuracies.”

The AAUP said a committee will recommend this month to its governing body and annual meeting that UNL be added to the censure list. There are currently 56 colleges on that list, including the University of Missouri. A censure means a university violated the AAUP’s widely accepted rules for academic freedom and tenure.