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An Appeal to Defend Free Speech and Academic Freedom This is an urgent appeal for your support to defend Professor Loretta Capeheart in her struggle with her employer, Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) in Chicago. After four years of legal action, we are now awaiting a key decision from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals--a decision that could set a precedent for free speech rights on campus and possibly move the case on to the Supreme Court. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) wrote, "If upheld on review, the district court's ruling would deal a major blow to professors' academic freedom and free speech in the Seventh Circuit--and quite likely beyond, as it would send the unmistakable message that faculty members aiming to speak out and be active in campus dialogue risk having their careers damaged." What the Case Is About Capeheart is a ten-year tenured professor at NEIU and a respected union and community activist. She has been a leader in union struggles, anti-war work, and attempts to promote the rights of students and faculty, especially Latino/a faculty. Capeheart and other campus activists face one of the most repressive and scandal-ridden campus administrations in the country, presided over by President Sharon K. Hahs, an arrogant opponent of student , worker, and minority rights on campus. NEIU administrators have engaged in a well documented history of retaliation against Professor Capeheart for her principled activism. The administration has denied Capeheart an elected department chair position, earned merit pay increases, and waged a campaign of slander against her. In Capeheart v. Hahs el al., a Federal judge concluded that Capeheart could be punished for speaking out against the war because she advised a student club. The court agreed with NEIU's lawyers that academics have no right to free speech under the Supreme Court decision Garcetti v. Ceballos (2006). In Garcetti, the Supreme Court stripped most government workers of their rights to speak in the workplace but made a footnoted exception for professors. In deciding against Capeheart, the lower court ignored this footnote and left faculty--and all workers--with fewer rights. Other federal courts have similarly misapplied Garcetti. Now the pending decision from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals will either reject the new limits on faculty rights, or further establish them. Stand with Professor Capeheart for FREE SPEECH and ACADEMIC FREEDOM.


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