Melissa Harris-Perry and Adminstration ​Clash Over Academic Freedom

Wake Forest University Professor and former MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry took to Twitter this past week to state her case for the death of academic freedom at Wake Forest University, ultimately declaring it “dead” at the institution.

Following a speech she gave on Martin Luther King Jr. Day at a local church, Harris-Perry released a series of tweets alleging that the University has killed academic freedom, and offered her a “goodwill payoff” as well as Provost Rogan Kersh “inviting” her to eliminate the Anna Julia Cooper Center.

“Academic freedom is truly dead @WakeForest. Two days after a public MLK address where I called into question the university’s labor practices Provost @rtkersh sends an email “inviting” me to eliminate @AJCCenter as a university entity & offering a “goodwill” payoff. #notforsale” one of her tweets read.

Harris-Perry’s comments about University labor practices are regarding actions carried out by university food service, Aramark, that, according to Harris-Perry fires its food workers every summer, then rehires them in August when students return. She said it causes the employees’ families to struggle.

This is not the first time the university has been accused of limiting academic freedom. In 2017, the university Faculty Senate voted to strip the Eudaimonia Institute of their funding due to a donation made by the Charles Koch Foundation.

In articles published by The Wall Street Journal and The National Review, the partisan intentions of the faculty members who voted against an institute were called into question. According to their website, “The purpose of the Eudaimonia Institute (EI) is to explore the elements of and institutions that support eudaimonia, or genuine human flourishing.” The institute works across multiple disciplines to achieve this goal.

In another tweet Harris-Perry said, “I have given my lifeblood to @WakeForest in recent years- leading two centers @phiwfu and @AJCCenter without pay. And giving tens of thousands as contribution to their work. #notforsale.”

Harris-Perry also went on to say, “There is no question that I am a ‘difficult employee’. I don’t play nice or toe the line or pretend injustice does not exist. On Monday I reminded our community @WakeForest benefited from slavery & Jim Crow and we should raise questions as it encroaches downtown. #notforsale”

“Her recent comments about the University are misleading and disappointing,” the university said in response to Harris-Perry’s comments.

Harris-Perry’s issues with Wake Forest are not new. In 2017, Harris-Perry called out the university for their First Amendment suppression on campus, in a tweet stating that, “It’s like art each time @WakeForest sends totalitarian emails abt proper behavior & plans to sanction disruption #FirstAmendment.”

This tweet came during a public comment process for members of the school to get feedback for a new version of the Code of Conduct. Included in her post, Harris-Perry posted a copy of the Code of Conduct and a photo of herself showing both middle fingers to the camera.

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