Beginning in March 2021, the attacks on our colleague, Dr. Audrey Truschke, for her public scholarship and teaching escalated dramatically. The expressions of strong support for her and for academic freedom by Rutgers AAUP-AFT, the Executive Committee of the University Senate, hundreds of academics and writers, dozens of human rights and civil society groups, and the Rutgers administration have not curbed these attacks.
Dr. Truschke is a tenured associate professor in the Department of History at Rutgers-Newark who has published three critically acclaimed books and dozens of academic and popular press articles in her areas of expertise. Dr. Truschke’s work over the years offers an unvarnished, critical perspective on the extreme right political ideology known as Hindutva that is promulgated by India’s right wing Hindu nationalist government and its allies. The attempts to silence her have moved beyond anonymous and vulgar threats to her and her family. She is now a defendant in a lawsuit brought by the Hindu American Foundation alleging that she conspired with four other defendants—all leaders in US-based human rights and civil society organizations that also push back against Hindutva—to defame that organization. Dr. Truschke’s inclusion in this lawsuit clearly stems from her scholarship and seeks to restrict her scholarly activity, especially her recent research on the Hindu Right in the United States (including the lawsuit’s plaintiff). It is a fundamental attack not only on her academic freedom but on the academic freedom of all the other scholars, at Rutgers and beyond, whose work challenges right-wing political ideologies, the spread of intolerant ideas, human rights violations, and distortions of history.
Because academic freedom is so fundamental to the academic enterprise, we are concerned that Rutgers, through its Office of General Counsel, is not providing Dr. Truschke with the level of support normally provided under the university’s indemnification policy. We call on the Rutgers administration to affirm once again the importance of academic freedom for all our faculty and to provide support for Dr. Truschke consistent with that importance. Personal attacks, threats of violence, and legal actions against academics because of their scholarship must never be tolerated, and Rutgers AAUP-AFT will always defend members who demonstrate the high degree of academic integrity and scholarship that Dr. Truschke has shown throughout her career. We call on the university to do the same.
Rebecca Givan, President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Todd Wolfson, General Vice President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT