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A committee from the American Association of University Professors will conduct a site visit next month to investigate whether or not the University of Nebraska-Lincoln violated the academic due process of a lecturer removed from the classroom.

The AAUP committee will interview top academic officers, faculty and other staff at UNL on Jan. 11-12 regarding the administration's decision to end Courtney Lawton's employment at the university last month.

Lawton was removed from her teaching duties in September after she was recorded protesting a recruiting event for a conservative student group, a move both she and the university said was done for safety purposes and not to discipline her.

Following mounting pressure from state lawmakers, UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green and Executive Vice Chancellor Donde Plowman informed Lawton on Nov. 17 her contract would not be renewed at the end of the school year.

"(O)ur association has for many years considered such an action as constituting a summary dismissal," wrote Hans-Joerg Tiede, AAUP's associate secretary, in a letter to Green on Thursday.

The committee will compile its findings into a confidential report to be considered by the AAUP's Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, which could choose to publish it.

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If UNL is found to have violated Lawton's academic freedom or due process, the AAUP could place the administration on its "Censure List," which designates institutions where the "conditions for academic freedom, tenure, and due process have been found to be unsatisfactory."

Being put on the "Censure List" could jeopardize future faculty recruitment at UNL.

Tuesday, Nebraska's AAUP conference submitted an open letter to the NU Board of Regents raising concern over the effects of external political pressure on the university's climate of academic freedom.

The letter was signed by 315 past and present faculty from all four NU campuses.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7120 or cdunker@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @ChrisDunkerLJS.

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Higher education reporter

Chris Dunker covers higher education, state government and the intersection of both.

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