Academic Freedom Award goes to John Bender

John Bender
John Bender

John Bender, news-editorial professor in the College of Journalism and Mass Communications, has been awarded the James A. Lake Academic Freedom Award by the UNL Faculty Senate. He will receive the award on April 26 at 3:30 p.m. at the Faculty Senate meeting held in the Nebraska Union Auditorium.

Bender earned the award for his dedication to defending academic freedom and preserving the freedom to seek and communicate truth. As a tenured professor, Bender currently teaches basic and advanced reporting, communication law and history of mass media.

The James A. Lake Academic Freedom Award was established in 1980 to honor an individual who “helps preserve the most basic freedom of all, the freedom to seek and communicate truth,” according to the award description. Supported by a contribution from former Regent Ed Schwartzkopf, the award is given by the UNL Faculty Senate based upon a nomination by the James A. Lake Academic Freedom Award Committee. The Faculty Senate, established in 1974, is the governing body of faculty and administration and is comprised of 87 members elected by the faculty of various departments of UNL.

Bender’s nomination was supported by three UNL faculty members: Dwayne Ball, associate professor of marketing; Laurie Thomas Lee, professor of broadcasting; and David Moshman, professor of educational psychology. Award nominees must be connected to UNL at the time the actions listed on their nomination were performed and are assessed upon the individual’s contributions to supporting, defending, explaining or applying the principles of academic freedom. The committee looks for nominees whose efforts defend academic freedom beyond themselves and support UNL as a whole.

In his nomination, Ball noted Bender’s record of defending academic freedom for his colleagues in both university and public school teaching positions.

Ball said, “One notable accomplishment for John was to defend, via letters and organizing the efforts of others, a journalism teacher at a Bellevue high school. She had supported her students from the high school newspaper publishing controversial stories, and had incurred the wrath of powerful people. With John’s work and the work of others, she kept her job.”

Bender also served three years on the UNL Academic Rights and Responsibilities Committee and seven years on the board of the Academic Freedom Coalition of Nebraska, Ball explained. Bender has published dozens of papers, articles and books on topics concerned with academic freedom as well.

Bender received a doctor of journalism from the University of Missouri at Columbia, a master's degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology from Westminster College in Fulton, Mo. He has won numerous awards, including the UNL College Distinguished Teaching Award and the Academic Freedom Award from the Academic Freedom Coalition of Nebraska.

Previous recipients of the award are: James A. Lake, 1980; Desmond M. S. Wheeler, 1982; James A. McShane, 1983; R. Burt Maxcy, 1984; Harry Crockett Jr., 1986; Paul Olson, 1987; Dermot Coyne, 1988; James Cole, 1989; Campbell R. McConnell, 1991; Ned Hedges, 1992; Linda Pratt, 1994; Henry F. Holtzclaw, 1995; Helen Moore, 1996; David Moshman, 1997; Mary Beck, 1998; Wallace Peterson, 1999; Leo Sartori, 2000; Robert Haller, 2001; George Wolf, 2002, Ann Mari May, 2004, A. Dwayne Ball, 2006.

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