Protests outside Turkish ambassador’s residence in Washington turn violent – May 16, 2017

Washington, D.C.

On May 16, 2017, a group of protesters who had gathered across from the home of the Turkish ambassador to the United States were assaulted by embassy security guards, bodyguards for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and other non-affiliated individuals. Local police intervened to stop the attacks, but not before eleven people were injured, nine of whom were taken to the hospital. In the aftermath, two U.S. citizens pled guilty to their involvement in the assault, and 15 Turkish security officials and four other individuals were indicted for their role in the altercation.

Key Players

Recep Tayyip Erdogan is president of Turkey. He served as prime minister from 2003 to 2014, and was elected president in Turkey’s first-ever direct elections in 2014. His time in power has seen many controversial incidents:

In late May 2013, anti-government demonstrations broke out in Istanbul. The protests began when a small group of demonstrators gathered in Gezi Park, located in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, to protest Erdogan’s plan to bulldoze the park and build a mall in its place. They were angry about the negative impact razing the park would have on the environment. Turkish police tried to clear the park using tear gas and water cannons, injuring more than 100 people, The Guardian reported. The protesters were eventually cleared, but demonstrations spread across the country in response to what many perceived as excessive force on the part of police in Istanbul.

In December 2013, a corruption probe was launched to investigate more than 50 government officials, including members of Erdogan’s inner circle. The government dismissed some350 police officers before the prosecutor eventually ceased the inquiry.

In July 2016, Erdogan faced an attempted coup by a portion of the Turkish military. Addressing the nation via Facetime, he urged his supporters to go into the streets and demonstrate against the military. The coup was eventually put down.

In April 2017, a constitutional amendment passed via referendum, with 51 percent of the vote. It disbanded the Turkish parliament, gave more power to the executive, and made it possible for Erdogan to remain in power until 2029. International election monitors questioned the legitimacy of the referendum result, in light of last-minute changes to the voting process and state media coverage that was biased in favor of its passage.

Further Details

On May 16, 2017, Erdogan met with President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C. During a joint press conference, he pledged to help the U.S. fight terrorism and praised Trump for his election. Trump commented that the U.S. and Turkey have a “great relationship” and that “[they] will make it even better.”

Meanwhile, approximately 24 demonstrators gathered outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence, waiting for Erdogan’s return from the White House. The group included Americans, Kurds, and Armenians who opposed the Turkish president’s policies. They gathered in Sheridan Circle, across from a group of Erdogan’s supporters, including government security forces and other armed individuals. A line of D.C. police officers initially separated the protesters from the pro-Erdogan forces, but the latter group soon rushed across the street through the police lines and attacked the protesters. The police attempted to break up the fighting.

A video posted to Voice of America’s Turkish language service showed the attacks on the protesters. Another video also showed Erdogan watching as he exited his car and entered the residence.

Flint Arthur, of Baltimore, Maryland, one of the anti-Erdogan demonstrators involved in the clash, told CNN, “We are protesting (Erdogan’s) policies in Turkey, in Syria, and in Iraq. . . . They think they can engage in the same sort of suppression of protest and free speech that they engage in in Turkey. They stopped us for a few minutes . . . But we still stayed and continued to protest Erdogan’s tyrannical regime.”

The following day, the U.S. State Department issued a statement condemning the violence. It read, “We are concerned by the violent incidents involving protesters and Turkish security personnel . . . . Violence is never an appropriate response to free speech, and we support the rights of people everywhere to free expression and peaceful protest,” reported Politico. The State Department also reportedly reprimanded the Turkish ambassador for the incident. In response, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry lodged a complaint with the U.S. ambassador to Turkey about the police’s role in halting the incident. It blamed U.S. authorities for their “inability . . . to take sufficient precautions” to prevent violence. The complaint also alleged that U.S. “security personnel” had taken “aggressive and unprofessional actions.”

The Turkish embassy claimed that the protesters were affiliated with the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party), a terrorist organization that has been in conflict with the Turkish government for 30 years. Embassy officials insisted that the protesters were “aggressively provoking Turkish-American citizens who had peacefully assembled to greet the President” and who “responded in self-defense,” reported CNN and Politico. In contrast to these allegations, DC Police Chief Peter Newsham announced in June 2017 that there was no evidence the protesters were associated with any terrorist group.

On September 19, 2017, Erdogan told PBS Newshour that Trump had apologized for the incident. Erdogan said he was sorry as well, but he maintained that the protesters had instigated the violence and that local law enforcement was slow in stepping in to stop the fighting, reported Business Insider.

A group of Republican lawmakers called the incident an “affront to the United States.” Senator John McCain of Arizona tweeted, “This is the United States of America. We do not do this here. There is no excuse for this type of thuggish behavior.”


Turkish government blamed U.S. law enforcement, protesters for violence

The Turkish government alleged that the protesters were responsible for inciting the violence, and claimed they were affiliated with the PKK, a terrorist group in Turkey. President Erdogan also claimed that U.S. law enforcement was slow in responding to the violence.

19 people indicted, two American citizens pleaded guilty

In the immediate aftermath of the incident, two people were arrested: Ayten Necmi, of Woodside, New York, was charged with aggravated assault, and Jalal Kheirabaoi, of Fairfax, Virginia, was charged with assault on a police officer, reported The New York Times. The two were allegedly among the protesters.

In August 2017, U.S. officials indicted 19 other individuals for their role in the incident. Fifteen were Turkish security officials, and four were individuals not associated with the Turkish government. Several of them faced charges of assault with a deadly weapon, reported CNN. All 19 faced felony charges of conspiracy to commit a crime of violence, reported CBS News.

In December 2017, two U.S. citizens, Sinan Narin and Eyup Yildirim, pleaded guilty to charges of assault with significant bodily injury. Video footage showed the two kicking protesters in the head while they were on the ground, reported The Washington Post. They are not known to be associated with the Turkish government.

External References

Turkish forces clear Istanbul park, CNN

Failed coup in Turkey: What you need to know, CNN

Turkey tests Trump’s patience after protesters roughed up, Politico

In video, Erdogan watches as his guards clash with protesters, The New York Times

International monitors deliver scathing verdict on Turkish referendum, CNN

Turkey referendum: Erdogan declares victory, CNN

State Department condemns violence by Erdogan security guards at D.C. protest, Politico

Recep Tayyip Erdogan Fast Facts, CNN

Turkish president: Trump told me he was ‘sorry’ for bloody protest in DC, Business Insider

Turkish security officials indicted following Erdogan’s May DC visit, CNN

Protesters injured outside Turkish embassy in DC after Trump-Erdogan meeting, CNN

Erdogan security forces launch ‘brutal attack’ on Washington protesters, officials say, The New York Times

More arrests in attack on protesters at Turkish embassy, CBS News

Two U.S. citizens offer guilty pleas for attack outside Turkish embassy, The Washington Post

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

Uploaded March 5, 2018

Cooper Medical School of Rowan University – January 2017

Medical student punished by school for Instagram photos

Camden, NJ

In January 2017, Cooper Medical School of Rowan University (CMSRU) censured a student for violating the school’s social media policy, citing two photos the student had posted to her Instagram account before she had matriculated there. One photo showed the woman nude on a topless beach, her nipples blurred in accordance with Instagram’s policy, with “#freethenipple” in the caption. The other photo showed her in a CMSRU lab coat in front of a school backdrop. The student, who has remained anonymous, was required to meet with school officials, who advised her to alter or terminate her social media usage.

Key Players

CMSRU is a public medical school founded in 2012 in Camden, New Jersey, with a student body of approximately 300 students. Its “Social Network Policy” encourages students to be thoughtful when posting on social media, but according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), the original policy was not compliant with the First Amendment.

Further Details

According to FIRE, the student was first contacted about her social media usage in July 2016 by CMSRU’s associate dean for diversity and community affairs, Jocelyn Mitchell-Williams, who alerted her to the school’s policy and warned her that “once students matriculate at CMSRU the policy . . . is in effect.” The student responded to Mitchell-Williams’ email to ask for clarification, but said she never received a response.

On January 6, 2017, Marion Lombardi, CMSRU’s chief student affairs officer, and Erin Pukenas, the assistant dean for student affairs, called a meeting with the student and gave her a “Professionalism Intervention Report” regarding a “collage of sexually explicit photos.” The report asserted that she was in violation of the social media policy because of her photos on Instagram. Comments on the photos seemed to suggest she was “condoning sexual promiscuity,” the student affairs representatives said. Lombardi told the student this report could affect her future at the school, as well as her medical career. Pukenas told her that any CMSRU-related posts on the student’s account must be removed.

When Carolyn Bekes, CMSRU’s director of professionalism, met with the student later that month, she assigned her a “punishment” in the form of a PowerPoint presentation on social media and professionalism in medicine. The student completed the presentation in early March 2017.

Bekes, who has worked for Cooper University Hospital since 1977, encouraged the student to curtail or end her usage of social media in order to prevent future violations of CMSRU’s policy. The director of professionalism would not confirm that the presentation would “‘close’ the files in a way that they will never be used against [the student] in the future,” and encouraged her to have another person, preferably someone “more conservative,” review her posts on social media before making them public.

When Pukenas and Lombardi met with the student on January 6, they had reportedly explained that the social media policy was intentionally “kind of broad . . . because [the school] can’t get into every specific.” The deliberate lack of specificity in the initial policy caused FIRE to call it unconstitutional, and “at odds with the most basic principles of First Amendment precedent, which makes clear that broad and vague policies do not comport with the First Amendment.”

On May 9, 2017, FIRE sent a letter to the CMSRU documenting the weaknesses and errors of the school’s “Social Network Policy.” FIRE demanded that the school remove the “Professionalism Intervention Report” from the student’s file and revise the policy immediately.


CMSRU updates Social Network Policy

After receiving FIRE’s letter, CMSRU amended its social media policy. Specifically, CMSRU removed language regarding “potentially offensive language,” “personal photographs of others that may reasonably be interpreted as condoning . . . sexual promiscuity,” and “posting potentially inflammatory or unflattering material on another individual’s website.”

External Resources

Fast Facts, Cooper Medical School of Rowan University

Letter to Cooper Medical School of Rowan University — May 9, 2017, FIRE

Text of May 9, 2017 Letter, FIRE

Second Letter to Cooper Medical School of Rowan University — October 2017, FIRE

Cooper Medical School of Rowan University: Student Punished Under Unconstitutional Social Media Policy, FIRE

Cooper Medical School of Rowan University revises social media policy after letter from FIRE

Distinguished Doctors Create Framework for Success in Medicine, Cooper Medical School Blog

Prepared by Emma Vahey ‘20

Uploaded March 5, 2018

Fordham University – December 7, 2017

Students wearing MAGA hats kicked out of coffee shop

New York, NY

On December 7, 2017, a group of Fordham University students were told to leave an on-campus coffee shop because they were violating its “safe space” policy. The students were wearing “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) hats. Fordham President Joseph McShane released a statement after the incident asking observers to treat students on both sides of the incident with compassion.

Key Players

Aaron Spring is a junior at Fordham and a member of the university’s chapter of the College Republicans. He was among the students who were kicked out of the coffee shop. When asked if the group had intended to provoke a confrontation, Spring responded, “No, of course not. We were just a couple of friends going to get coffee, have a talk.”

Michael Esposito is a sophomore at Fordham and was also involved in the incident. When a student worker yelled at him “Fascism! Nazis!” for wearing the MAGA hat, he responded, “I do not see fascism, Nazis on this hat. I see America.” He later told the New York Post, “It was humiliating to be called a Nazi in front of so many people I go to school with. It’s almost scary.”

Father Joseph P. McShane, S.J. is president of Fordham University. He took office in 2003.

Further Details

An unidentified student worker at Rodrigue’s Coffee House, located on Fordham University’s campus in the Bronx, became angry when several students entered the shop wearing pro-Trump MAGA hats. She yelled at them, “Five minutes! Get out! . . . I’m protecting our customers. . . . You are wearing hats that completely violate safe space policy. You have to take it off, or you have to go.” When Esposito asked her to explain, she shouted, “Fascism! Nazis!” A video of the altercation was posted to Campus Reform’s website.

The coffee shop’s “Safer Space Policy,” which the student worker accused the students of violating, directs guests “not [to] make assumptions about someone’s gender, sexuality, race, class, or experiences,” and mandates “No racism – No sexism – No homophobia” in the space, reported the Post.

Though Spring told the Post the group was not trying to provoke a confrontation, a member of the Fordham College Republicans told Campus Reform, “We went [to Rodrigue’s] because we wanted to test the unwritten rule that conservatives were banned from that coffee shop. . . . We went there and just started doing some homework and studying. Then we were asked to leave.”


Fordham clarifies ‘safe space’ policy, announces investigation

In the wake of the incident, President McShane released a statement to the Fordham community. He clarified that the university itself does not have a safe space policy. Instead, he said Fordham should be a safe space “in the sense that it is and must remain a place where all of the members of the University community are free to share their opinions, and to have those opinions respectfully tested by their peers.” The statement concluded with a plea for commentators and onlookers to approach the incident with compassion, since those involved in this situation are students; first and foremost they are here to learn, and they may make mistakes.”

The statement also declared that Fordham does not exclude any students from its community based on their political views, and said that the university was investigating the incident.

External References

Students wearing MAGA hats booted from ‘safe space’ coffee shop, The New York Post

Campus coffee shop evicts College Republicans from ‘safe space,’ CampusReform

Fordham University investigating after students were kicked out of campus coffee shop because of ‘MAGA’ hats, The Root

Fordham College Republicans kicked out of campus coffee shop because of MAGA hats, Fox News

University President statement on Rodrigue’s Coffee House incident

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

Uploaded March 5, 2018

University of Alabama – January 15, 2018

College student expelled, suspended after racist Instagram posts

Tuscaloosa, AL

Freshman Harley Barber was expelled from the University of Alabama (UA) after she posted two self-recorded videos including racial slurs to Instagram on January 15, 2018, which was Martin Luther King Jr. Day. A week later, a Georgia State University student-athlete was suspended from the soccer team for using the same racial slur on Instagram, and chose to withdraw from her school.

Key Players

Harley Barber is a former UA student and Alpha Phi sorority member. She was just beginning her second semester of freshman year at UA when she posted the racist videos. After the expulsion, Barber returned to her hometown of Marlton, New Jersey.

Linda Kahangi, executive director of Alpha Phi International Fraternity (the sorority to which Barber belonged), released a statement that called the content of the videos hateful and offensive. She also confirmed that Barber was no longer a member of Alpha Phi.

Further Details

In the first video, Barber turns off a sink faucet, and says “we do not waste water because of the people in Syria. . . . I love how I act like I love black people, because I fucking hate n——-rs.” She repeats the n-word multiple times, using it to describe the people for whom she is supposedly saving water. In the second video, Barber says that she can say the n-word as much as she wants because she’s from New Jersey and because she’s “in the South now.” Another woman can be heard in the background suggesting that Barber not post the video to social media.

Barber posted the videos on her second, private account, known as a “Finsta,” short for “fake Instagram.” They were made public by a now-suspended Twitter account, and were then circulated on the social media platform, with one video quickly accumulating more than 5,000 views. Drawing even more attention to the videos, UA running back Damien Harris also tweeted about it, citing them as evidence that “racism isn’t dead.”

UA officials investigated and quickly moved to expel Barber from the university. She was also removed from the UA chapter of the Alpha Phi sorority. Stuart Bell, president of UA, released a statement following the incident, condemning Barber’s behavior and expressing his “personal disgust and disappointment” at the “racist and disturbing videos” she posted. It read, in part:

“Like many of you, I find the videos highly offensive and deeply hurtful, not only to our students and our entire University community, but to everyone who viewed them. The actions of this student do not represent the larger student body or the values of our University, and she is no longer enrolled here. We hold our students to much higher standards, and we apologize to everyone who has seen the videos and been hurt by this hateful, ignorant and offensive behavior. This is not who we are; it is unacceptable and unwelcome here at UA.”

A week after Barber was expelled from UA, a Georgia State University freshman, Natalia Martinez, was suspended from the soccer team, and ultimately chose to withdraw from the university, after she used a variation of the n-word on her Finsta account.


Student expelled from university and sorority

Barber was expelled from UA and her sorority within days of the videos going public. She told the New York Post that she “did something bad,” and that there is “no excuse” for her behavior. She has returned to New Jersey.

External Resources

Harley Barber mom: I agree with Alabama expulsion over racist Instagram videos,

University of Alabama investigates sorority member’s racist video,

Harley Barber’s mom says daughter is degrading herself, OK with punishment,

Sorority sister speaks out on racist videos that got her booted from college, New York Post

College athlete suspended, leaves school over racist social media post,

Prepared by Emma Vahey ‘20

Uploaded March 5, 2018

Theological College at The Catholic University of America – September 2017

Jesuit priest disinvited from university due to pro-LGBTQ beliefs

Washington, D.C.

On September 15, 2017, Reverend James Martin, a Jesuit priest, was disinvited from a planned speaking engagement at the Catholic University of America (CUA ) in Washington, D.C. He had been asked by the Theological College to deliver a talk called “Encountering Jesus: Meeting the Jesus of History and the Christ of Faith” at an Alumni Day event on October 4, 2017. Leaders at the seminary told Martin they rescinded his invitation after receiving a flood of complaints from people objecting to the controversial opinions he had expressed about homosexuality in his recently published book, Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter Into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity (2017).

Key Players

Reverend James Martin, S.J. is editor-at-large of America, a Jesuit magazine based in New York. In 2017, he was appointed consultant to the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications by Pope Francis. Martin is known for having views on homosexuality that are unconventional within Catholicism. Specifically, he contends that homosexual individuals do not necessarily need to remain celibate. He is a prolific author and has discussed a number of issues relating to Catholicism on television and at schools and churches across the United States.

Theological College is the national seminary of CUA, which is run by American bishops, unlike other Catholic-affiliated universities in the country. Though a separate entity, the seminary is located at CUA.

Further Details

CUA has hosted Martin in the past, but the October 4, 2017, event would have been the first time the seminary hosted him. According to the National Catholic Reporter, Theological College Rector Father Gerald McBrearity said the seminary disinvited Martin in order to avoid distraction and controversy. In a statement, McBrearity explained that the decision “In no way . . . signal[s] approval or agreement with the comments or accusations that the various social media sites have made [toward Martin] over the recent weeks.”

The university released a separate statement on September 16, 2017, clarifying the situation and apologizing for the disinvitation. It stated that the seminary’s decision did “not reflect the University’s policy on inviting speakers to campus,” and acknowledged the fact that the disinvitation of controversial speakers is a prominent issue on college campuses generally. The president of CUA, John Garvey, said that “universities and their related entities should be places for the free, civil exchange of ideas.”

Martin also released his own statement about the situation via his Facebook page on September 15, 2017. He explained to his followers that the Theological College told him it canceled the event because it did not want “protests and negative publicity” to tarnish it. Martin provided links to specific websites that were coordinating the campaign to complain about the event to the Theological College’s office. The people participating in the campaign primarily objected to the reverend’s refusal to emphasize the Catholic teaching that homosexual people should remain celibate.

According to The New York Times, Martin’s stance on homosexuality has “led to insults and ‘joking’ threats of violence against him. Conservative Catholics have called him ‘effeminate,’ a ‘homosexualist,’ ‘a heretic,’ ‘pansified’ and guilty of ‘leading young men to perdition.'”


Martin’s appearance canceled; no plan to reschedule

Rev. James Martin did not speak at Theological College on October 4, 2017. As of February 2018, the event had not been rescheduled and no plans to do so had been announced.

External Resources

Jesuit Priest Stands Up for Gay Catholics, Then Faces Backlash, The New York Times

Fr. James Martin uninvited from talk at CUA seminary, National Catholic Reporter

September 15, 2017 Facebook Post, Father James Martin

University Statement on Father James Martin, S.J., Invitation, Catholic University

Popular priest disinvited from Catholic University’s seminary after protests over his LGBT book, Washington Post

Prepared by Emma Vahey ’20

February 27, 2018

Grand Canyon University – August 2017

Professor suspended for incendiary comment about members of Black Lives Matter

Phoenix, AZ

Toby Jennings, a professor at Grand Canyon University (GCU), a for-profit Christian college in Phoenix, Arizona, was placed on leave after saying that some members of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement deserve to be “hung.”

Key Players

On September 19, 2016, theology professor Toby Jennings made controversial remarks about BLM during a seminar discussion titled, “God’s Concern for the Poor: What’s Missing in Social Justice?” He said that some members of the BLM movement were “very gracious and discerning and conversationally, dynamically dialoguing about the issue,” but that “then you have people on the opposite extreme of that that frankly should be hung.” A video of the forum was posted online.

Further Details

After his language elicited a strong reaction from the audience at the event, Jennings tried to clarify his comment. “That kind of rhetoric is not helpful to any conversation, and that’s what I mean by they should be hung,” he said. It wasn’t until nearly a year later, in August 2017, that the controversy over his remarks picked up steam. Local members of BLM and the NAACP told GCU administrators about Jennings’ comments and called on the university to fire him.

According to a statement released by GCU, leaders in the professor’s college did address Jennings’ comments with him immediately after the incident, but they did not bring the issue to university executives. As soon as GCU administrators learned of the incident, they “immediately removed the video and, within 48 hours, met with local leaders of Black Lives Matter to apologize, assure them that this rhetoric does not reflect the actions or beliefs of the University as a whole, and to discuss this situation more fully.”

The university also denounced Jennings’ comment more broadly. “The reprehensible rhetoric in this statement is unacceptable, and the university condemns it in the strongest terms,” GCU’s statement read. “The university wants to be clear that the professor’s rhetoric in no way reflects the heart of this university or its dedicated students, faculty, and staff.”


Jennings apologizes, is suspended indefinitely

Jennings apologized in a written statement for his “inappropriate, uncharitable, and incendiary comments.” He said he regretted having “inexcusably offended many fellow image-bearers of God.”

On August 22, 2017, Jennings was placed on administrative leave indefinitely while the university conducted an investigation of the incident. As of February 23, 2018, he had not yet been reinstated.

External References

Black Ariz. professor suspended for saying some Black Lives Matter members should be hung, The Washington Times

Ariz. professor suspended after saying members of Black Lives Matter ‘should be hung,’ The Root

Grand Canyon U. suspends professor for saying some Black Lives Matter supporters “should be hung,” The Chronicle of Higher Education

Under fire, these professors were criticized by their colleges, The Chronicle of Higher Education

GCU statement regarding September 2016 Ministry Forum

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

February 26, 2018

California State University, Fresno – February – December 2017

Adjunct professor penalized for anti-Trump tweets

Fresno, CA

Lars Maischak is an adjunct professor of American history at California State University, Fresno. In February 2017, he posted a number of tweets criticizing President Trump on his personal Twitter account, including one that said Trump “must hang.” After the tweets drew national attention, the university removed him from his teaching position.

Key Players

Lars Maischak first began lecturing in the history department at Fresno State in 2006. He was in the middle of a three-year contract when he tweeted a series of incendiary comments to his 28 Twitter followers in February 2017. Three of his tweets were particularly notable. Posted on February 17, 19, and 22, respectively, they read:

“To save American democracy, Trump must hang. The sooner and higher the better. #TheResistance #DeathtoFascism.”

“#TheResistance Has anyone started soliciting money and design drafts for a monument honoring the Trump assassin, yet?”

“#TheResistance #ethniccleansing Justice = The execution of two Republicans for each deported immigrant.”

Further Details

On April 6, 2017, The Daily Caller, a conservative news agency in Washington, D.C., received an anonymous tip about Maischak’s anti-Trump tweets. The reporter who found the tip, Rob Shimshock, attempted to contact Maischak and Fresno State. The professor did not respond, but a spokesperson from the university assured Shimshock that the sentiments expressed in the tweets did not reflect the university’s opinion.

The next day, the Caller published its first story about Maischak and his tweets, and Breitbart and other conservative media quickly followed suit. Before long, the mainstream media, including “Fox and Friends,” The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, picked up the story as well. The tweets went viral. Five days after the first story ran, Maischak deleted his Twitter account and publicly apologized, saying the tweets were taken out of context, that he never expected them to be viewed by so many people, and that he had not intended to incite violence. He told Politico that he had received multiple death threats online.

When the story blew up, the university cancelled Maischak’s classes for two days before suspending him from classroom teaching. He was put on paid leave for the remainder of the spring semester, and then assigned to a non-teaching position for the the remainder of his contract, which expires in May 2018.

Fresno State President Joseph Castro commented on the decision, saying, “Dr. Maischak reiterated that it was not his intent to incite violence or harm others, however, Fresno State has a responsibility to continue a review of the situation.” Denying that the university was taking a political stand, Castro said, “This particular matter—along with others around the country—very much places universities in a position where we can educate our community about what is and what is not free speech… In general, our students are not fully aware of what the First Amendment includes.”

Maischak told Politico that he thinks his tweets should be protected by academic freedom. He said he does not regret posting them, though he wishes he had known he could make his Twitter account private. “You can’t honestly regret saying something that was true just because of the consequences,” he said.


Maischak’s situation sparks a conversation about academic free speech

The firestorm around Maischak’s tweets and Fresno State’s decision to remove him from the classroom have featured prominently in debates about academic freedom, especially for adjuncts. There is intense speculation about whether the university will renew Maischak’s contract after it ends in May 2018.

Federal agencies investigate

According to President Castro, in April 2017 Fresno State was cooperating with the Secret Service, Homeland Security, and the FBI as they investigated Maischak and his tweets. Maischak told Politico in September 2017 that he had heard nothing regarding the federal investigation’s progress and assumed it had come to a halt.

External References

A College Lecturer Tweeted, “Trump Must Hang.” He Doesn’t Regret It, Politico Magazine

After anti- Trump tweets, Fresno State removes adjunct professor from teaching position, Inside Higher Ed

Fresno State Lecturer: ‘Trump must hang’ to Save Democracy, Breitbart

Professor Tweets ‘Trump Must Hang,’ Republicans Should Be Executed For Each Immigrant Deported, The Daily Caller

Fresno State says FBI, Secret Service probing professor’s tweets, The Fresno Bee

Fresno State vows to cooperate in any federal investigation, The Fresno Bee

Lecturer who tweeted ‘Trump must hang’ won’t teach at Fresno State this fall, The Fresno Bee

Prepared by Bridget McElroy ‘18

February 23, 2018

Essex County College – June 8, 2017

Adjunct professor fired for on-air comments

Newark, NJ

Political commentator Lisa Durden was fired from her position as an adjunct professor at Essex County College in New Jersey after she shared controversial remarks on Fox News.

Key Players

Lisa Durden is an African-American producer, filmmaker, and media commentator. From January 2017 until her firing five months later,, she taught classes on popular culture, mass communication, and speech at Essex County College in her hometown of Newark, New Jersey.

Tucker Carlson is the host of “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” a program that airs weeknights at 8 pm ET on Fox News, and which replaced “The O’Reilly Factor” in 2017 after veteran host Bill O’Reilly was accused of sexual misconduct. Carlson is known for challenging “political correctness” and liberal social media. Fox News calls his show “the sworn enemy of lying, pomposity, smugness and group think.”

Further Details

On June 6, 2017, Lisa Durden appeared on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” to debate the host about an all-black Memorial Day celebration in the Bronx hosted by a chapter of Black Lives Matter. She defended the event and the group’s desire to exclude white people from it. The debate became heated, and at one point Durden said, “You white people are angry because you couldn’t use your ‘white privilege’ card to get invited” to the celebration. Carlson responded by calling her “hostile and separatist and crazy.” According to The Washington Post, he continued, “You’re demented actually. You’re sick and what you’re saying is disgusting and if you were a Nazi I would say the same thing to you.”

When Durden reported to campus on June 8 to teach her speech class, she discovered she had been suspended from the college until further notice. She cancelled her class that day and reported to the human resources department, where she learned that she would not be allowed to finish teaching her summer course. Two weeks later, Durden was fired despite already being scheduled to teach classes in the fall, reported the Post.

Essex County College President Anthony E. Monroe released a statement announcing the school’s decision to fire Durden, explaining that after her appearance on “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” the college was immediately inundated with feedback from students, faculty and prospective students and their families expressing frustration, concern and even fear that the views expressed by a College employee (with influence over students) would negatively impact their experience on the campus.”

Munroe said the college “supports and affirms the right of free speech and independent views and expressions of those views for our faculty and staff.” However, it denounces “any conduct that implies that all students are not welcome to participate in, or benefit from, our programs or activities on the basis of their race, color, orientation or national origin.” Ultimately, the college concluded it could not maintain an employment relationship with the adjunct.”

Durden told the Post she didn’t mean to imply on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” that all white people are racist, and wished she had been clearer with her remarks. But she also defended her comments, saying that she did not choose the topic of the debate for the show and that a debate is never meant to be an easy discussion. She said she knew there would be heated disagreement, and she does not understand why her appearance affected her standing at the school.

According to the Post, a representative from Essex’s human resources department told Durden she was fired partly because she associated herself with the college in the interview. However, Durden was not identified as an Essex employee on the show, only as a “political commentator.”


FIRE brings lawsuit against Essex County College

After Durden was fired, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) requested that Essex turn over evidence of the negative feedback with which they were supposedly “immediately inundated” after the adjunct professor’s appearance on Carlson’s show. When the community college reportedly ignored the open records requests, FIRE filed a lawsuit against Essex in the Superior Court of New Jersey on January 3, 2018. A few weeks later, more than six months after FIRE filed its initial records request on July 13, 2017, Essex turned over records relating to Durden’s termination. These documents contradict Munroe’s claims that the school was “immediately inundated” with complaints about Durden after she debated Carlson.

Durden: “Essex County College publicly lynched me in front of my students”

According to, Durden said the school’s decision to cancel her classes and suspend her without warning was designed to humiliate her. She also said the school violated her First Amendment rights by firing her for her comments on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” Many of Durden’s Essex colleagues were upset about her termination, and started an online petition to have her reinstated. As of February 12, 2018, it had over 2,500 signatures.

External References

Professor fired after defending blacks-only event to Fox News. ‘I was publicly lynched,’ she says, The Washington Post

Going on Fox News cost me my job, professor claims,

Tucker Carlson Tonight,

FIRE sues college for ignoring records request,

After FIRE lawsuit, Essex County College finally turns over documents,

Reinstate Professor Lisa Durden! Equality for Adjuncts!

Prepared by Bridget McElroy ‘18

February 23, 2018


Ohio legislature considers anti-mask bill – 2018

Columbus, OH

Republican lawmakers in the Ohio House of Representative proposed legislation that would make it a crime to wear a mask with the intent of obstructing the law, the rights of others, or a person’s “legal duty.” The bill has drawn criticism from liberal protest groups and Democratic lawmakers.

Key Figures

Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones approached legislators about strengthening Ohio’s anti-mask laws in the wake of protests in Berkeley, California, and Charlottesville, Virginia. “I fully support freedom of speech, but when you start concealing your identity, that is a precursor for criminal activity,” Jones wrote in a Facebook post, according to WCPO Cincinnati. “I think enacting this law will be a deterrent to those contemplating committing a crime.” While it is already illegal to wear a mask while committing a crime in Ohio, Jones argues that enacting a broader anti-mask law would help law enforcement officers keep communities safe. “I believe that it’s not good when people throw rocks and they assault people and you can’t film or take pictures of who they are,” Jones told the Portsmouth Daily Times. “So I asked, could we get some legislation introduced that would at least start with the masked people that come to these demonstrations.”

Representative Bernadine Kennedy Kent is a Democratic member of the Ohio House of Representatives and a member of its Criminal Justice Committee. Kennedy Kent opposes this legislation and believes that an individual has a right to wear a mask. “For a number of reasons, people don’t want people to see their faces,” she told the Daily Times. “I mean, maybe it’s a job they have, maybe they don’t want their mom or dad to see what they’re doing… maybe they don’t want the police to know their identity to be maybe put on a list or something.”

Further Details

HB 423 would criminalize wearing a mask with the intent to “obstruct the execution of the law,” to “intimidate, hinder, or interrupt a person in the performance of the person’s legal duty,” or to “prevent a person from exercising the rights granted to them by the constitution or the laws of this state.” Violating the law would be considered a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in prison.

The bill’s two primary sponsors and five co-sponsors are all Republicans. Liberal protest groups view the legislation as a partisan attack and a violation of the First Amendment. Lee Thompson, a member of the the liberal Refuse Fascism group, believes this law was proposed to target protesters opposed to President Trump’s agenda. “I’ve never seen anybody in the Klan or Nazis or any of these fascists get arrested for wearing a mask,” he told the Daily TImes. “That’s just a lame, very well-used excuse. Who did they arrest? They arrest people who are progressive, who are on the left, who are fighting for something better than this … that we live under right now. That’s who gets arrested for this stuff, for real.”

Brian Taylor, an organizer of Black Lives Matter Cincinnati, similarly thinks that this bill is aimed at silencing advocates of social justice. “There is a climate in this country as more and more people take to the streets to demand justice on number of different front [sic] there is an attempt by those who represent the state to limit and curtail democratic rights and it’s on every level,” he told Fox 19.

Representative Bill Seitz, a primary sponsor of the bill, believes that HB 423 does not interfere with the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment. He told Fox 19 that “The aim of the bill is to give police one more de-escalation tool to use in these cases while preserving freedom to protest, masked or unmasked.”


Legislation Referred to Ohio House Criminal Justice Committee

The first hearing concerning HB 423 took place on December 12, 2017.

External References

HB 423

Should Ohio have broader ‘anti-mask’ law? WCPO Cincinnati

States push to criminalize wearing masks, Fox News

Ohio Bill Takes Aim at Masked Protesters, Portsmouth Daily Times

Sheriff, GOP lawmakers want to unmask protesters, Fox 19

Prepared by Will Haskell ‘18

February 23, 2018


The College of William & Mary — September 27, 2017

BLM protesters shout down ACLU speaker

Williamsburg, VA

Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Virginia, was invited by the College of William & Mary’s student organization AMP (Alma Mater Productions) for a discussion titled “Students and the First Amendment.” However, the event did not proceed as planned. It was interrupted by William & Mary’s Black Lives Matter (BLM) chapter approximately five minutes after Gastañaga’s entrance. She was not able to speak substantively, nor to talk with students individually or answer their questions after the event concluded prematurely.

Key Players

Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, an alumna of William & Mary, is executive director of the ACLU of Virginia. In August 2017, the state ACLU sued the City of Charlottesville on behalf of Jason Kessler, an “alt-right” activist, who was denied the use of Emancipation Park on August 12 for an approved demonstration. Gastañaga commented on the lawsuit, saying, “The ACLU of Virginia stands for the right to free expression for all, not just those whose opinions are in the mainstream or with whom the government agrees.”

Williamsburg Black Lives Matter has existed since 2014. The Flat Hat, William & Mary’s student newspaper, quoted BLM activist Beth Haw as saying, “We try to engage [people] in conversation about why black lives matter.” Information on the college chapter’s current leadership is not publicly available, and the group is not a recognized student organization on William & Mary’s campus, according to the official student organization directory, but instead works alongside the Williamsburg community’s BLM group.

The AMP is the “primary campus-wide programming body at the College of William & Mary,” according to the college’s website. It falls under the Office of Student Leadership Development. AMP’s mission statement says that its goal is “to provide diverse, high-quality entertainment in a safe, inclusive environment at a low cost to the college community.”

Further Details

As Gastañaga began to speak, BLM protesters occupied the stage while chanting and holding signs. According to, they shouted, “ACLU, you protect Hitler, too” and “the oppressed are not impressed,” among other things. They were angry because the ACLU had declared its intent to protect the free speech rights of Ku Klux Klan members and white nationalists earlier that year, and again after the “Unite the Right” march in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017 — just a month before Gastañaga’s planned speech at William & Mary. At the march in Charlottesville, hundreds of Ku Klux Klan members, white supremacists, and others gathered to protest the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue from Emancipation Park, previously known as Lee Park. Counter-protesters were present as well, and the conflict ultimately led to the death of a counter-protester, Heather Heyer, and the injury of some 30 others.

At one point during the William & Mary event, an organizer gave a microphone to the protesters so they could read their prepared statement aloud. It addressed the BLM chapter’s concerns regarding when “free speech of the oppressed” would be protected. The protesters then continued chanting, until the hosts eventually decided to cancel the remainder of the discussion. Following the event, student attendees attempted to ask Gastañaga questions individually, but the protesters followed, encircling them and chanting, until the students left with their questions unanswered.

Gastañaga initially attempted to incorporate the protesters into the discussion, saying, “Good, I like this…I’m going to talk to you about knowing your rights, and protests and demonstrations, which this illustrates very well. Then I’m going to respond to questions from the moderators, and then questions from the audience.” But the protesters continued to chant, and ultimately, the discussion was not able to proceed.

AMP Director Miguel Dayan said the student group, which sponsored the visit by Gastañaga, was “proud of be a part of a politically active community that voices their concerns and fights for their rights,” but wished there had been a multilateral dialogue at this event.


Gastañaga left campus safely; event has not been rescheduled

Following the event, Gastañaga left campus safely and no arrests or violence of any kind were reported. The discussion had been organized five months in advance, and as of February 12, 2018, there were no plans to reschedule it.

William & Mary President Taylor Reveley issued a statement following the aborted event, writing that “Silencing certain voices in order to advance the cause of others is not acceptable in our community…William & Mary must be a campus that welcomes difficult conversations, honest debate and civil dialogue.”

External Resources

Rutherford Institute File Suit to Uphold Right of Free Speech for all; Sue City of Charlottesville for Making Permit Decisions Based on Content of Speech, ACLU-VA

Alma Mater Productions

Programming and Events, the College of William and Mary

BLM Educates for Change: Black Lives Matter Conference Addresses College’s History, The Flat Hat

Black Lives Matter Students Shut Down the ACLU’s Campus Free Speech Event Because ‘Liberalism is White Supremacy,’

Black Lives Matter Protests American Civil Liberties Union, The Flat Hat

The campus anti-free-speech movement: Black Lives Matter protesters shut down ACLU speaker at William & Mary, The Washington Post

Charlottesville’s Emancipation Park, site of weekend’s violence, to be redesigned,

William and Mary students protest ACLU speaker, white supremacy, The Virginia Gazette

Prepared by Emma Vahey ’20

Uploaded February 13, 2018