Public displays of disrespect for Trump cause firing, arrest – October – November 2017

Herndon, VA

Two women were penalized for public acts of protest against President Donald Trump late in 2017. Juli Briskman, a former employee at Akima LLC, a federal government contractor, was fired in October after a photo of her giving the middle finger to Trump’s motorcade went viral. In November, a Texas woman, Karen Fonseca, was arrested near Houston on an outstanding felony warrant for fraud after she had displayed a profanity-laden sticker criticizing Trump on the rear window of her pickup truck.

Key Players

Juli Briskman was photographed “flipping off” President Trump’s motorcade while riding a bicycle next to it. She had been employed for six months at Akima LLC, a government contractor that works with public and commercial service providers, before being dismissed.

Karen Fonseca was arrested in Rosenberg, Texas, after she had displayed a sticker in the rear window of her pickup truck that read, “FUCK TRUMP AND FUCK YOU FOR VOTING FOR HIM.” She was released on bail, and the district attorney’s office is not pressing charges against her.

Further Details

Briskman posted the photo to her Facebook profile and Twitter account, and initially did not identify herself as the biker. However, she confirmed her identity to friends, and word spread online. A yoga studio where Briskman also worked asked her to remove any mention of it from her Facebook page, due to threatening emails the studio had received and negative comments on the studio’s own Facebook page. She complied. After she received the request from the yoga studio, she informed the human resources department at Akima about the incident. A day later, she was fired, reports The Huffington Post.

Akima said Briskman was dismissed for allegedly violating the firm’s social media policy, which states that “Covered Social Media Activity that contains discriminatory, obscene malicious or threatening content, is knowingly false, create [sic] a hostile work environment, or similar inappropriate or unlawful conduct will not be tolerated and will be subject to discipline up to an [sic] including termination of employment,” reports The Washington Post. According to The Huffington Post, Briskman was told that her gesture toward the presidential motorcade was considered obscene.

During her six months at Akima, Briskman was in charge of the company’s Facebook page. She told The Guardian that she had found an obscene comment from a senior director at the company who was engaged in an online debate concerning the Black Lives Matter movement. He deleted the comment, and apparently was not fired.

Briskman wasn’t the only person to face consequences in 2017 for protesting Trump. Karen Fonseca was arrested by the sheriff’s department in Rosenberg, Texas, after locals called in to complain about the profane, anti-Trump sticker on her truck. She was allegedly taken into custody on an outstanding warrant for fraud, but Fonseca asserts that the timing of the arrest was directly related to her having exercised her right to free speech in a manner critical of the president and his supporters. She was soon released on bail, and then added another sticker to her rear window that read, “FUCK TROY NEHLS AND FUCK YOU FOR VOTING FOR HIM.” Troy Nehls is the sheriff who had arrested her, and had threatened her with a charge of disorderly conduct. She, in turn, has threatened to take legal action against the sheriff’s department.

Outcome

Briskman considering legal action against company, receives financial support

Briskman said in interviews that she had consulted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) about the situation, but that she had not decided whether to take action against the company. In the meantime, a GoFundMe page started to support her while she looks for new employment had received $133,805, as of January 4, 2018.

External References

Woman fired for flipping off Donald Trump’s Motorcade, The Huffington Post

Cyclist who gave Trump the middle finger: ‘He wasn’t going to hear me through the glass, The Guardian

The biker who flipped off President Trump is now out of a job, The Washington Post

Fundraiser for Juli Briskman by Rob Mello

She put an obscene anti-Trump message on her truck and was arrested. Now she might sue. The Washington Post

‘F**k Trump’ decal woman adds a profane slam of Texas sheriff to her truck, Salon

Woman with crude anti-Trump decal arrested for fraud, CBS News

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

January 10, 2018

Public radio station cancels event with prominent biologist over anti-Islam comments – August 2017

Berkeley, CA

KPFA, a public radio station in Berkeley, California, cancelled a planned public event featuring scientist Richard Dawkins, due to protests over past comments he had made regarding Islam.

Key Players

Richard Dawkins is a prominent evolutionary biologist and author. He is particularly well-known for his outspoken atheist views. Dawkins was scheduled to participate in a live discussion and book signing, organized as a fundraiser for the radio station, part of the Pacifica network. He would have been promoting his new book, “Science in the Soul: Selected Writings of a Passionate Rationalist,” a compilation of 42 of his essays concerning scientific thought and inquiry.

Further Details

In 2013, Dawkins tweeted, “Haven’t read Koran so couldn’t quote chapter & verse like I can for the Bible. But often say that Islam greatest force for evil today.” In an article published in The Telegraph on June 11, 2017, Dawkins expanded on this sentiment, saying, “If you look at the actual impact that different religions have on the world it’s quite apparent that at present the most evil religion in the world has to be Islam.” He added that he does not believe all Muslims are evil; rather, they “suffer more from Islam than anybody else.”

The New York Times reported that KPFA received messages criticizing Dawkins’ planned appearance. A former KPFA board member complained that Dawkins is an Islamophobe. Lara Kiswani, executive director of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, wrote to the station that Dawkins’ comments “give legitimacy to extremist views.”

In an email to ticket-holders, KPFA wrote that it had booked the event so Dawkins could discuss his new book; station representatives said they “didn’t know he had offended and hurt – in his tweets and other comments on Islam – so many people.” While the station supports free speech, the email said, it does not support “abusive speech.” It apologized for not having known of Dawkins’ comments before inviting him. Bob Baldock, the events coordinator for KPFA, told the Times he supported the decision to cancel, but described it as a “fraught decision.” He also said he could not think of another station event that was cancelled because of content in the thirty years he had worked there.

In an interview with the Times, Dawkins said of the cancellation, “Many people are saying this is a freedom of speech issue, and of course it is. But it’s actually more a freedom of listening issue. People bought tickets because they wanted to hear me.”

Outcome

Richard Dawkins writes open letter in response to cancellation, requests apology

In an open letter, Dawkins criticized KPFA’s decision and asserted that if the station had done “rudimentary fact-checking,” it would have “concluded that [he has] never used abusive speech against Islam.” He said he had criticized the “pseudoscientific claims” of “Islamic apologists” and the “appalling misogyny and homophobia of Islam,” and that he thinks “Muslims themselves are the prime victims of the oppressive cruelties of Islamism.” Dawkins also pointed out that he has criticized Christianity, too, but has never been “de-platformed” for that. He concluded the letter with his expectation of a public apology from the radio station.

External References

Cancellation of Richard Dawkins Berkeley Event Baseless and Unconscionable

Radio station cancels Richard Dawkins appearance over Islam tweets, The Independent

Richard Dawkins: religious education is crucial for British schoolchildren, The Telegraph

Richard Dawkins event canceled over past comments about Islam, The New York Times

Richard Dawkins hits back at allegations he is Islamophobic after Berkely event is cancelled, The Independent

Richard Dawkins event cancelled over his ‘abusive speech against Islam, The Guardian

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

January 5, 2018

University of Wyoming – June 15, 2017

Furore over “The Fantasticks”

Laramie, WY

Native American high school students, participants in a summer institute at the University of Wyoming (UW), walked out of a performance of “The Fantasticks” in protest. The students took offense at the villainization of Native American characters in one scene and at what they perceived as an overly casual use of the word “rape” in a portion of dialogue. After they walked out, the UW United Multicultural Council (UMC) complained, and the university’s Department of Theatre and Dance made edits to their rendition of the play.

Key Players

Tim Nichols, husband of UW President Laurie Nichols, was essential in setting up UW’s Native American Summer Institute. He attended the play the night of the walkout, and afterward said that while he recognized the play was a period piece written in the 1960s, and therefore included some derogatory attitudes typical of the time, its performance was nonetheless inappropriate today. However, Nichols said that he believed the play did not entirely undo the progress the institute had made.

UMC Co-President Tyler Wolfgang authored the group’s statement regarding the performance, complaining that the production perpetuated outdated and offensive stereotypes of Native Americans and Latinos/Hispanics.

Further Details

After the walkout, actors in the UW production worked to re-tool offensive moments in the play. The Department of Theatre and Dance included an insert in the program for future performances explaining the cultural context in which the show had been written and preparing audience members for certain awkward moments. The department also issued a statement published in The Laramie Boomerang, explaining that the use of Native Americans as stock caricature villains is unacceptable, but reflects attitudes prevalent in the 1960s when “The Fantasticks” was first performed. The statement goes on to address the play’s use of the word “rape,” clarifying that its use in a particular song title actually corresponds with an outdated definition that referred to an abduction; furthermore, it said, the line that mentions the “Rape of the Sabine Women” is an allusion to an incident from Roman mythology. On the whole, the statement acknowledged that the department had failed to prepare audiences for what they were going to watch.

The walkout also inspired editorials and opinion pieces in Wyoming newspapers. In The Casper Star Tribune, professional playwright James Olm wrote that the incident opened his eyes to his own “whitewashed perspective” of theatre. He did, however, also express his disappointment at the university’s decision to cancel the production’s four-stop tour through the state. Bob Bonnar, editor of the News Letter Journal, wrote that the university’s response to the walkout silenced art in the name of diversity.

The incident prompted strong responses from community members on social media. Some said they understood the department’s decision to amend the play, but that a preemptive explanation of the context in which the show was written should have been the first strategy employed. Others were angry at the students’ decision to walk out of the performance, saying that their actions clearly belied a lack of willingness to understand the show.

Outcome

“The Fantasticks” edited, tour dates cancelled

After Native American students walked out of the play, production staff worked to amend certain portions of it so future audiences would find it less offensive. The university cancelled the production’s tour dates in other parts of the state.

External References

‘Fantasticks’ scene prompts walkout, incites condemnation, The Laramie Boomerang

Olm: Fantastickssaga opened my eyes, Casper Star Tribune

Show silenced by diversity, News Letter Journal

UW Department of Theatre and Dance statement on the production, The Laramie Boomerang

Prepared by Chris Castano ‘16

December 7, 2017

Clemson University – August 2016 – September 2016

Administrators prevent man from praying, students from displaying images of Harambe

Clemson, SC

The Clemson University administration struggled with issues relating to Free Speech on campus during the latter half of 2016. In August, a man praying on Clemson’s campus with a sign urging others to join him was asked to leave the area by a university administrator. His religious expression was interpreted as solicitation, as he was not a Clemson student or faculty member and he was praying with his sign outside of a designated Free Speech zone. The next month, students were banned from displaying images of Harambe, a famous gorilla who had died earlier that year, in their residence hall.

Key Players

Kyra Palange, a graduate student and member of the conservative organization Young Americans for Freedom, joined the visitor in praying for a few moments before university administrators intervened.

Shawn Jones, Clemson’s assistant director for client services, approached the man praying with Palange and informed him that his speech was considered solicitation and was taking place outside of a campus Free Speech zone. He then asked the man to leave.

Further Details

Robby Roberts was praying on a grassy area of Clemson’s campus near Fort Hill around 3:15 pm on Thursday, August 25, 2016. According to the Charlotte Observer, Roberts was sitting in a folding chair with another stationed next to him, along with an 8×10 sign that said “PRAYER”.

Kyra Palange, a graduate student, was walking in that area and decided to join the man in prayer for a few moments. They were approached by Shawn Jones and made to relocate. Jones informed Roberts that in the future he would need to follow the proper procedure in order to be permitted to solicit on campus. Jones also offered Roberts the paperwork to begin the registration process. Palange caught some of the interaction on video. When questioned about the potential encroachment on the man’s First Amendment rights on a public campus, Clemson administrators defended Jones’ actions. Mark Land, a spokesman for the university, told the College Fix that “the community member in this situation was not asked to leave campus nor was his prayer with one of our students interrupted.” Land said that Roberts was simply directed to “an appropriate location, such as one of the university’s designated free speech zones.”

The prayer incident was not Clemson’s only issue with the First Amendment. In September 2016, images of a famous gorilla named Harambe were banned by a community director in a residence hall after a student filed a complaint. According to National Review, Community Director Brooks Artis said, “there have been reports that [Harambe] and the incident surrounding his death have been used to add to the rape culture as well as being a form of racism.” In an effort to avoid discomfort, all references to the gorilla were banned from being displayed in dormitories, reports The Federalist.

Since any part of a student’s room is considered his or her private space, including the exterior of the door, the Harambe ban was subject to intense criticism. After receiving negative media attention, administrators overturned the rule. In addition, the university implemented mandatory First Amendment training for resident advisors so that they understand what they can and cannot regulate in dorms and are aware of what speech is and is not protected by the U.S. Constitution. The first training occurred in January 2017.

Outcome

Protest on campus

WeRoar Clemson, a student group dedicated to supporting Free Speech on campus, organized a protest to criticize the university’s actions toward Roberts and, more broadly, Clemson’s Free Speech policy, which it views as unconstitutional.

First Amendment taught and supported by the administration

After resident advisors seemingly infringed on students’ First Amendment rights, the requirements to become an RA changed. They now include mandatory First Amendment training.

External References

Kate Irby, Charlotte Observer

Pardes Seleh, Daily Wire

Katherine Timpf, National Review

Mitchell Gunter, The College Fix

Prepared by Bridget McElroy 18

December 8, 2017

University of Central Florida – July 2017

Private letter goes viral; student suspended, reinstated

Orlando, FL

In February 2017, University of Central Florida (UCF) junior Nick Lutz found a four-page, handwritten letter tucked under the windshield wiper of his truck. The letter, signed “Love, Elizabeth,” was from his ex-girlfriend who claimed it was the only way to reach him. Lutz had blocked her on social media. Upon reading the letter, Lutz decided to edit it, marking it up with a red pen and giving it a final grade of 61/100, or D-. He took a picture of his work and tweeted it before mailing the letter back to Elizabeth. The tweet went viral. The following summer, as a result of the viral tweet, UCF decided to suspend Nick Lutz and give him additional sanctions, all of which he appealed.

Key Players

Nick Lutz was a rising senior studying sports management at the University of Central Florida when he received notice that he would be suspended for the summer and fall 2017 semesters, placed on probation until he graduated, and assigned a mentor. UCF imposed these sanctions in response to his viral tweet from February.

Elizabeth is Lutz’s ex-girlfriend who wrote the graded letter. Her last name, social media accounts and contact information were never revealed. She was not a student at UCF.

Jacob Stuart is a close friend of the Lutz family and served as Nick’s attorney in his appeal against the school’s decision, calling it an unconstitutional violation of free speech and expression.

Further Details

Nick Lutz’s tweet received approximately 121,000 retweets, or shares, and it was liked over 338,000 times. Around five months after the tweet went viral, UCF decided to take action against the student. After Elizabeth, who was reportedly still in high school at the time, complained to the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office before reaching out to UCF with her concern that she was being cyber-bullied, Lutz was called in for a meeting with the directors of student conduct and Title IX to discuss the repercussions of his tweet.

Lutz left the meeting with a feeling that something would be done to punish him for his actions, reports The Washington Post. Days later, he was informed of his suspension and additional sanctions. He was put on academic probation for the remainder of his time at UCF, and he had to give a presentation and write a five-page paper about the impact of his actions on others. He was also assigned an academic mentor. CNN reports that Lutz said, “I was told before that probation was the most likely outcome. To hear suspension attached to my name made me outraged.” Although he expressed initial guilt about the tweet, Lutz ultimately stood by his actions, claiming that his “intent from the beginning was never to expose her.”

His attorney, Jacob Stuart, argued that dishing out sanctions such as those given to Lutz set a dangerous precedent for the university’s monitoring of student social media. He claimed in his formal appeal, which was posted in full on Lutz’s social media accounts, that the punishment was a clear violation of Lutz’s first amendment right to free expression, because while he was clearly making fun of his ex, he said nothing demeaning, derogatory, or threatening about her.

The university did not comment on the situation. UCF spokeswoman Courtney Gilmartin claimed Nick and the Lutz family would have to waive his FERPA rights in order for administrators to discuss the student’s affairs publicly.

Outcome

Charges Against Lutz Dropped by University

Just days after his suspension, UCF granted Lutz’s request for an appeal. Soon after, the university dismissed the charges against him, revoking the sanctions and reversing his suspension, saying, “Though your reported behavior is concerning, it does not appear to be an expressed violation of a Rule of Conduct.”

External References

Alex Harris, Miami Herald

Haley Samsel USA Today

Joshua Rhett Miller New York Post

Katie Mettler, The Washington Post

Nancy Coleman, CNN

Nick Lutz’s Tweet

Prepared by Bridget McElroy ‘18

December 1, 2017

Syracuse University – June 2017

Professor criticized for tweet during protest

Syracuse, NY

Syracuse University professor Dana Cloud received criticism from right-leaning publications such as Campus Reform and The College Fix for a tweet that some perceived as a call for violence. Cloud was participating in a counter-protest against the “March Against Sharia” rally in Syracuse, New York, on June 10, 2017. After the incident, Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud defended Cloud, and a petition supporting Cloud gained signatures from around the country.

Key Players

Dana Cloud is a professor of communications and rhetorical studies at Syracuse University. She is a self-described “radical liberal,” and in 2006 she appeared in conservative author David Horowitz’s book that listed the 101 “most dangerous” professors in America, Syracuse.com reports. She appeared on the list for her outspoken support of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions against Israel) movement and her criticisms of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Kent Syverud is the current president and chancellor of Syracuse University. He began his term on January 13, 2014. After receiving calls for Cloud to be fired, Syverud wrote an email to the campus community in which he defended Cloud’s actions.

ACT for America is a conservative organization dedicated to “preserv[ing] American culture and to keep[ing] this nation safe,” according to the group’s website. ACT has condemned cities whose public schools serve halal food due to large populations of Muslims, discouraged interfaith dialogue with Muslims, and lobbied state legislatures to eliminate aspects of textbooks that contain allegedly inaccurate equivalencies among Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, reports The Atlantic. On June 10, 2017, ACT organized “March Against Sharia” rallies in 25 cities across the United States, including Syracuse. ACT for America has 280,000 members and over 1,000 chapters, according to Syracuse.com.

Brigitte Gabriel, ACT’s founder, emigrated to the United States from Lebanon in 1989 and describes herself as a “survivor of Islamic terror.” She has written two major books about fighting radical Islam: “They Must Be Stopped: Why We Must Defeat Radical Islam and How We Can Do It” (2008) and “Because They Hate: A Survival of Radical Islam Warns America” (2006).

Further Details

On June 10, Cloud was participating in a counter-protest against the “March Against Sharia,” which was organized by ACT for America. Syracuse.com reported that the counter-protesters chanted phrases like “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA” and “Muslims are welcome here.” As the ACT protest began to disperse, Cloud tweeted, “We almost have the fascists on the run. Syracuse people come down to the federal building to finish them off.” This tweet received more than 600 responses, with conservative pundit Ann Coulter retweeting it. Individuals responded with messages such as “@SyracuseU is it safe for my children to be on campus with this clearly unstable professor threatening violence?” Other people sent threats to Cloud.

On June 18, an online petition was circulated, titled “Statement of Solidarity with Professor Dana Cloud.” The petition defended Cloud’s tweet of June 10 and stated that the threats against her were not isolated to this incident, but “part of a campaign of intimidation and harassment against those standing in solidarity with Muslims and other oppressed groups.” The petition was signed by a large number of professors from colleges around the nation.

Syracuse president Kent Syverud also defended Cloud in an email to the campus community. According to Syracuse.com, he wrote, “I can’t imagine academic freedom or the genuine search for truth thriving here without free speech … Our faculty must be able to say and write things–including things that provoke some or make others uncomfortable–up to the very limits of the law.” He denied that Cloud’s tweet was intended to incite violence, and compared “blacklisting” professors to tactics used against suspected communists during the Cold War.

Both the march and the protest were reportedly peaceful, and no arrests were made. The two sides stood on opposite sidewalks shouting at each other, reports Campus Reform. The ACT-affiliated group was holding American flags and sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Outcome

Syracuse Stands By Professor

Syracuse president and chancellor sent an email to the campus community defending Cloud’s right to tweet and stating that she would not be fired. He also stressed the importance of free speech to academic freedom and intellectual pursuits.

External References:

Prof urges students to ‘finish off’ anti-Sharia protesters, Campus Reform

Syracuse University chancellor defends prof after tweets sets off right-wing backlash, Syracuse.com

About Brigitte Gabriel, ACT for America

America’s Most Prominent Anti-Muslim Activist Is Welcome at the White House, The Atlantic

Dueling Protests in Syracuse: ACT for America and counter-protest face off, Syracuse.com

Blacklisted: Syracuse University professor targeted for speaking out on politics, Syracuse.com

Syracuse University chancellor defends prof after tweets set off right-wing backlash, Syracuse.com

Statement of Solidarity with Professor Dana Cloud

The Dangers of Filtered Speech, Inside Higher Ed

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

December 1, 2017

Google – August 7, 2017

Google employee fired for critiquing company

Mountain View, CA

James Damore, a former senior software engineer at Google, was fired on August 7 for violating the company’s code of conduct by circulating a memo in which he criticized Google’s hiring and training practices that are intended to increase diversity within the company. He argued in the memo that there are biological reasons for the gender disparity in the tech industry, and he also claimed that the company reinforces ideas and beliefs held by a large number of its workers. After being fired, Damore filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board and is currently pursuing legal action against Google.

Key Figures

James Damore started working at Google in December 2013. According to a profile in The Guardian, he excelled in his work at the company and was promoted to senior engineer in early 2017. He wrote the memo in June and sent it in early July to the organizers of Google’s diversity meetings. He did not receive a response, so he began circulating the memo to internal forums and mailing lists within Google. On August 5, Vice reported that the memo had gone “internally viral,” and later that day Gizmodo published the memo in its entirety.

Danielle Brown is Google’s Vice President of Diversity, Integrity & Governance. She previously worked at Intel before being hired by Google in late June 2017. On August 5, she issued a response to Damore’s memo, stating that Google did not endorse his views.

Sundar Pichai has been CEO of Google since August 2015. On August 8, he sent a memo to Google employees stating that he supported the rights of employees to express their opinions, but that this memo expressed harmful stereotypes.

Further Details

In January 2017, the US Department of Labor filed a lawsuit against Google after the company allegedly failed to hand over its data concerning equal pay for its employees. On April 7, The Atlantic reported the department had found that Google’s labor practices involved “systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce.” The Guardian reported that Google is 69% male and that in the tech industry overall, only 20% of jobs are held by women.

In his memo, Damore wrote that the “overwhelming majority of the social sciences, media, and Google lean left,” and that Google was “shaming into silence” dissenting views on diversity that created “an ideological echo chamber.” He then discussed possible non-bias-related causes of the gender gap in the tech industry. He wrote that “[w]omen generally have stronger interest in people rather than things,” “women generally [have] a harder time negotiating salary, asking for raises, speaking up, and leading,” and “neuroticism (higher anxiety, lower stress tolerance) … may contribute to the higher levels of anxiety women report” and “to the lower number of women in high-stress jobs.” Damore then laid out potential solutions for increasing the representation of women in tech, including making software engineering more people-oriented, making tech and leadership less stressful, and allowing men to be more feminine. He criticized Google’s “discriminatory practices” like a “high priority queue and special treatment for ‘diversity’ candidates,” “[p]rograms, mentoring, and classes only for people with a certain gender or race,” and “[h]iring practices which can effectively lower the bar for “diversity” candidates.” The memo concludes with Damore giving Google advice to “demoralize diversity,” “stop alienating conservatives,” confront its own biases, be “open about the science of human nature,” and stop the restriction of programs and classes to certain genders or races.

In Danielle Brown’s response to the memo, she wrote that she “found that [the memo] advanced incorrect assumptions about gender,” that Google did not endorse the views Damore espoused, and that Google employees “must feel safe sharing their opinions.” “Diversity and inclusion are a fundamental part of our values and the culture we continue to cultivate. We are unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a company, and we’ll continue to stand for that and be committed to it for the long haul,” Brown wrote.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai sent a response to Google employees on August 7 after news broke of Damore’s memo. Pichai wrote that he supported the rights of Google employees to express their views, but that “portions of the [Damore] memo violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.” He continued, “To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK. It is contrary to our basic values and our Code of Conduct, which expects ‘each Googler to do their utmost to create a workplace culture that is free of harassment, intimidation, bias and unlawful discrimination.’” He stressed that some Google employees were hurt by the memo, and he acknowledged that other employees were questioning whether or not they could express their views in the workplace after Damore’s firing. He also acknowledged that many of Damore’s concerns had merit. “[Many] points raised in the memo — such as the portions criticizing Google’s trainings, questioning the role of ideology in the workplace, and debating whether programs for women and underserved groups are sufficiently open to all — are important topics,” he wrote.

After the backlash against his original memo began, Damore added a paragraph at the beginning with the heading, “Reply to public response and misrepresentation.” In that paragraph, Damore wrote that he values diversity and inclusion, that he is not denying sexism exists, and that he is not endorsing stereotyping. “Psychological safety is built on mutual respect and acceptance, but unfortunately our culture of shaming and misrepresentation is disrespectful and unaccepting of anyone outside its echo chamber,” he wrote.

He added that he had received personal messages from fellow Google employees who expressed gratitude to him for raising the issues he discussed, and who “would never have the courage to say or defend [his views] because of our shaming culture and the possibility of being fired.” Wired reported that leaked internal messages showed some Google employees supported Damore’s ideas. Motherboard reported that a Google employee, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that some employees disagreed with what Damore was saying, but believed he should have a voice, and that a few expressed that they agreed with Damore’s views and thought he was brave. Another employee said, “The fact that colleagues are calling for him to be fired—on very public forums—proves his point that there is an ideological silo and that dissenting opinions want to be silenced,” reported Motherboard.

On August 11, Damore wrote an op-ed titled “Why I Was Fired by Google” in The Wall Street Journal. He said he had engaged in discussions with some of his peers after he circulated the original memo internally in early July, but that he was mostly ignored. Once the memo went viral, Google’s human resources department and Damore’s superiors received emails from individuals who demanded “censorship, retaliation, and atonement.” He accused upper management of shaming and misrepresenting his views, but acknowledged that the management couldn’t do otherwise because “The mob would have set upon anyone who openly agreed with me or even tolerated my views.” He concluded by writing that Google was walking “blindly into the future” by ignoring issues raised by its diversity policies.

After his firing, Damore did two interviews with Stefan Molyneux, a right-wing YouTube personality, and Jordan B. Peterson, a University of Toronto psychology professor known for his controversial statements regarding gender and who also has a large YouTube following. Damore told Molyneux that Google was hypocritical for firing him and that conservatives in the company feel the need to “stay in the closet.” He told Peterson that he had declined to speak to mainstream news outlets because he believed they would “twist whatever I say towards their agenda.” The Guardian reported that at Peterson’s behest, Damore began doing more interviews with other right-wing YouTube figures, including Ben Shapiro and Milo Yiannopoulos.

Outcome

Damore files complaint with NLRB over firing

On August 8, Damore filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board. Wired reported that Damore hired Harmeet Dhillon, a prominent San Francisco Republican, as his attorney to explore legal action against Google. This action could potentially involve other ex-Google employees, the article reports.

Damore speaks out

In an interview with The Guardian, Damore said that he was frustrated that he had become associated with the alt-right because of the memo. “Journalists and commentators were incentivised to distort facts to generate outrage,” he said in the interview.

External References

The Department of Labor accuses Google of gender pay discrimination, The Atlantic

Google on anti-diversity manifesto: Employees ‘must feel safe sharing their opinions,’ Motherboard

Google’s new diversity chief tasked with moving the needle, USA Today

Exclusive: Here’s the full 10-page anti-diversity screed circulating internally at Google, Gizmodo

Internal reactions to Google employee’s manifesto show anti-diversity views have support, Motherboard

Internal messages how some Googlers supported fired engineer’s manifesto, Wired

Segregated valley: the ugly truth about Google and diversity in tech, The Guardian

Why I was fired by Google, The Wall Street Journal

‘I’m not a sexist: Fired Google engineer stands behind controversial memo, The Washington Post

The engineer Google fired over diversity memo has filed a complaint with federal labor officials, Business Insider

The Google employee who wrote the controversial Google manifesto was fired after CEO Sindar Pichai called it ‘not OK,” Business Insider

‘I see things differently’: James Damore on his autism and the Google memo, The Guardian

James Damore case could spawn more legal headaches for Google, Wired

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

December 1, 2017

Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas – June 17, 2017

Community college changes policies, no longer censured by AAUP

West Helena, AR

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) voted to remove Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas from its list of universities censured for “violating principles and standards of academic freedom,” according to a media release on its website. The college had been on the AAUP’s censure list since 1978.

Key Players

Marion Hickingbottom previously served as a professor of history at Phillips Community College. Starting in 1966, he received nine one-year contracts from the university up until the 1976 academic year. According to a report released by the AAUP, Hickingbottom was a “demanding history teacher,” a “supportive colleague,” and helped found the faculty senate, of which he once served as president. He was also reportedly known for being outspoken about certain sensitive matters; The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that Hickingbottom was “a gadfly and a whistleblower.” The AAUP’s report explains that in February 1976 Hickingbottom noticed an illegal leasing arrangement between Phillips College and a local car dealership. He wrote a letter to the Arkansas Motor Vehicle Division informing them of the arrangement and requesting that his letter be kept confidential. Less than a month later, however, the president of Phillips College was informed of the letter and asked Hickingbottom to resign. Hickingbottom refused. The College then decided not to renew his contract for a tenth year.

Further Details

According to the AAUP’s report on the incident, Jimason A. Daggett, Phillips Community College’s attorney at the time of Hickingbottom’s firing, justified the professor’s dismissal by claiming that he “is not ‘on the team,’ that he does not have the best interests of the college at heart.” Other reasoning provided by the college’s administration posited that Hickingbottom had not utilized proper channels when he noticed the leasing issue. The two parties eventually resolved the situation, but the AAUP voted to censure the college in 1978 over the incident.

In 2017, the AAUP said in a statement on its website that the college had adopted a policy that assured faculty “with more than six years of full-time service would be retained indefinitely unless the administration demonstrated cause for termination in a faculty hearing.”

Donald R. Bobbitt, president of the University of Arkansas system, said in a statement that he “expressed his sincere appreciation” to the AAUP.

According to Campus-Watch’s reporting on the AAUP’s censure process, when an individual makes a complaint concerning a violation of academic freedom, the association reviews the situation and then makes a recommendation to the college to rectify the situation. Dr. Greg Scholtz, director of the Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure, and Governance for the AAUP, explained to Campus-Watch that colleges typically resolve the violation. In the event that a college does not, the AAUP executive director can push forward an investigation that goes deeper into the situation, and then the AAUP can censure the college if it deems censuring necessary.

Outcome

AAUP Lifts Censure of Phillips Community College

In 2017, the AAUP announced that it would remove Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas from their censure list, upon the college’s adoption of a new faculty retention policy. The AAUP simultaneously removed the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

External References

History of the AAUP

About the AAUP

AAUP Removes Two from Academic Freedom Censure List, Adds Two, AAUP

AAUP Adds Two Institutions, Removes Two From Censure List [incl. Steven Salaita], Campus-Watch

Off and On the Censure List, Inside Higher Ed

A Divided AAUP Lifts Censure of U. of Illinois, The Chronicle of Higher Education

Academic Freedom and Tenure: Phillips County Community College (Arkansas), AAUP

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

December 1, 2017

Utah State Legislature – HB 54 – 2017

Governor signs bill banning “Free Speech Zones” at public universities

Salt Lake City, UT

House Bill 54, a law banning Free Speech Zones on the campuses of Utah’s public colleges and universities, was signed into law by Governor Gary Herbert on March 28, 2017. This legislation is one of four bills introduced by a Republican lawmaker to protect Free Speech on campus. The other bills, which addressed topics such as academic freedom and a student’s right to counsel, did not advance through the legislature.

Key Figures

State Representative Kim Coleman, a Republican, is the legislation’s lead sponsor. Coleman, who has a daughter attending a public university, represents a district in central Utah. Her bill was cosponsored by 12 Republican lawmakers in the Utah House of Representatives. Coleman believes that Utah’s public colleges and universities are suppressing Free Speech. “With increased turmoil on campuses at many of our nation’s institutions of higher education, we need to protect the speech of all our students, while protecting students from harassment and intimidation,” Coleman told The Daily Universe, a campus publication associated with Brigham Young University. This legislation “simply affirms many Supreme Court rulings that government property is a free speech area,” Coleman continued. On her campaign website, Coleman claims that “the First Amendment’s prohibition on government abridging the freedom of speech is being defied on 50% of our nation’s public campuses.”

Further Details

HB 54 protects students’ rights to gather peacefully in outdoor areas on campus. While the law permits college and university administrators to impose some time, place and manner restrictions on student speech, it requires that these restrictions be “narrowly tailored to serve a significant institutional interest.” Moreover, speech restrictions must be “based on published, content-neutral and viewpoint-neutral criteria.” Finally, the legislation creates a cause of action, allowing the Attorney General or any impacted students to sue a college or university for violating Free Speech rights.

By a vote of 71-0, HB 54 received unanimous support within the House of Representatives. The bill then advanced to the Senate, where it earned near unanimous support by a vote of 28-1.

HB 54 was at least partially inspired by recent Free Speech incidents at public colleges and universities in Utah. In 2015, three students at Dixie State University in St. George were prevented from displaying satirical portraits of political figures on campus. “It’s crazy, it’s frustrating,” Coleman told The Salt Lake Tribune, “to think that in 2015, that a public university would limit political speech.”

In another 2015 incident, campus police officers at Utah State University told students to remove anti-abortion messages they had drawn in chalk on campus walkways. A university spokesman later apologized for the incident and pledged that administrators would re-evaluate policies concerning student speech, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. That same year, campus police officers at Utah Valley University removed a political sign concerning gay rights since the sign did not receive prior approval from the administration, according to the UVU Review, a campus publication.

HB 54 was criticized by some Free Speech advocates for not doing enough to protect student speech. Fiorella Vasquez, president of the Young Americans for Liberty Foundation at the University of Utah, points to a Utah Valley University policy that encourages professors to report student speech in classrooms that is “too inappropriate, loud, or argumentative.” Vasquez wrote in The Salt Lake Tribune that HB 54 provides no protections to student speech that occurs inside the classroom.

Outcome

Legislation signed into law on March 28th, 2017

Governor Gary Herbert, a Republican, signed this legislation after it received bipartisan approval in Utah’s House of Representatives and Senate.

Coleman’s other Free Speech legislation not enacted

Representative Coleman’s other Free Speech bills, relating to anti-harassment regulations (HB 103), a student’s right to counsel (HB 284), and academic freedom (HB 334) did not move forward within the state legislature.

External References:

HB 54

Kim Coleman, Utah House of Representatives

Commentary: Is free speech under attack at Utah colleges?, The Salt Lake Tribune

Utah lawmaker takes aim at campus free-speech rules, The Salt Lake Tribune

LDS Handbook Policy Has Real-Life Affect on Students, UVU Review

Campus Free Speech Amendments bill in committee, The Daily Universe

Bills aim to free up free speech on Utah college campuses, The Salt Lake Tribune

Utah college apologizes after students were told to erase anti-abortion messages, The Salt Lake Tribune

Prepared by Will Haskell ‘18

December 1, 2017

California State University, Long Beach – September 7, 2016

Cancellation of controversial play leads to resignation

Long Beach, CA

College administrators cancelled an on-campus performance of the satirical play, N*GGER WETB*CK CH*NK (N*W*C), scheduled to take place in the Carpenter Center for the Performing Arts at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) on September 29, 2016. The play, written and acted by three former college debate teammates, Rafael Agustin, Miles Gregly and Allan Axibal, was created with the intention of speaking about race in contemporary America. Using comedy, they crafted N*W*C using their own experiences with immigration and racial intolerance, slurs and stereotypes. Although N*W*C had been successfully staged and sold out in 2015, it was cancelled the following year because unspecified members of the campus community expressed concern over whether or not the show was adequately contributing to an educational dialogue. The show’s cancellation prompted Michele Roberge, the executive director of the performing arts center, to resign.

Key Players

Michele Roberge served as the executive director of the Carpenter Center for the Performing Arts for 14 years. She resigned upon learning that the performance would be shut down, telling the OC Weekly, “I just couldn’t come to work every day to work at a place that condones censorship.”

Further Details

The Carpenter Center for Performing Arts is technically a professional theater, although it is owned by the university. N*W*C is a play that has been touring the country for approximately 12 years. The small cast of writers visits college campuses in an attempt to foster conversation about real-life experiences with racial intolerance, integration, and immigration. The production has sparked protests of all kinds, including picketers, Neo-Nazi threats, and oppositional flyers, The New York Times reports.

In 2015, the NAACP penned a letter protesting CSULB’s decision to stage the show on its campus. In addition, many students objected to the play’s title. However, despite the criticism, University President Jane Close Conoley held firm and allowed the production to go forward.

But in 2016, the outcome was different. The performance was cancelled after numerous students and CSULB community members expressed concerns about it. Whereas the protests in 2015 had been primarily concerned with the title, those in 2016 objected to the content, OC Weekly reports.

Michele Roberge denounced the cancellation of the show as censorship. Upon resigning, she said, “by censoring this show, we’re depriving students of the opportunity from hearing a different point of view about race relations and making up their own minds about what’s in the news every day, from Black Lives Matter to police brutality. And as a professional presenting theater on a university campus, I think our job is to bring topics like this to the campus to be seen and discussed. But the university has curtailed my ability to do that, and I have enough integrity that I couldn’t accept [the decision],” the OC Weekly reports.

Outcome

Show cancellation

The show was cancelled, though the performers were compensated, OC Weekly reports.

Roberge resigns

Michele Roberge resigned from the position she had held for 14 years, because she was uncomfortable with what she considered censorship.

N*W*C tour continues

Although unable to perform at CSULB, a cast member of N*W*C said that the production would continue the tour as planned.

External References

Long Beach St. Pulls Plug on N*GGER WETB*CK CH*NK Show. Cancellation, or Censorship?, OC Weekly

What’s in a Slur? A New Play Searches for Answers, The New York Times

Prepared by Bridget McElroy ‘18

November 16, 2017