Free Speech on Campus graphic

Penn Law professor removed from teaching required courses after publishing op-ed – August 9, 2017

Philadelphia, PA

On August 9, 2017, Amy Wax, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, co-wrote and published in the Philadelphia Inquirer an opinion piece titled “Paying the price for breakdown of the country’s bourgeoisie culture.” The article, which calls the culture of “some working-class whites,” “inner-city blacks,” and “some Hispanic immigrants” unsuitable for a First World country, brought attention to Wax’s history of allegedly racist and classist opinions. After a video resurfaced in which she claimed African American students rarely graduate in the top half of their class, Penn Law announced Wax would no longer teach any required courses for first-year students.

Key Players

Amy Wax is the Robert Mundheim Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. She has tenure at the university, and has been affiliated with Penn Law since 2001. She received a bachelor’s degree in molecular biophysics and biochemistry from Yale in 1975, was a Marshall Scholar at Oxford University, and earned a medical degree from Harvard in 1981 and a law degree from Columbia in 1987. She was a law professor at the University of Virginia before moving to Penn, and has argued 15 cases before the US Supreme Court.

Ted Ruger is dean of Penn Law, where he is also the Bernard G. Segal Professor of Law. His expertise includes health law, legislation, constitutional law, and food and drug regulation.

Paul Levy is a 1972 Penn Law graduate. He chaired the law school’s Board of Overseers from 2001 to 2007, and later resigned from that board and the university’s Board of Trustees after Wax was removed from teaching first-year classes.

Further Details

Wax’s opinions have sparked debate on multiple occasions. In 2005, she wrote an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) called “Some Truths About Black Disadvantage,” in which she employs laws of reverse causation to argue that black people are responsible for overcoming the disadvantages that have resulted from centuries of racism. According to The Daily Pennsylvanian (DP), the op-ed received criticism from the Black Law Students Association when it was published.

The next year, Wax was criticized by colleagues for publicly supporting a study titled, “Ten Principles on Marriage and the Public Good.” The report itself was sponsored by an independent research center called the Witherspoon Institute. According to the DP, “The report links the decline of marriage to widening socioeconomic gaps.” The report also states “that marriage should be defined as between a man and a woman—and that any other family structures only function to weaken traditional marriage.” While Wax claimed she did not support all of the ideas set forth in the document, she supported it as a valid and important opposition to the widely accepted view in academia.

In 2009, she published a book called Race, Wrongs and Remedies: Group Justice in the 21st Century. Throughout it, according to the Amazon synopsis, “She argues that effectively addressing today’s persistent racial disparities requires dispelling the confusion surrounding blacks’ own role in achieving equality.”

Wax was met with protest in 2013 when she gave a lecture at Middlebury College, called “Diverging Family Structure by Class and Race: Economic Hardship, Moral Deregulation or Something Else?” The lecture hall in which she spoke was filled beyond capacity, without even standing room remaining. She spoke for 40 minutes before engaging in a heated question-and-answer session. According to a Middlebury Campus article, “Wax presented aggregate data on diverging family values focusing on differences in birth rates of children born out of wedlock and overall marriage rates between whites and non-whites that she argues is caused by ‘differences in decision making style by class and race’ and post 1960s ‘moral deregulation.’”

Following publication of the Inquirer article in August 2017, Wax gave an interview to the DP in which she defended her sentiments. Wax espoused the view that “not all cultures are created equal. Or at least they are not equal in preparing people to be productive in an advanced economy,” and lamented the disintegration of the bourgeois culture that reigned in the mid-twentieth century. Wax told the DP, “I don’t shrink from the word, ‘superior’” when describing the value of what she calls Anglo-Protestant ideals. However, according to the DP, she insisted she was not suggesting the superiority of white people specifically, claiming, “Bourgeois values aren’t just for white people.”

After the publication of “Paying the price for breakdown of the country’s bourgeoisie culture,” Penn Law spokesperson Steven Barnes released a statement saying, “The views expressed in the article are those of the individual authors. They are not a statement of Penn Law’s values or institutional policies.” Thirty-three Penn Law professors also protested Wax’s views, publishing a guest column in the DP. Addressing their letter to the University of Pennsylvania community, they “categorically reject[ed] Wax’s claims.”

Amid the controversy over Wax’s op-ed on bourgeois culture, a video from September 2017 resurfaced and exacerbated the situation. In an interview with Brown University Professor Glenn Loury, Wax said, “Here’s a very inconvenient fact, Glenn: I don’t think I’ve ever seen a black student graduate in the top quarter of the class, and rarely, rarely, in the top half. I can think of one or two students who scored in the top half of my required first-year course,” reported The Washington Post. The interview was titled “The Downside to Social Uplift.”

Dean Ted Ruger contradicted Wax’s claims in an email to the DP, confirming that, in fact, “Black students have graduated in the top of the class at Penn Law.” He also affirmed her right to speak her mind, while criticizing her decision to speak openly about her students’ performance in the classroom: “As a scholar she is free to advocate her views, no matter how dramatically those views diverge from our institutional ethos and our considered practices. As a teacher, however, she is not free to transgress the policy that student grades are confidential, or to use her access to those Penn Law students who are required to be in her class to further her scholarly ends without students’ permission.”

After receiving backlash from her op-ed about bourgeois culture, Wax penned another for the Wall Street Journal, titled “What Can’t Be Debated on Campus.” In it she expressed disappointment with what she perceives as a dearth of “civil discourse” and Free Speech on college campuses.

Outcome

Wax will no longer teach required first year courses

Despite Wax’s claim in a WSJ op-ed that Ruger had asked her to take a leave of absence, spokesperson Barnes confirmed that her tenured position at the university is secure. He said she would be teaching again in the fall semester of 2018. However, Wax will no longer teach in the first-year curriculum, reported the DP. Instead she will teach a full course load of electives, while retaining her tenure and salary.

Penn trustee emeritus and law school overseer resigns

On April 6, Emeritus Trustee Paul Levy sent his three-page resignation letter to Penn President Amy Gutmann, with a copy to the DP. It says, in part, “Preventing Wax from teaching first-year students doesn’t right academic or social wrongs. Rather, you are suppressing what is crucial to the liberal educational project: open, robust and critical debate over differing views of important social issues.” By April 9, Levy was no longer listed as a member of Penn’s Board of Trustees or a member of the Penn Law Board of Overseers, the DP reported.

Wax awarded for academic courage

On April 12 in New York City, Wax was presented with the Peter Shaw Memorial Award for her academic courage and “remarkable service” by the National Association of Scholars (NAS), a conservative advocacy group that fights what it regards as liberal bias in academia. The award is typically given to a person who has demonstrated academic freedom through “exemplary writing on issues pertaining to higher education and American intellectual culture,” according to the NAS website. Peter Wood, president of NAS, told the DP that the criteria for the award were marginally changed to include academic courage. After being presented with the award, Wax gave a speech to about 100 listeners, who, the DP reported, were overwhelmingly positive in their reaction.

External References

After ‘disparaging comments on black students, Amy Wax barred from teaching first year course, The Daily Pennsylvanian

Awarded for ‘academic courage,” Amy Wax lambastes supposed lack of civil debate at Penn, The Daily Pennsylvanian

Guest Column by 33 Penn Law faculty members / Open Letter to the University of Pennsylvania community, The Daily Pennsylvanian

‘Not all cultures are created equal,’ says Penn law professor in Op-Ed, The Daily Pennsylvanian

Paying the price for breakdown of the country’s bourgeois culture, The Philadelphia Inquirer

Penn Law Professor who said black students are ‘rarely’ in top half of class loses teaching duties, The Washington Post

Penn prof. endorses controversial study, The Daily Pennsylvanian

Penn Professor removed from class for saying black students under perform, PennLive.com

Penn Trustee Emeritus resigns over University ‘treatment of Amy Wax’, The Daily Pennsylvanian

Paul Levy’s resignation letter

Some Truths About Black Disadvantage, The Wall Street Journal

Wax Lecture Stirs Controversy, The Middlebury Campus

Wax’s newest opinion piece has reignited a familiar debate at Penn Law, The Daily Pennsylvanian

What Can’t Be Debated on Campus, The Wall Street Journal

Amazon synopsis of Race, Wrongs, and Remedies

Prepared by Bridget McElroy ‘18

Uploaded May 15, 2018

Free Speech on Campus graphic

Right-wing writer arrested during speech at UConn – November 28, 2017

Storrs, CT

Conservative writer Lucian Wintrich was arrested after an altercation during a speech he was giving at the University of Connecticut (UConn) in November 2017. He followed and forcefully grabbed a woman after she snatched his papers from the speaker’s podium in the middle of a speech titled, “It’s OK to be White.”

Key Player

Lucian Wintrich is the White House correspondent for The Gateway Pundit, a far-right website that garners millions of monthly views. He is one of the first openly gay members of the White House Press Corps, and, at age 29, one of the youngest. Wintrich gained popularity during the 2016 presidential election with his #Twinks4Trump photo series of scantily dressed gays wearing ‘Make America Great Again’ caps. Previously, Wintrich was scheduled to speak at New York University (NYU) in February 2018, but the event was postponed due to security concerns. He eventually spoke to the NYU College Republicans in March.

Further Details

The UConn College Republicans Club invited Wintrich to speak on campus. His speech was to discuss identity politics and was scheduled for November 28, 2017. In the lead-up to the event, many of the posters advertising his visit were removed, reported CNN. In response to the vandalism, the College Republicans posted a message on Facebook, which read, “It is sad that our fellow students at UConn have to take down or modify Lucian Wintrich’s posters because they disagree with free speech and individualism. Don’t worry, we put more up!”

About 350 people attended the event, many of whom were there to protest it. Wintrich was interrupted frequently as he tried to speak. According to The Washington Post, people shouted things like “Go home, Nazi!” and “Black Lives Matter.”

Pandemonium ensued when a woman, later identified as Catherine Gregory, an adviser at nearby Quinebaug Valley Community College, approached the speaker’s podium and snatched a piece of paper from it. As she walked away, Wintrich followed her, pulled at her backpack, and grabbed her in an attempt to retrieve his papers. The police quickly restrained him and led him out of the room. Wintrich was put into custody and charged with misdemeanor breach of peace. He was released later the same evening on a $1,000 bond, reported CNN.

University spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said a UConn student, identified as Sean Miller, was arrested for allegedly breaking a window, and that someone threw a smoke bomb inside the building as the audience was dispersing. No injuries were reported in the chaos, she said.

UConn President Susan Herbst also commented on the events surrounding Wintrich’s appearance. Her statement read, “We live in a tense and angry time of deep political division. Our hope as educators is that creative leadership and intellectual energy can be an antidote to that sickness, especially on university campuses. Between the offensive remarks by the speaker who also appeared to aggressively grab an audience member and the reckless vandalism that followed, that was certainly not the case on our campus tonight.”

Herbst also announced that UConn would change its vetting process for campus speakers and attendees. The Hartford Courant reported that the university would begin to review guest lists and the backgrounds of potential speakers when students seek to reserve space, equipment, or “security resources” for events on campus.

Following the incident on November 28, Wintrich tweeted, “It’s really unfortunate that some of the kids at @UConn felt the need to be violent and disruptive during a speech that focused on how the leftist media is turning Americans against each other. Tonight proved my point.”

Outcome

Charges against Wintrich dropped

According to the Post, the misdemeanor breach-of-peace charge against Wintrich was dropped in December 2017. The Courant reported that the state recognized that the incident occurred when he was attempting to regain the papers the woman had taken from the podium. He did not appear before a judge.

Charges brought against Gregory, eventually nolled

The Post reported that Gregory turned herself in as the paper snatcher in December 2017. Her attorney claimed she had grabbed Wintrich’s speech notes as an act of First Amendment-protected protest. Nevertheless, she was charged with disorderly conduct and criminal attempt to commit larceny in the sixth-degree, reported the Courant.

In January 2018, Gregory’s case was put into a status that would result in the charges being dropped after 13 months have passed. According to the Courant, she must remain off the UConn campus for a year and make a $500 donation to UConn’s Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.

External References

Catherine Gregory, Charged With Trying to Swipe Lucian Wintrich’s Speech, Must Donate to UConn, Stay Off Campus, Hartford Courant

Protester who grabbed Lucian Wintrich’s ‘It’s OK to be white’ speech charged with theft, The Washington Post

Right-wing blogger arrested at “It’s OK to be white” speech at UConn, CNN

State Drops Case Against Lucian Wintrich, White House Correspondent For Gateway Pundit, In UConn Tussle, Hartford Courant

Quinebaug College Adviser Charged after Lucian Wintrich’s UConn Event, Hartford Courant

The Gateway Pundit’s web traffic, Public Document

Lucian Wintrich Speaks at NYU After Postponed Visit, Washington Square News

Prepared by Bridget McElroy ‘18

Uploaded May 14, 2018

 

Free Speech on Campus graphic

Joliet Junior College – November 28, 2017

Student prevented from distributing anti-capitalist flyers on campus

Joliet, IL

Campus police at Joliet Junior College stopped a student from handing out flyers critical of capitalism on November 28, 2017. They confiscated her materials and detained her for forty minutes on the grounds that she had not received permission to use the school’s Free Speech Zone. In return, she sued the school, with support from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

Key Players

Ivette Salazar is a nursing student at Joliet Junior College who was detained by campus police for distributing anti-capitalist literature in a Free Speech Zone. On January 11, 2018, her complaint alleging violation of her First Amendment rights was formally filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

Joliet Junior College (JJC) is a public community college in Joliet, Illinois, located approximately 30 miles southwest of Chicago. JJC has designated Free Speech Zones, with strict regulations about how they can be used. Students can set up tables, run by two students each, so long as they remain behind a table or other divider when they are in the area. They must submit tabling requests five business days in advance through a reservation form, and any literature students distribute in the area must first receive the approval of JJC’s Office of Student Services and Activities.

Further Details

On November 28, 2017, Salazar noticed students from the conservative group Turning Point USA handing out anti-socialist flyers in JJC’s Free Speech Zone. Later that day, she returned to the area and began handing out her own pamphlets, which read “Shut Down Capitalism” and advertised an upcoming workshop on Marxism. She also left the flyers on public tables nearby and in a concourse connecting two campus buildings, reported the Chicago Tribune.

A campus police officer and janitor approached and stopped Salazar, telling her she did not have approval to distribute her flyers in the area, reported the Tribune. According to Salazar, the officer told her that given the “political climate of the country,” she “might start something on campus” if she distributed flyers on this topic. The students from Turning Point USA reportedly continued to hand out their literature as Salazar talked with the college employees. She said she was then accompanied to campus police headquarters, where police took her flyers and detained her for forty minutes.

When Salazar asked three officers about her freedom of speech, as they were questioning her about the incident, one of them allegedly responded, “To put it bluntly, you have freedom of speech but only if we approve it … If you want to go ahead and post your flyers and burn your crosses, you have to get it approved by [the Office of Student Services and Activities].” Salazar said that after being released she left campus, because she felt unnerved by the several officers she passed, whom she said seemed to be observing her.

Outcome

College settles lawsuit, pays $30,000

The Joliet Patch reported that JJC settled the lawsuit on April 18, 2018, agreeing to pay $30,000 in damages to FIRE. The school also agreed to change its Free Speech Zone policies and to retrain its staff and campus police on the updated policies. An official statement from FIRE indicated that JJC has agreed to allow for free expression throughout the campus, provided that speech aligns with constitutional time, place, and manner regulations.

External References

Illinois college sued over ‘free speech zone’, Chicago Tribune.

Lawsuit: Joliet Junior College workers stopped student from distributing political flyers, Chicago Tribune.

Joliet Junior College – Stand Up for Free Speech Lawsuit, FIRE.

FIRE files lawsuit on behalf of Illinois student detained by police for ‘Shut Down Capitalism’ flyers, FIRE.

Verified Complaint to the United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois.

Free Speech Lawsuit Costs Joliet Junior College $30,000, Joliet Patch.

VICTORY: Student detained for passing out political flyers settles lawsuit with Illinois College, FIRE.

Sen. Hatch introduces bill to end free speech zones on campuses, The Daily Universe.

Prepared by Gustav Honl-Stuenkel ‘20

Uploaded May 7, 2018

Free Speech on Campus graphic

University of Tampa – August 29, 2017

Adjunct sociology professor fired after tweeting Hurricane Harvey was “karma” for Trump supporters

Tampa, FL

On August 27, 2017, Kenneth Storey, then an adjunct professor at the University of Tampa, shared on Twitter that although he was not a believer in karma, he felt the people of Texas deserved Hurricane Harvey for voting President Donald Trump into office. His tweets were met with outrage, and two days later Storey was fired.

Key Players

Kenneth Storey is a native Floridian who publicly identifies as a liberal. He was a part-time, adjunct faculty member in the Sociology department at the University of Tampa (UT), a private university located in Tampa, Florida, from 2011 to 2017. Before this incident occurred, he was — and continues to be — a vocal and active individual on Twitter.

Further Details

Storey’s initial tweet on August 27 read: “I dont believe in karma but this kinda feels like it for Texas. Hopefully this will help them realize the GOP doesnt care about them.” He posted this in reference to Hurricane Harvey, which had just hit Houston and other areas of Texas and Louisiana. The Texas Tribune estimated that a minimum of 88 people died in the hurricane, and CNN reported that roughly 30,000 people were displaced after Harvey dumped 27 trillion gallons of water—in a record-breaking rainfall of 51 inches—on the state of Texas.

After his first tweet, Storey continued to elaborate. In response to someone who tweeted at him saying he should “rethink,” he tweeted, “Well, the good people there need to do more to stop the evil their state pushes. I’m only blaming those who support the GOP there.” When asked if he thought the same about Trump supporters in Florida, he responded, “Yep, those who voted for him here deserve it as well.”

Conservative websites Campus Reform and Turning Point USA picked up Storey’s tweets, and the professor was added to the “Professor Watchlist,” a website used to “expose and document college professors who discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom,” reported the Tampa Bay Times. Storey ultimately deleted the entire Twitter thread, as well as his profile picture.

He apologized a day later, writing: “I deeply regret a statement I posted yesterday. I never meant to wish ill will upon any group. I hope all affected by Harvey recover quickly.” In a statement to ABC News, Storey explained that he “was referring to the GOP denial of climate change science and push to decrease funds from agencies that can help in a time like this. . . . I also hope this helps the GOP realize the need to support climate change research and put in place better funding for agencies like NOAA and FEMA.”

Outcome

University fires adjunct professor for tweets

UT’s faculty handbook follows guidelines from the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), which state that “[professors] should be free from institutional censorship or discipline” when speaking in their capacities as independent individuals. A school should only discipline a professor, AAUP says, “if [there are] grave doubts concerning the teacher’s fitness” to teach.

The university asserted in a separate statement to ABC News that Storey’s comments were not representative of its views, since he did not make them in his capacity as a faculty member. Yet on August 29, 2017, UT announced it had fired the adjunct professor, writing, “We condemn the comments and the sentiment behind them, and understand the pain this irresponsible act has caused. Storey has been relieved of his duties at UT.”

Ari Cohn, an attorney at The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), told the Tampa Bay Times the university had “caved” to pressure from online “outrage mobs.”

Faculty member forced to leave home due to threats

Storey spoke with reporters on the day his firing was announced and told them he was in hiding because he feared for his life. He said, “I’ve received numerous death threats. Right now, I am not at home because of threats, that do look credible, of people that identify as white supremacists who stated they are ‘coming down from Georgia to kill me.’”

External Resources

Kenneth Storey’s Rate my Professors Page

Prof Suggests Texans Deserve Hurricane for Supporting Trump, Campus Reform

Under Fire, These Professors were Criticized by their Colleges, The Chronicle of Higher Education

University of Tampa Statement

UT Fires Teacher whose Tweet Blamed Harvey on Texas GOP Vote, Tampa Bay Times

UT Professor Speaks Out After He Was Fired for Tweeting Harvey was ‘Karma’ for Trump Voters, ABC Action News

State says Harvey’s death toll has reached 88, The Texas Tribune

Harvey’s devastating impact by the numbers, CNN

Prepared by Emma Vahey ‘20

Uploaded April 30, 2017

Free Speech on Campus graphic

California State University, Fresno – April 17, 2018

Professor’s anti-Barbara Bush Twitter tirade draws ire

Fresno, CA

Just an hour after the death of Barbara Bush was announced, an English professor at California State University, Fresno, wrote a series of disparaging tweets about the former First Lady, calling her an “amazing racist.” The tweet storm quickly went viral and generated backlash from social media users, who called on Fresno State to fire her. After an investigation, the university announced she would not be punished for her comments, since it felt she had made them as a private citizen, not as a representative of the school.

Key Players

Randa Jarrar is an award-winning novelist and a tenured professor of creative writing in the Fresno State English department. Her work has appeared in publications such as The New York Times, Salon.com, and Guernica. She was on leave during the spring 2018 semester, when she posted a barrage of negative tweets about former First Lady Barbara Bush in the immediate aftermath of her death.

Barbara Bush was the wife of former president George H.W. Bush and mother of former president George W. Bush. She was known for championing the cause of literacy, both while her husband was in the White House and after he left office. She died at the age of 92 in her Houston home on April 17, 2018, after a long struggle with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other ailments.

Joseph Castro is president of Fresno State. He was roundly criticized for not taking disciplinary action against Jarrar for her online comments.

Further Details

On April 17, the Bush family announced that the former First Lady had passed away after electing not to receive further medical care. Just an hour later, Jarrar tweeted that “Barbara Bush was a generous and smart and amazing racist who, along with her husband, raised a war criminal.” She further called Bush a “witch” and said she was dancing “happily on the grave of someone I despise,” according to the Los Angeles Times. She also said she couldn’t wait for the rest of the Bush family to “fall to their demise the way 1.5 million [I]raqis have.”

When critics began reacting angrily on Twitter, Jarrar boasted online of her six-figure salary and said she would “never be fired” from her tenured faculty position. She added, “what I love about being an American professor is my right to free speech, and what I love about Fresno State is that I always feel protected and at home here.” Jarrar tagged Castro in her tweet, emphasizing her confident claim that her job was safe. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, she also provided a phone number in one of her tweets and asked users to air their criticisms by calling it; the supplied number ended up belonging to a student suicide help hotline, which was soon flooded with spam calls.

By the end of the day, Jarrar had set her Twitter account to private, meaning that her content could only be viewed by users she approves. She also changed her Twitter bio to say, “Currently on leave from Fresno State. This is my private account and represents my opinions,” reported The Fresno Bee. The contact page on her website displayed the statement, “I do not read or respond to messages about Barbara Bush” next to a red heart emoji.

Initially, Castro distanced himself from Jarrar’s tweets, saying she had expressed “personal views and commentary” that, while “obviously contrary to the core values of our University,” had been made “as a private citizen, not as a representative of Fresno State,” reported the Fresno State News. According to the Chronicle, Twitter users pushed back against Castro, arguing that Jarrar’s boasting of her salary and tenure demonstrated that her statements were made as a faculty member. The Chronicle also reported that the day after the tweets, “thousands of emails, phone calls, and tweets” opposing Castro’s statement began pouring into the president’s office.

Outcome

Fresno State president recants, provost announces investigation

At a news conference on April 18, Castro changed tack from his previous statement that Jarrar had commented about Barbara Bush as a private citizen, saying, “A professor with tenure does not have blanket protection to say and do what they wish. We are all held accountable for our actions.” He added, “All options are on the table.” Fresno State Provost Lynnette Zelezny said the university had begun to review Jarrar’s tweets. While she could not discuss the professor’s employment status, Zelezny said, the investigation would involve university lawyers, union representatives, and Jarrar herself. “We very much do want to hear the voices of others — we again want it to be in a climate of respect,” the provost said.

Fresno State announces no disciplinary action against Jarrar

On April 24, Castro announced the results of the investigation into Jarrar’s comments. The statement read, in part, “[W]e have concluded that Professor Jarrar did not violate any CSU or university policies and that she was acting in a private capacity and speaking about a public matter on her personal Twitter account. Her comments, although disgraceful, are protected free speech under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Additionally, although Professor Jarrar used tenure to defend her behavior, this private action is an issue of free speech and not related to her job or tenure. Therefore, the university does not have justification to support taking any disciplinary action.”

External References

“Cal State Fresno professor under fire for tweets attacking Barbara Bush,” Los Angeles Times

“How Low Can a Tenured Professor Go on Twitter? Fresno Case Could Be a Test,” The Chronicle of Higher Education

“Professor’s Tweet That Barbara Bush Was an ‘Amazing Racist’ Ignites a Fury,” The Chronicle of Higher Education

“This professor bragged she can’t be fired for bad-mouthing Barbara Bush. She might be right,” The Washington Post

“Professor celebrating Barbara Bush’s death deserves to be fired,” Fox News

“Professor’s tweet about Barbara Bush was ‘beyond free speech,’ Fresno State president says,” The Fresno Bee

“‘Your kids masturbate’ and other provocative lines from Fresno State professor’s talks,” The Fresno Bee

“The Politically Incorrect Randa Jarrar,” The New York Times

“The controversy over a professor’s tweet calling Barbara Bush a racist, explained,” Vox

“President Joseph I. Castro Statement Regarding Faculty Member’s Tweet,” Fresno State News

“After calling Barbara Bush an ‘amazing racist,’ a professor taunts critics: ‘I will never be fired,’” The Washington Post

Randa Jarrar’s personal website

President Joseph I. Castro Letter On Conclusion Of Review Regarding Professor

Prepared by Jesus Rodriguez ‘19

Uploaded April 30, 2018

 

University of Minnesota – October 20, 2016

Pro-Trump mural at University of Minnesota painted over with “Stop White Supremacy”

Minneapolis, MN

In October 2016, the College Republicans at the University of Minnesota (UM) painted a mural with the words “Build the Wall” during an annual event that allows students to decorate the Washington Avenue Bridge. The mural sparked intense debate and criticism on social media, and it was spray-painted over with the words “Stop White Supremacy.” The vandalism was condemned by UM President Eric Kaler and State Senator Kari Dziedzic.

Key Players

UM President Eric Kaler released a statement supporting Free Speech on UM’s campus and condemning the vandalism of the mural.

State Senator Kari Dziedzic represents District 60 in the Minnesota Senate. Dziedzic, whose district includes UM’s campus, expressed discomfort with the College Republicans’ mural, citing her status as the granddaughter of immigrants as well as her political opinion on immigration. However, she too condemned the vandalism and spoke out in support of Free Speech.

Madison Faupel, then-president of the UM College Republicans, released a statement rejecting accusations that the group is racist, xenophobic, and anti-immigrant.

Further Details

The annual “Paint the Bridge” event allows student groups to promote their respective clubs by painting murals on a bridge that connects the East and West Banks of UM’s campus. The College Republicans incorporated the words “Build the Wall” into their mural, painted on Friday, October 20, 2016. That evening, a picture of the mural was posted on the Facebook page of NAVIGATE MN, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit organization that works to support undocumented students. In the Facebook post, the group wrote that the painting “echoes the anti-Mexican, anti-immigrant racist rhetoric” of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump, reported the MinnPost. The next day, more than 150 immigration activists came to the bridge to protest the mural. After the mural was finished, it was graffitied multiple times, most notably with the words “Stop White Supremacy” in gold paint, reported the Star Tribune.

College Republicans President Madison Faupel defended the original artwork and the people responsible for creating it, saying, “We have received comments on the painting, falsely accusing us of being racist, xenophobic and anti-immigrant. Our party’s nominee supports building a wall on the Mexican border to stop the flow of illegal immigrants into this country. We understand that some students may disagree with this policy position. However, free speech is at the center of a functioning democracy, and the action taken against our panels runs contrary to free speech.”

The vandalism of the mural prompted State Senator Kari Dziedzic to comment on the controversy. “I don’t like vandalism. They have their free speech, and we have our free speech. But I think we can reach out and we can be louder,” she said. “As the granddaughter of Polish and Irish immigrants, I think we need to be building bridges … not walls. That’s kind of what America is. This is where people have opportunities. We don’t care what your background is, and we don’t care where you came from. We all came from someplace else.”

UM President Eric Kaler also released a statement concerning the mural to students and faculty members. It read, “The University of Minnesota supports a campus climate that welcomes all members of our community and our values of equity and diversity, but that also ensures the free flow of ideas, even those that are offensive to some,” reported the MinnPost. Kaler’s statement continued, “People in our community may disagree with the sentiment expressed. However, while the University values free speech, the subsequent vandalism of the panel is not the way to advance a conversation.”

Outcome

Free Speech supported by the administration and vandalism condemned

Though immigration activists protested the College Republicans’ mural the day after it was painted, UM’s president sent a statement to students and faculty members in support of the group’s right to Free Speech. He also condemned the vandalism of the mural.

External References

‘Build the Wall’ mural at University of Minnesota sparks protest, MinnPost

Vandalism of pro-Trump mural offers free-speech lesson at University of Minnesota, StarTribune

Protesters object to ‘Build the Wall’ mural on Washington Avenue Bridge, call it xenophobic, Minnesota Daily

Prepared by Bridget McElroy ‘18

Uploaded April 10, 2018

Brandeis University – October 2017

University postpones play after complaints about its depiction of black characters

Waltham, MA

Brandeis University postponed the on-campus performance of a play about comedian Lenny Bruce, called “Buyer Beware,” after students and alumni criticized its depiction of black characters and the Black Lives Matter movement. The author decided to have it produced professionally off-campus instead.

Key Players

Lenny Bruce was an American comedian and social critic who was active from 1947 until 1966, when he died at age 40 from a drug overdose. He was well-known for incorporating contentious topics like politics and sex into his comedy routines, which often took the form of stream-of-consciousness diatribes. He was also considered a Free Speech advocate, who was arrested on multiple occasions for alleged obscenity in his performances. After a trial in 1964, he was convicted of obscenity in a New York court for the first time and was sentenced to four months in a workhouse. He was freed on bail during the appeals process, however, and died before the appeal was decided, never having served any of his sentence. He was posthumously pardoned in 2003 by then-Governor George Pataki of New York.

Michael Weller is a 1965 Brandeis graduate who wrote “Buyer Beware” and more than 40 other plays. He was being honored with the university’s Creative Arts Award, and wrote this play while completing a residency at Brandeis, where the Lenny Bruce archives are housed. He dismissed criticisms of the work, saying in an interview that students “just don’t know how to read a play.” He added that he “was trying to show a broad cross-section of people under a lot of pressure.”

Further Details

“Buyer Beware” was originally scheduled to premiere at Brandeis on October 2, 2017, and run through October 6. According to The Brandeis Hoot, the play is about “the modern atmosphere of college protest movements at Brandeis.” “Buyer Beware” depicts a white Brandeis student named Ron listening to recordings of Bruce’s stand-up and repeating lines that contain the n-word and other racial slurs. The fictional Ron wants to perform a routine in the manner of Bruce’s comedy, but he is threatened with academic probation by the Brandeis administration. At the end of the play, Ron performs his stand-up despite student protests.

Andrew Child, a Brandeis theater student opposed to “Buyer Beware,” told The Boston Globe that he felt the play’s portrayal of its black characters was “ridiculous and vicious.” In an interview with WBUR, he said, “There are black characters who are written clearly by an older white person who doesn’t really understand the nuances of the Black Lives Matter movement. The white male protagonist, his whole story line was fleshed out and well thought out and carefully constructed.” According to the Globe, Child and other students familiar with the movement thought “Weller’s portrayal of Black Lives Matter read like an angry, Breitbart-esque caricature.”

Brandeis released a statement which explained that theater faculty members had “considered the challenging issues” the play raised, and concluded that “more time was needed to produce the play appropriately, and that its performance on campus should go hand-in-hand with more robust educational programming.” The statement also quoted Weller, who said that “rehearsals of the play, and growing sentiment among some students in the theater department, might not be conducive to the creative atmosphere desired for a premiere presentation of a new work.” Weller decided to have the play produced off-campus.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) wrote a letter to Brandeis, expressing its concern over the university’s decision to “censor” the play. It read, in part:

“Americans have since recognized the injustices dealt to Bruce. He was the last comedian to be criminally prosecuted for obscenity in the United States. Today, Bruce is revered as a champion of free speech and First Amendment principles — so much so that he was posthumously pardoned by New York Governor George Pataki in 2003. His life story serves as a cautionary tale of what happens when we censor artistic expression.

“Given this history, the undersigned are sensitive to the possibility that Bruce’s words may again be censored. Our unease is amplified by the fact that such censorship may occur at Brandeis University, named after the staunch free speech advocate and United States Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis. Our concern is all the greater insofar as the university is the institutional custodian of the Lenny Bruce archives and much of Bruce’s legacy.”

FIRE’s letter was signed by Bruce’s daughter, Kitty, who founded the Lenny Bruce Memorial Foundation, and a group of other “free speech advocates with a resilient interest in comedian Lenny Bruce’s life and legacy.”

Outcome

University Postpones Play, Author Chooses to Premiere it Off-Campus

Brandeis announced that the performance of “Buyer Beware” would be postponed. Michael Weller, the author, withdrew the work and decided to have it performed by professional actors.

External References

University statement related to the Creative Arts Award and ‘Buyer Beware’

Brandeis cancels play about Lenny Bruce after protests, The New York Times

Brandeis cancels staging of play after students oppose its “wallpaper” minority characters, WBUR

Brandeis cancels play amidst protests over racism—and gets more backlash, The Boston Globe

An open letter to Brandeis regarding the cancellation of Lenny Bruce-inspired play, ‘Buyer Beware,’ FIRE

Brandeis cancels campus play amid student protest, The Boston Globe

Lenny Bruce, wikipedia

Play canceled following student and alumni dissent, The Brandeis Hoot

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

Uploaded April 9, 2018

Drexel University – December 29, 2017

Drexel University professor resigns after death threats

Philadelphia, PA

Professor George Ciccariello-Maher resigned from Drexel University after a year of alleged death threats over his controversial tweeting. Following his resignation, he joined New York University’s Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics as a visiting scholar.

Key Players

George Ciccariello-Maher was a tenured associate professor of politics and global studies at Drexel University in Philadelphia, until his resignation late in 2017. He claimed in an op-ed in The Washington Post that he had received death threats for his provocative tweets, especially after various conservative media outlets ran segments on them. It was allegedly because of these threats that Drexel decided to place Ciccariello-Maher on leave in October 2017, citing concern for the safety of the professor and Drexel’s students.

Further Details

Ciccariello-Maher’s tweets were often critical of whiteness, and especially white masculinity. In December 2016, he tweeted, “All I want for Christmas is white genocide.” In an email to Inside Higher Ed (IHE), he explained that this was a “satirical tweet about an imaginary concept … invented by white supremacists.” According to The Washington Post, the threats against the professor began after this tweet. A few months later, in April 2017, he tweeted, “Some guy gave up his first class seat for a uniformed soldier. People are thanking him. I’m trying not to vomit or yell about Mosul.” After receiving blowback, Ciccariello-Maher clarified that he had not meant to criticize the soldier, but instead question how many Americans make symbolic gestures of support for Army members while ignoring military abuses and lack of healthcare for veterans, reported IHE.

After the Las Vegas mass shooting in October 2017, he again took to Twitter. “White people and men are told they are entitled to everything. This is what happens when they don’t get what they want,” he tweeted. He also criticized current gun control measures for not being sufficient to prevent mass shootings. According to the Post, conservative media outlets—including the Daily Caller, Breitbart, and Milo Yiannopoulos’ website—widely cited his tweets. Soon after, IHE reported that Drexel had placed Ciccariello-Maher on leave.

The university released a statement explaining its decision: “The safety of Drexel’s students, faculty, professional staff and police officers are of paramount concern to Drexel. Due to a growing number of threats directed at Professor George Ciccariello-Maher, and increased concerns about both his safety and the safety of Drexel’s community, after careful consideration the university has decided to place Professor Ciccariello-Maher on administrative leave.” The university had previously condemned his tweet concerning white genocide.

Following these developments, Ciccariello-Maher authored an op-ed in the Post, titled “Conservatives are the real campus thought police squashing academic freedom.” In it, he defended his tweets, saying that they were based on years of research that indicated white males are “subject[ed] to a potent cocktail of entitlement to economic and political power, and to dominate nonwhite and female bodies.” He continued, “professors like me are being targeted by a coordinated right-wing campaign to undermine our academic freedom—one that relies on misrepresentation and sometimes outright lying, and often puts us and our students in danger.” Ciccariello-Maher also described the death threats he and his family had been receiving, and claimed he was not the only professor to receive this type of criticism and threats from the right. He concluded by criticizing Drexel for “bowing to pressure from racist internet trolls” and therefore sending “the wrong signal: That you can control a university’s curriculum with anonymous threats of violence.”

The professor continued to teach his courses via video conference after being placed on leave. “I have 800 unread voicemails in my inbox right now that have been building up over the past few weeks,” he told CNN. “Threats that involve my child are, of course, the ones that are the most frightening to me.” The administration decided he would need a police escort in order to come to campus. In November 2017, a group of his students walked out of his classroom, carrying signs that read, “Bring Back GCM” and “Where’s Our Professor?” reported CNN.

Ciccariello-Maher announced his resignation on Twitter on December 28, 2017. He included a picture of a Facebook post in which he wrote that he was resigning because of harassment from “right-wing, white supremacist media outlets and internet mobs” and “death threats and threats of violence directed against [him and his family].” He characterized the current tension surrounding free speech on college campuses by saying, “We are at war, and academia is a crucial front in that war,” adding that “the Right is targeting campuses with thinly veiled provocations disguised as free speech.” He also urged tenured faculty to defend all faculty from attacks from the “racist Right” and white supremacists, and concluded by praising his students and calling on campuses to become “unsafe spaces for white supremacists.”

Outcome

Ciccariello-Maher resigns from Drexel, joins NYU institute

After receiving death threats concerning his tweets and being placed on administrative leave, Ciccariello-Maher resigned from Drexel University. According to The Philly Voice, he joined NYU’s Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics shortly thereafter as a visiting scholar.

External References

Controversial professor placed on leave, Inside Higher Ed

Death threats are forcing professors off campus, CNN

Professor who tweeted, ‘All I want for Christmas is white genocide,’ resigns after year of threats, The Washington Post

George Ciccariello-Maher Statement of Resignation on Twitter

Ex-Drexel prof behind ‘white genocide’ tweet gets appointment at NYU, Philly Voice

Professor who called for ‘white genocide’ says he’s been hired by NYU, The Washington Examiner

Drexel professor resigns amid threats over controversial tweets, CNN

Conservatives are the real campus thought police squashing academic freedom, The Washington Post

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

Uploaded April 9, 2018

Free Speech on Campus graphic

Michigan State University – March 5, 2018

Violence overshadows speech by white nationalist Richard Spencer at Michigan State University

East Lansing, MI

An event featuring white nationalist Richard Spencer at Michigan State University (MSU) on March 5, 2018, devolved into violence when white supremacists and anti-fascist protesters clashed with police, delaying the speech and resulting in the arrest of more than two dozen people.

Key Players

Richard Spencer is president of the National Policy Institute (NPI), a white supremacist organization dedicated to “the heritage, identity, and future of people of European descent,” according to the organization’s website. Spencer is known for opposing the removal of a Confederate statue in Charlottesville, Virginia, where he was a featured speaker at the August 2017 “Unite the Right” rally that resulted in the death of a protester and injuries for many others. Spencer quickly gained infamy on social media in 2016 after his speech at a NPI conference in Washington, D.C. prompted guests to respond with a Nazi-like salute. “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory,” he exclaimed.

Cameron Padgett is a graduate student at Georgia State University who has served as Spencer’s booking agent for his college campus tour. In September 2017, he sued MSU for Spencer’s right to speak on campus.

Lou Anna K. Simon, who was president of MSU until her resignation in January 2018, was one of the defendants in the suit against the university. Initially opposed to Spencer lecturing on campus, she negotiated with NPI after the lawsuit was filed to find an acceptable time and place for the event.

Further Details

During the summer of 2017, NPI sought a space at MSU for Spencer to give a lecture as part of his college campus tour. In September, on the heels of the “Unite the Right” rally that turned deadly, the university decided it would give Spencer “no space” to speak on campus due to “significant concerns about public safety,” reported the Lansing State Journal. The decision, made “after consultation with law enforcement officials,” drew praise from student groups and legal action from NPI.

Padgett sued MSU and Simon on NPI’s behalf, arguing that the university impinged on Spencer’s First Amendment rights when it denied him a venue where he could speak. He sought a jury trial and damages from MSU, but the university eventually settled the lawsuit by allowing Spencer’s event to take place.

On January 18, 2018, Simon announced that the event was scheduled for March 5—the first day of spring break—in a location far away from the main campus. The venue would be a small auditorium at the MSU Pavilion for Agriculture and Livestock Education, which is usually dedicated to livestock shows. The decision “was based on the university’s requirement that the event occur on a date and at a venue that minimizes the risk of violence or disruption to campus,” Simon stated.

The day of the event, the MSU College Republicans and Democrats organized a peaceful rally, along with democratic socialist and libertarian student groups. Despite the event’s secluded location, protesters and white nationalists alike descended on the auditorium hours before it was slated to begin at 4:30 p.m.

Outcome

Police delay event, arrest brawlers

Fights broke out between protesters—some of them masked anti-fascists—and Spencer’s supporters, delaying the start of the speech and leading police to block entry into the auditorium. According to WXYZ Detroit, there were hundreds of police on site, as well as armored vehicles and helicopters overhead. Police arrested 25 people, including Gregory Conte, NPI’s director of operations. Thirteen of the arrests were on felony charges.

Spencer speaks to small crowd

Spencer alleged that more than 150 tickets to the event had been distributed, but that many people were unable to enter due to the protest outside the auditorium. Ultimately, he spoke to a crowd of about three dozen. “No other group is treated with this kind of hostility,” Spencer said early on in his speech. “It is only us. Precisely because we’re white.”

Spencer cancels college tour

On March 11, Spencer announced in a YouTube video that he would be cutting his campus tour short because his movement “always needs to be course correcting.” He attributed his decision to the presence of anti-fascist protesters at his events.

External References

“‘Nazis go home!’ Fights break out at Michigan State as protesters, white supremacists converge for Richard Spencer speech,” The Washington Post

“Richard Spencer ally charged in connection with clashes at MSU,” Lansing State Journal

“Violence erupts at white nationalist Richard Spencer’s Michigan State University speech,” WXYZ

“Richard Spencer Will Speak at Michigan State — Way Out on a Farm,” The Chronicle of Higher Education

“Richard Spencer at Michigan State: Community braces for white nationalist leader,” Lansing State Journal

“MSU sued by Richard Spencer’s white supremacist group for refusing space on campus,” Lansing State Journal

“MSU says no space for Richard Spencer’s white supremacist group to speak,” Lansing State Journal

“Update On Request from National Policy Institute to Speak On Campus (Jan. 18, 2018),” Michigan State University

“‘Hail Trump!’: White Nationalists Salute the President-Elect,” The Atlantic

“E-mails reveal how MSU grappled with Richard Spencer’s request to speak on campus,” Detroit Free Press

“Michigan State agrees to let Richard Spencer give a speech on campus,” The Washington Post

“Meet Cameron Padgett, Richard Spencer’s booking agent and legal advocate,” Southern Poverty Law Center

“Richard Spencer cancels speaking tour of college campuses after speech in Michigan,” Southern Poverty Law Center

Prepared by Jesus Rodriguez ‘19

Uploaded April 2, 2018

 

Free Speech on Campus graphic

Princeton University – February 2018

Princeton professor cancels course on offensive speech after outrage over racial slur

Princeton, NJ

On February 12, 2018, Lawrence Rosen, professor of anthropology at Princeton University, cancelled his sophomore seminar, titled “Cultural Freedoms: Hate Speech, Blasphemy, and Pornography,” after students protested his use of the n-word by walking out of his class.

Key Players

Lawrence Rosen is a 76-year-old white Princeton professor, described by the Ivy League university as “one of the foremost legal anthropologists in the United States.” His award-winning work concentrates on Islamic law and cultural assumptions in legal reasoning. He has taught at Princeton for 40 years, and has been a visiting professor at Georgetown University Law Center. Rosen officially retired as a full-time faculty member at Princeton in 2017, but continued to teach classes as an emeritus professor.

Destiny Salter is a black student at Princeton and one of the sophomores who walked out of Rosen’s lecture. Together with another student, she filed a formal complaint about the incident. Salter also granted interviews with several media outlets afterward, including the campus newspaper and HuffPost.

Carolyn Rouse is a black professor and chair of the anthropology department at Princeton. She defended Rosen’s comments.

Further Details

In the Spring semester of 2018, Rosen taught a course titled “Cultural Freedoms: Hate Speech, Blasphemy, and Pornography,” a sophomore seminar on offensive speech. The course description on the Princeton website began, “Freedom of expression is always limited, both by the harm that may be said to occur if unbridled and by the constraints of the dominant culture.” During a February 6 lecture focused on oppressive symbolism, Rosen asked students, “What is worse, a white man punching a black man, or a white man calling a black man a n—-r?”

After the professor used the the slur twice more, a student asked the professor if he planned to continue using the word. Rosen replied, “Yes, if I think it’s necessary.” Following the exchange, four students walked out of the lecture. Rosen went on to argue with the remaining students that he should not have to apologize for the remark. “I don’t think I need to apologize; I did not oppress anyone,” he said.

One day later, reported The Daily Princetonian, student Destiny Salter filed a complaint against Rosen with Rockefeller College Director of Studies Justine Levine. She was joined in the complaint by a white student from the class.

On February 8, Carolyn Rouse, chair of the anthropology department, submitted a letter to the editor of the Princetonian, titled “In Defense of Rosen.” She asserted that the department’s goal is to get students to “move beyond their common sense” and understand how culture has shaped their opinions. “I feel bad for the students who left the class not trusting the process,” she said. “[Rosen] grew up a Jew in anti-Semitic America, and recognizes how law has afforded him rights he would not otherwise have.” According to Rouse, the experienced professor has used the same example in his class for years without eliciting a response like the one he received this time.

Two other community members also wrote letters to the editor, but they defended the offended students, arguing that the professor’s intentions were irrelevant and that Rosen should not have dismissed his students’ concerns.

Outcome

Rosen cancels course

Rosen sent an email to his students on February 12, announcing that he had “reluctantly decided to cancel this year’s offering of Anthropology 212.” According to university spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss, Princeton had not pressured Rosen to take this action.

External References

https://dof.princeton.edu/about/clerk-faculty/emeritus/lawrence-rosen

Princeton prof cancels free speech course after uproar over N-word use, NJ.com

Course on hate speech canceled after racial slur controversy, The Daily Princetonian

Letter to the Editor: In defense of Black Princetonians, The Daily Princetonian

Letter to the Editor: In defense of the students who walked out on Rosen, The Daily Princetonian

Princeton students walk out of class, complain after anthropology professor uses N-word three times, New York Daily News

Students walk out of anthropology lecture after professor uses the word “n****r,” The Daily Princetonian

Students Walk Out After Princeton Professor Uses Racial Slur In Class On Hate Speech, HuffPost

Cultural Freedoms: Hate Speech, Blasphemy, and Pornography, Princeton University Course Offerings

Letter to the Editor: In Defense of Rosen, The Daily Princetonian

Prepared by Jesus Rodriguez ’19

Uploaded March 21, 2018