Editor’s Note: A major US research university has refused to terminate a tenured professor’s employment for exercising his constitutionally-protected right to free speech. The university’s ostensible respect for the First Amendment elicited positive reactions from “students, academics and lawyers, many of whom praised the provost for publicly excoriating the professor’s opinions while respecting one of the nation’s basic freedoms,” the New York Times observes.
There is notably no mention by the “newspaper of record” of the TracyvFAU First Amendment case where in 2015 a Florida public university successfully sidestepped the First Amendment by firing a tenured academic for questioning his university administration’s efforts to censor his similarly protected speech.
New York Times
(November 22, 2019)
A provost at Indiana University has earned praise for harshly condemning a professor’s views while respecting the First Amendment.
The provost did not mince her words about the opinions of a professor on her campus. His views were racist, sexist and homophobic, she wrote in a statement this week. They were “vile and stupid,” she said, and “more consistent with someone who lived in the 18th century than the 21st.”
But the provost, Lauren Robel of Indiana University Bloomington, was equally clear on another point: The First Amendment prohibited the university from firing the professor, Eric Rasmusen, for expressing those views. “That is not a close call,” wrote Professor Robel, who also teaches at the law school.
The unusually candid statement quickly drew attention from students, academics and lawyers, many of whom praised the provost for publicly excoriating the professor’s opinions while respecting one of the nation’s basic freedoms.
Conflicts over academic freedom and private speech have long been mainstays of college campuses. There was the case of Steven Salaita, the professor whose job offer was revoked by the University of Illinois in 2014 over his criticism of Israel. And John McAdams, the professor who was reinstated by a Wisconsin court last year after Marquette University suspended him for criticizing a graduate student on his personal blog.