We discussed disciplinary action against faculties and students for statements outside their respective schools. The last concerns Chris Malone, who was sacked as offensive coach for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga after posting an offensive tweet about Georgian politician Stacey Abrams. The tweet was offensive and sophomoric, but the actions taken by the university are now rightly a matter in the Eastern District of the U.S. District Court of Tennessee. The defendants Malone is suing include Chancellor Steven Angle, Sporting Director Mark Wharton and Trainer Rusty Wright.
Visibly upset by the Georgia Senate runoff, Malone wrote, “Congratulations to the State of GA and Fat Albert @staceyabrams for you’ve really shown America the true works of fraud in an election !!! Enjoy the Big Girl buffet! You deserve it!!! Hope the money was good, still not governor! “
It’s a remarkably moronic and childish tweet that Malone deleted after some of his former players responded to it. However, he was quickly discharged from the university.
Wright made a statement that
“Our football program has clear standards. These standards include respect for others. It’s a message our players hear every day. It’s a standard that I won’t be without. What has been posted on social media by an employee is unacceptable and is not part of what I stand for or what Chattanooga Football stands for. Life is bigger than football and, as young men’s leaders, we must first and foremost set that example. Even so, this person is almost immediately no longer part of my workforce … The feelings in this post do not reflect the values of our football program, our athletics department or our university. “
However, Malone didn’t say his tweet represented the university, the football program, or anyone other than himself. He criticized a politician and a public figure. This is a core area of protected language in the United States.
Where does the university draw the line? What if Malone called Abrams a “liar” but didn’t make the sophomoric pointers about her appearance? Many academics routinely called Trump “fat”, “orange”, “liar” and other personal attacks but have had no setback from their universities. For example, Harvard professor Lawrence Tribe (whom President Biden has just appointed to the Supreme Court commission) has routinely carried out juvenile and vulgar attacks on academics and political figures of opposing views, including myself. Tribe has called Trump a “terrorist” and supported a long litany of highly dubious criminal theories. He previously told CNN, “If you want to shoot him, you have to shoot to kill.” The tribe called Senator Mitch McConnell a “flagrant moron!” and loves to use Trump-like slurs like “McTurtle” to refer to the Senator. He later mocked former Attorney General Bill Barr for his Catholic faith. His report has been described by critics as “a vector of misinformation and conspiracy theories on Twitter,” in which Tribe regularly used vulgar attacks on people who hold opposing views. Tribe delights his followers by calling Trump “Dick” or “Dickhead in Chief”. Such insults and verbal abuse are all ignored when Tribe consistently assures that Trump can be prosecuted or charged on an ever-growing list of criminal offenses. In fact, the only time Tribe has drawn a bit of criticism from the left was when he called the selection of an African American like Kamala Harris as vice president a “cosmetic” choice.
If tweeting offensive and youthful messages about politicians is a reason to quit, Tribe and hundreds of other professors would be on the unemployment line. The alternative is to maintain a clear line between the views expressed in the course of employment and those of people outside their respective schools. I have no problem with the school going privately to an academic to express concern or even condemnation about their behavior or statements. However, formal discipline or official condemnations raise serious questions of free speech and sometimes academic freedom for the faculty.
As mentioned earlier, my concern is the biased or inconsistent treatment of such cases. I defended the faculty, which made similarly disturbing comments about the gassing of white people, denouncing the police, calling on Republicans to suffer, strangling cops, celebrating the death of conservatives, calling for the assassination of Trump supporters, and the Assassination of Conservative protesters supported and other outrageous statements. These comments were not protested as an “unsafe environment” and largely ignored by the universities. However, professors and students are routinely investigated, suspended, and sanctioned for opposing views. There was also controversy at the University of California and Boston University, where criticism of such double standards, even in the face of criminal behavior. There was also one such incident at the University of London involving Bahar Mustafa as well as a professor from the University of Pennsylvania. Some intolerant statements against students are considered free speech, while others are considered hate speech or the basis for university action. There is a lack of consistency or uniformity in these policies, engaging the specific groups affected by out-of-school commentary. There is also a tolerance of faculties and students who tear off leaflets and stop conservative speech. In fact, even the faculty that attacked lawyers for life was supported by the faculty and hailed for its activism.
As we discussed earlier (with a professor in Oregon and a Rutgers professor), an uncertain line remains about which language is protected for teachers in their personal lives. A conservative North Carolina professor was fired and pushed into retirement over controversial tweets. Dr. Mike Adams, professor of sociology and criminology, had long been a lightning rod of controversy. In 2014, we discussed his supremacy in a lawsuit alleging discrimination based on his conservative views. He was targeted again after an inflammatory tweet calling North Carolina a “slave state”. This resulted in him being pressured to resign with an agreement. Then he committed suicide
Efforts to fire professors who express dissenting views on various subjects, including efforts to oust a senior economist from the University of Chicago, as well as a senior linguistics professor at Harvard and a literary professor at Penn. Sites like Lawyers, Guns, and Money feature authors like the Colorado Law Professor Paul Campus calling for the dismissal of people with opposing views (including myself). Such campaigns target teachers and students who dispute evidence of systemic racism in the use of lethal force by the police or have other conflicting views in current debates on pandemics, reparations, electoral fraud or other issues.