Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Don’t be too thankful

A professor is being fired for forwarding George Washington’s 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation to his colleagues on a faculty email list.

Well, it’s not quite that simple. His email provides a link to the source (Pat Buchanan’s website) and closes with this ironic statement: "I apologize if I preempted the Diversity Office in posting this." He knew he was tweaking someone’s nose, and the tweakees responded, with five colleagues filing complaints about harassment because of the link to Buchanan’s site (which, of course, presents his views about immigration, albeit not on the page to which the good professor linked). The letter he received indicating that the administration was recommending his firing cited his violation of harassment and email use policies. The former charge, as FIRE’s response argues, would withstand legal scrutiny, at least as related to this particular event. He is apparently not a first-time violator of the college’s email use policies and has been subjected to "intermediate sanctions" in the past.

A little googling gives us more background, including this, this, and this, as well as this and this. It’s pretty clear that FIRE doesn’t provide us with the context, which includes all sorts of previous legal action stemming from the professor’s strong opinions about immigration and his conflict with Hispanic activists. His adversaries were primed to find offense in something apparently innocent, and his supervisors were clearly fed up with defending him. That said, forwarding the Thanksgiving Proclamation can’t be a firing offense. It’s not harassment, and, even if it is a violation of email policy, it’s the kind of thing people do all the time and which administrators typically do not punish. My reading of the situation is that the professor found a way to needle his adversaries that should have been unassailable. His adversaries of course won’t be embarrassed by their overreaction to this. His employers ought to be pilloried for succumbing to their pressure. And they deserve to lose the inevitable lawsuit.

Discussions - 8 Comments

As we already know, the college campus is about the most stifling place in America today. A political solution seems more and more plausible…

He had a history of offensive emails, and he had the capability of sending more. Call it a pre-emptive strike. The college didn't want the smoking gun to be a racial slur.

See what I'm doing here? It's an analogy.

Sorry, Danny, nice try, but Saddam didn't have 1st Amendment Rights ;)

This is the world we live in. Someone sends out an e-mail and everyone wails and cries that they're being "harassed." Give me a break you whinny babies and just delete it. I do it all the time, it's real easy.

I knew there was more to the story. Thanks for digging into it. But they have to know if they fire him they make a martyr out of him.

The suggestion is that a link to Pat Buchanan is offensive. Would there be a similar reaction if someone balked at a Malcolm X reference during Black History Month? If anything, the person objecting would get sensitivity training.

OMG Dain, you're comparing this poor professor to SADDAM HUSSEIN! He just wrote an EMAIL!

You see, my point was that we risk being wrong when we smack down without being provoked.

Danny, I really really think you need to lay off the "street" pharmaceuticals. Your reasoning powers are...well...somewhat abated of late.

Yeah, he was tweaking some noses.

He could have easily sourced the proclamation from other sources like The Papers of George Washington (http://gwpapers.virginia.edu/index.html)

Whatever happened to those that yelled "F*%% the man!!!"?

Oh yeah, they became the man and this is the result.

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