Rutgers University Reverses Course, Affirms Free Speech Rights for Professor Accused of Anti-White Racism
"Any other result would have undermined the free speech and academic freedom rights of all Rutgers faculty members."
A Rutgers University professor is no longer facing punishment for writing, "Okay, officially, I now hate white people," on social media.
Administrators had initially determined that this post violated university policy forbidding harassment and discrimination. But thanks to the efforts of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), Rutgers has backed off.
History Professor James Livingston had complained that white people were overrunning a hamburger joint in Harlem, and about gentrification in general. (Livingston is white.) Facebook took down the post, and Rutgers found him guilty of breaking the faculty code. This could have resulted in suspension, or even termination.
Offensive or not, Livingston's statements were unquestionably protected under the First Amendment. Rutgers is a public university, and it can't discipline a professor for exercising his free speech rights. FIRE sent a letter to Rutgers President Robert Barchi reminding him of this, and the president ordered a review of the matter. The university has now reversed its finding of guilt, a spokesperson for FIRE told me.
"FIRE is pleased that Rutgers did the right thing and reversed the charge of racial discrimination against Professor Livingston," said Marieke Tuthill Beck-Coon, FIRE's director of litigation. "Any other result would have undermined the free speech and academic freedom rights of all Rutgers faculty members."