First Amendment

Conservatives Want UC-Davis to Fire a Professor Who Welcomed Violence Against Cops

Joshua Clover has a First Amendment right to say horrible things about the police.


Daderot / Wikimedia Commons

Conservative students and lawmakers are demanding the University of California-Davis take action against a professor of English, Joshua Clover, for his past comments that appeared to endorse violence against cops.

UC-Davis has affirmed Clover's free speech rights, however, and is not moving to punish the professor.

In February, student Nick Irvin published an article in The California Aggie listing Clover's various offensive statements about the police. Clover had tweeted, "I am thankful that every living cop will one day be dead, some by their own hand, some by others, too many of old age #letsnotmakemore," and "it's easier to shoot cops when their backs are turned." He had also allegedly said, "People think that cops need to be reformed. They need to be killed," according to Inside Higher Ed.

Those are horrifying statements, but they are also protected by the First Amendment. Clover's general endorsement of violence against the police is not a true threat, or incitement to lawless action.

Nevertheless, many conservative students would like to see him punished. The campus's College Republicans chapter sponsored a "Fire Josh Clover" event, and Republican Assemblyman James Gallagher has circulated a petition aimed at achieving the same result.

Thankfully, UC-Davis is holding strong. The administration confirmed to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education that Clover is not facing any kind of investigation stemming from his offensive statements.

"FIRE is pleased that UC Davis has reaffirmed that Clover is not under investigation, and hopes that universities facing similar controversies in the future will also choose to abide by their legal and moral obligations to free speech and the First Amendment," wrote FIRE's Sarah McLaughlin.

Clover is on medical leave, and has declined comment on the matter. He told Inside Higher Ed that when "police have as much to fear from literature professors as black kids do from police, I will definitely have a statement," so he's probably not walking back his past comments. As such, it's fine to criticize him, but conservatives who want Clover to face formal sanctions are undermining the very free speech principles they purport to defend whenever a right-of-center speaker says something offensive.