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Professor Defends a Woman Accused of a Sex Crime, University Forces Him to Undergo Sexual Harassment Training

"Can a faculty member now never speak on the character of an ex-student when they are in trouble with the law?"

Plymouth StateMagicipiano / Wikimedia CommonsAdministrators at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire are forcing an education professor to undergo sexual harassment training.

The professor, Michael Fischler, isn't accused of sexual misconduct or of violating Title IX—the statute that mandates sex equality in education. He's not accused of doing anything wrong at all. He merely wrote a letter of support on behalf of a former student: a woman accused of a sex crime.

"Can a faculty member now never speak on the character of an ex-student when they are in trouble with the law or facing some kind of disciplinary hearing?" Fischler's son Mark, a professor of criminal justice at Plymouth State, asks The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf.

Fischler is right to be incredulous. The university's decision to subject a faculty member to Title IX training for this reason is a serious betrayal of free speech. It represents exactly the kind of chilling environment that has taken hold on some college campuses since the Obama administration introduced its overly broad guidance for interpreting Title IX.

Fischler's former student, Kristie Torbick, is a high school guidance counselor in her 30s. She was arrested for allegedly having sex with a 14-year-old student. She pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to serve between two-and-a-half and five years in prison.

Before Torbick plead guilty, her defense team asked Fischler if he would be willing to submit a letter testifying to Torbick's good behavior in his class. Fischler did so. He did not address the allegation—to do so would be inappropriate. He merely testified to her excellent "performance as a student." He essentially played the role of a character witness.

This did not sit well with some folks, writes Friedersdorf:

The defense submitted 23 "glowing letters" from "current and retired professors from Plymouth State University, high school guidance counselors, lawyers and psychologists," the New Hampshire Union Leader reported, dubbing it an attempt "to influence the sentencing of the admitted child sex offender." The newspaper added that the perpetrator's "support from the education and medical professions has sparked outrage."

It shouldn't be considered outrageous for an accused person's lawyer to assemble the best defense possible. And even people who allegedly committed very serious crimes deserve the presumption of innocence and a fair hearing.

Nevertheless, Plymouth State did not take kindly to the negative press. The university declined to re-hire one teacher for defending Torbick, and Fischler "agreed to complete additional Title IX Training and to work closely with PSU faculty, students, and staff to address the issues and the concerns created by their letters."

Fischler no longer agrees, and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education is speaking up on his behalf. For more on all that, read Friedersdorf's excellent post in full.

There are two big takeaways from this story. One, a public university is violating a professor's right to engage in speech that some people find offensive. Two, Title IX can be wielded as a weapon to squelch said speech. This is precisely why Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is perfectly justified in seeking to rein in the federal government's Title IX guidance. The ability for professors to meaningfully discuss important subjects relating to sex—and in this case, the criminal justice system—is at risk.

Photo Credit: Magicipiano / Wikimedia Commons

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  • SQRLSY One||

    Leftist fascism knows no bounds, no limits!

  • Just Say'n||

    You better not be referring to socialists. Just stop already. Be nicer to socialists

  • Zeb||

    Hate the socialism, love the socialist.

  • Longtobefree||

    Hate 'em both; you can't have socialism without socialists you know.

  • Quixote||

    The premise of these comments, and of the article itself that they accompany, is shockingly mistaken. There is never any excuse for defending a criminal with any sort of a "free-speech" letter. Fortunately, most academics usually know when they are expected to remain silent. Imagine what would have happened to this man's career—or even worse, to one of our faculty members here at New York University—if he had written a letter defending America's leading criminal "satirist"! See the documentation at:

    https://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

  • VinniUSMC||

    Beat that dead horse some more. When you're done, flog yourself too. Thanks.

  • Quixote||

    Thank you for the advice, this "free speech" nonsense we keep hearing about is a very dead horse indeed, and one well worth flogging. Surely no one here would dare to defend the "First Amendment dissent" of a single, isolated judge in our nation's leading criminal "parody" case?

  • CE||

    By forcing someone to take sexual harrassment training? Everyone at our company is required to take that training, and most other companies too.

  • RevengencerAlf||

    There is a profound difference between 'forcing' everyone to do something as a matter of policy and singling out individuals in response to their actions. By singling him out for corrective action they are effectively punishing and reprimanding him for a decision that should be protected speech.

  • John||

    This is a state university. They cannot discriminate against someone for testifying in a court. If they could, the government could fire any employee who testified to something they didn't like. The taxpayers are going to end up taking it in shorts paying for this fuck up.

  • Ron||

    It seems though in this case everyone has capitulated which only exasperates the situation and encourages those in power to continue to harass anyone who does anything not deemed PC

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    This is the sort of world porgressive [now known as "Democratic Socialists"] would bring us; one of massive taxation, greatly expanded government regulation, and thought crimes. And yet the momentum and enthusiasm for this sort of uber government continues. I have begun to seriously wonder if we do not need to do what the Civil War failed to do, [but for other reasons]. Form two separate countries.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    I have begun to seriously wonder if we do not need to do what the Civil War failed to do, [but for other reasons]. Form two separate countries.

    Only 2?

  • UnrepentantCurmudgeon||

    Good question. This single "United States" was cobbled together from the beginning and now includes peoples we call "Native Americans" who are only part of this country because we hammered them into submission, stole their lands, raped their women, obliterated their cultures and consigned them to the most uninhabitable regions of the continent.

  • dinkster||

    I didn't know casinos were uninhabitable. I quite like the one near me.

  • BearOdinson||

    What's this "we" shit? First of all, I have never oppressed anyone. Second, not a single one of my ancestors was even in this country prior to about 1880. And then they all lived in Michigan or further east. Not exactly "injun" country at the turn of the 19th century.

    Add to that, any member of any tribe that lives on a reservation within the borders of the US is also a US citizen. NO ONE FORCES ANYONE TO LIVE ON A RESERVATION!

    Were there some real injustices perpetrated on Aboriginal Americans? Yes absolutely. But there were atrocities committed by all sides. It fundamentally came down to technology. Most tribes were Stone Age cultures.

  • JunkScienceIsJunk||

    What's this "we" shit?

    People often refer to the American government as "we" (I wish they wouldn't, but they do). "We bombed Japan", etc. I mean, you didn't authorize the bombing of Japan, but it's a colloquialism. His point is valid if you don't get too hung up on semantics and just replace "we" with "the US government". And yes, the US government fucked over a lot of people, including the natives. They continue to fuck over a lot of people for a lot of different reasons.

  • ClassicLiberal||

    Same as has happened in almost every nation in the world at some point in time or another. The only difference is we actually allow them to still maintain some autonomy, even if it is an oppressed autonomy. Don't get me wrong, I don't agree with what happened, but it's in the past, and nothing can be changed. Get over it.

  • I can't even||

    Three big takeaways from this story.

    My son visited Plymouth State in July. Liked the scenic campus, the facilities, and the football coaches. But he got a bad SJW vibe from the faculty. Now they confirmed him to be correct - and they won't be getting an application or a new linebacker.

  • Teddy Pump||

    Wouldn't he get a bad SJW vibe from 75% of faculties around the country?

  • Muzzled Woodchipper||

    That's just not true.

    At least 85%.

  • CE||

    More like 96%

  • JunkScienceIsJunk||

    Don't be afraid of SJW. Tell him to stand his ground. Hopefully you've raised a boy who can think for himself and will continue to develop a well-honed bullshit detector.

  • I can't even||

    I think he has good BS detector, but is reluctant to put himself at their mercy. These people ruin lives for fun.

    Some of the Catholic Schools such as Merrimack did not have that vibe. Grove City was too much the other direction for him. Hillsdale is a long-shot.

  • John||

    This is more than about a professor's right to engage in free speech. This is about the government's ability to deprive anyone of employment or a benefit because they testify for the defense in a trial. That is a big deal.

  • Just Say'n||

    Not really. I have it on good authority that a person who is unwilling to go on the record accused that professor of sexual impropriety thirty years ago. Case closed.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    Good point, John.

  • OpenBordersLiberal-tarian||

    And even people who allegedly committed very serious crimes deserve the presumption of innocence and a fair hearing.

    Not if they've been nominated by an illegitimate President for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.

    #CancelKavanaugh
    #MeToo

  • Just Say'n||

    Your mask slipped there. This was way too obviously a parody. Redo this

  • JonBlack||

    I'm just bummed we didn't get to see the "Libertarians for Feinstein" hashtag. Nothing better suits this site these days than that.

  • Just Say'n||

    I don't know. I think this could be a better parody site if they got Julian Sanchez to write about his newfound love for the intelligence community.

    It could be titled "Disclosure is Horrible and Only Nazis Engage in It"

  • Just Say'n||

  • John||

    Of all the ex reason staffers Sanchez might be the worst, even worse than Weigal.

  • Zeb||

    When is it not way too obviously parody?

  • Jerryskids||

    Part of this story seems to have been chopped off. All I can see is the part where the professor's right to free speech is defended, I don't see the 'to be sure' part where the university's squelching of his free speech is defended. Surely Robby isn't giving into the peanut gallery here and giving up his delicious waffle diet is he?

  • Just Say'n||

    Damned if he does, damned if he doesn't

  • John||

    And it is also missing the part where Robby explains how the right is just as bad and their being that way is really responsible for the Progs being wrong. Either Robby cut off part of his article or we may have found an instance where Robby will unequivocally criticize the left. It is like seeing the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot on the same day.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    It's called improvement in response to constructive criticism. Be gracious in victory and da feet.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    If he didn't want to be sent to the re-education camp he should have gotten tenure.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    :)

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Bravo on getting 661 comments on article: Brett Kavanaugh's Sexual Assault Accuser Has Come Forward, and Her #MeToo Story Might Disqualify Him

  • Just Say'n||

    Commentator: What's the story?

    Robby: She said it happened at one time, some place, somewhere, about thirty years ago. It doesn't get any more air tight than that

  • John||

    It is a credible allegation Just Say'n. It is credible. Don't you understand that?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    John, what part of indisputable fact don't you get !?!

  • sharmota4zeb||

    What does "is" mean?

  • UnrepentantCurmudgeon||

    Depends

  • Weigel's Cock Ring||

    Meanwhile, she won't even say whether she's willing to testify publicly or not.

    It's hard to say who's a more despicable lying lowlife: Ford or Soave.

  • John||

    I don't think the Democrats figured the Republicans would actually call a hearing or if they did, they didn't tell her. She clearly has no interest in speaking publicly about this much less under oath or she would have already done some big prime time interview. I think there is a good chance she won't show up to the hearing.

  • Weigel's Cock Ring||

    Kavanaugh instantly said he would show up to the inquisition, I mean hearing, with no hesitation at all. She and her lawyer have been asked multiple times if they're showing up, and nada yet for some reason.

    People who are telling the truth have nothing to fear; liars need time to make sure they have all their lies straight, especially when they're going to be put under oath.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    There is plenty of reason to fear government, even when you are applying to be in the government.

    Kavanaugh is clearly ready for the fight. He just earned some extra street cred for being a fighter like Trump is.

  • Eddy||

    "People who are telling the truth have nothing to fear"

    That's so cute.

    But to be more on topic, if they hold a hearing and only one side shows up...guess which side wins?

  • esteve7||

    People need to be educated on the Stalinist Show-Trials, because the left is doing the same here and in the Kav. hearing.Their entire ideology is a failed and miserable one and should be thrown into the trashcan of history.

  • Just Say'n||

    Why do you have to bring up Stalin, bigot? Be better to socialists. Stop living in the past

  • grouser||

    The thing is, some of us see it, and we aren't going to be lined up against a wall, or sent to a gulag.

  • Just Say'n||

    ^ Alt-right smearing socialists with old arguments

  • Dillinger||

    >>>a woman accused of a sex crime.

    wtf is that? they have those?

  • ||

    wtf is that? they have those?

    Turns out, the people who ousted Weinstein really aren't that much better than Weinstein himself.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    She was arrested for allegedly having sex with a 14-year-old student.

    If it's a male student then why are we even discussing this?

  • sharmota4zeb||

    Gender equality.

  • Agammamon||

    *nnniiiiiiiiiiiiccccce!

  • Zeb||

    I'm going to need to see a picture of the woman in question before I can make a judgement here.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    You people replying to me are either terrible human beings or were once teenage boys.

  • Dillinger||

    totes both dude.

  • Agammamon||

    Teenage boys are terrible human beings.

  • Dillinger||

    in France this is "Tuesday"

  • sharmota4zeb||

    Apparently, China's Cultural Revolution was too much too soon. The key is to implement these changes in academia too slowly for anyone to notice.

  • Agammamon||

    They actually screwed it up massively - turning the academics out to be worked to death in the fields instead of coopting them.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    Fischler's former student, Kristie Torbick, is a high school guidance counselor in her 30s. She was arrested for allegedly having sex with a 14-year-old student. She pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to serve between two-and-a-half and five years in prison.

    Wow, you can get 10 years in jail in New Jersey for failure to come to a full stop when the police light up their sirens behind you on the highway. We take our highways very seriously in New Jersey.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    It shouldn't be considered outrageous for an accused person's lawyer to assemble the best defense possible. And even people who allegedly committed very serious crimes deserve the presumption of innocence and a fair hearing.

    Yeah, but the court is eager to skip those formalities when it involves a car that does not come to a full stop on the highway.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    And pumping your own gas can probably end up in prison time, too.

  • UnrepentantCurmudgeon||

    Fischler was not testifying in Torbick's defense, strictly speaking. She plead guilty, meaning she did not assert a defense. He submitted a letter for purposes of the sentencing phase, in which the validity of the charges ("defense") is not an issue. It is one thing to say "I do not believe she did it"; it is quite another to say "I accept that she did it but here are factors the court should consider in determining her sentence".

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    We take our highways very seriously in New Jersey.

    Have you ever driven on a highway in New Jersey? Some of our highways are the equivalent of off-roading in Colorado.

  • Agammamon||

    "Can a faculty member now never speak on the character of an ex-student when they are in trouble with the law?"

    They can't. And defense counsel is fined $1000 for showing up.

  • Uncle Jay||

    Free speech in American academia?
    Now, THAT'S funny!

  • MaleMatters||

    Yet another reason for this:

    "When you tally up their representation in Congress and governorships, the Democrats almost have their lowest representation in about 100 years." —Fareed Zakaria, June 10, 2018 http://www.politifact.com/pund.....oint-cent/

    And maybe this:

    "Republicans don't have near as big a woman problem as Democrats have a man problem." -Wall Street Journal
    http://www.wsj.com/articles/ki.....1412900814

  • Jalestra||

    I don't get the relevance of asking him to start with. Are all pedophiles failing students? Considering some of the biggest ones convicted ran large companies, were involved in politics, or otherwise made a success out of themselves financially and others have been deacons of their church and admired by their neighbors, it's really not much of a character witness at all.

    "She can't be a pedophile!!! She always behaved well in class!" LOL

  • Longtobefree||

    " . . . . . forcing an education professor to undergo sexual harassment training."

    So exactly when did colleges start giving classes in how to sexually harass?

  • Eddy||

  • Eddy||

    How is it legal to punish character witnesses for giving their honest opinions?

  • Brett Bellmore||

    He's not being punished for giving an honest opinion. He's being punished for having the wrong honest opinion.

  • Number 2||

    "The university declined to re-hire one teacher for defending Torbick,"

    Gee Robby, you omitted the part about the teacher not rehired writing the letter to the court in which she called the 14-yr-old the "pursuer." Puts an entirely new light on the decision not to rehire her.

  • Locke em up||

    I am shy when it comes to women. Will sexual harassment training help me ?

  • swampwiz||

    I am amazed that a female teacher that sexually molested a student actually did hard time.

  • Lester224||

    There have been several highly publicized cases of women prosecuted for having sex with 13,14 and 15 yr old boys. The 13 yr old looked 18 but he was 13. Weird women but it happens.

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