Free Speech

"Ole Miss Dismisses Professor Who Complained About Department Chair"


From the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (Adam Goldstein):

FIRE sent a letter to the University of Mississippi today calling for "a full and transparent account" of why the university decided not to renew the contract of assistant history professor Garrett Felber and asking the institution to reconsider its decision.

Felber, a public critic of Ole Miss' record on racial equity issues, has taught at Ole Miss for four years…. The administration's notice letter cites Felber's reluctance to have a real-time conversation with his supervisor. But, as FIRE's Individual Rights Defense Program Director Adam Steinbaugh notes in our letter, Felber was being called to have that conversation to discuss his exercise of his First Amendment rights:

Felber's nonrenewal arose in the context of his public criticism. Indeed, his supervisor cited that public criticism as a basis for seeking to have a meeting with him. Accordingly, the University's nonrenewal decision necessarily arises from his protected expression[.]

Second, the recommendation of nonrenewal, initiated by a supervisor publicly criticized by Felber, stands in stark contrast to her public praise of Felber less than four months earlier. As one federal appellate court has observed, "conflict is not unknown in the university setting given the … academic freedom" enjoyed by faculty. As Felber's alleged misconduct amounts to little more than insisting that discussion on a contentious issue be conducted in writing, the excessive penalty imposed for this conflict, coupled with the supervisor's reference to the public criticism, strongly suggests that the termination is motivated by Felber's criticism, not his performance.

… If the letter Felber received is the sum total of Ole Miss' rationale for his nonrenewal, it looks like retaliation for his criticism in violation of the First Amendment and should be reversed.

How We Got Here

Felber's friction with the administration is related to his research and area of expertise, as listed in his official bio: "[T]wentieth-century African American social movements, Black radicalism, and the carceral state." Felber is also the organizer of the Study and Struggle program, which seeks to educate community members and the public about "the interrelationship between prison abolition and immigrant detention."

In October, Felber tweeted that his chair had rejected a $42,000 grant to the Study and Struggle program, arguing that a "political" program could jeopardize department funding. As Felber noted, that decision came two days after the University had publicized a $57,000 grant to the same program.

In the Twitter thread, Felber wrote that UM "prioritizes racist donors over all else … this antiracist program threatens racist donor money. And racism is the brand. It's in the name." He also echoed a Study and Struggle co-worker, agreeing that UM is "an arm of the state. It creates knowledge to legitimize state violence, it polices, it gentrifies, it discriminates, it silences, and it obstructs antiracism, anticapitalism, and abolition."

Evidently, the relationship between Felber and his administration did not improve thereafter….

There's a good deal more at the FIRE site; does seem very suspicious, and I'm glad FIRE is on the case. Thanks to Lior Silberman for the pointer.

NEXT: Civil Rights Commissioners Gail Heriot & Peter Kirsanow on the VA's Planned Race-Based Vaccine Distribution

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  1. I like that FIRE is standing up for what most conservatives will consider to be a completely unsympathetic victim.

    Maybe people on the left will take notice and embrace the free speech principles FIRE is fighting for.

    1. No. They won’t. They were only in favor of free speech when they needed protection for their speech. Now that they don’t need that protection, they support totalitarian power and are against protection of speakers. (Except when the “speech” is burning cars and structures and assaulting or murdering people. Then they want that “speech” protected.)

      1. Bullshit.

        I’ve consistently been on the pro-speech side of these threads, as have many of the other liberals who comment here.

        1. To be fair, liberals and leftists of a fevered imagination can be pretty monstrous.

          1. It’s the conservatives who write about sending people to Zyklon showers or placing them face-down in landfills around here — and the proprietor who allows it, while simultaneously banning and censoring liberals and libertarians for using terms such as “c@p s@ccor” and “sl@ck-j@w.”

            1. Kirkland — Nazi stood for “National Socialism.”

        2. There must be dozens of us!

        3. On the side of censors and blacklisters, claims not to support censorship and deplatforming.

          1. You snipe at liberals for censorship, Ben, but ignore censorship by conservatives.

            Are you just disaffected and cranky from getting stomped by your betters in the culture war, or do you have a purported justification for your shambling, partisan conduct on the wrong side of history?

        4. Also, when the Hunter story was published and then censored by Twitter and Facebook and avoided by the MSM liars, you were right there claiming it was bogus as the censorship was going on. Cheering for people not to know about it or believe it.

          A couple months later everyone quietly acknowledges the story was, at least in large part, true.

          You’re “against” censorship but seem to forget about that when censorship is useful to your ends. Just like most leftists: postures instead of principles, stories instead of facts.

          1. “Also, when the Hunter story was published and then censored by Twitter and Facebook…..”

            I seem to recall that such stories were flagged by Twitter and Facebook, but I do not recall anyone being censored. In any event, as the lawyers here will no doubt confirm, Twitter and Facebook are private companies which are not bound by first amendment guarantees of freedom expression.

            1. That’s great input. Choosing the precisely correct term for what happened was completely the point.

              1. “Choosing the precisely correct term for what happened was completely the point.”

                For you, perhaps — for me the point was specifying precisely what actually happened. And what its relevance might be to the issues.

            2. Preventing the publication is censorship.
              This is true whether you merely lock the account and prevent new posts, delete existing posts, or prevent people from linking to the article stored elsewhere by deleting posts or tweets that contain that link.
              All of which were done by Facebook and/or Twitter.

              1. Your comment got me curious about this, and it was indeed the case that Facebook and Twitter limited the sharing and distribution of the NY Post Hunter Biden stories. I imagine that we would all consider that to nudge very close to censorship, or even cross the line into censorship. On the other hand, as I noted, Facebook and Twitter are private companies that have the right to do that. I still find Ben’s claim that this is somehow a feature of liberalism to be a bit hyperbolic and even hypocritical, but that’s a different issue.

            3. Twitter censored the newspaper that broke it.

              And Standard Oil was a private company.

        5. Exactly. I’m a liberal who has been strongly in favor of free speech my entire life and who is appalled at at the propensity of one strain of “progressive” to suppress free expression.

        6. Same here. I stand up for free speech on campus no matter who the speakers are.

      2. “No. They won’t. They were only in favor of free speech when they needed protection for their speech.”

        (1) If only someone had written this at this site, dozens of times, in defense of conservatives’ expression rights:

        “Bigots have rights, too.”

        (2) You may be confusing liberals with the Volokh Conspiracy Board of Censors, which repeatedly bans and censors liberals and libertarians for “civility standard” offenses while permitting conservatives to call for liberals to be gassed, shot in the face, placed face-down in landfills, and sent to Zyklon showers.

        Carry on, clingers . . . from that hypocritical high horse, if you wish . . . but only so far and so long as your betters permit.

        1. Democrats are cheaters. That is the only way they can win elections. Zero tolerance for cheaters.

        2. Former ACLU Executive Director Ira Glasser discusses the past, present, and increasingly shaky future of free speech.

          I went to one of the half-dozen best law schools in the country a year or two ago to speak. And it was a gratifying sight to me, because the audience was a rainbow. There were as many women as men. There were people of every skin color and every ethnicity. It was the kind of thing that when I was at the ACLU 20, 30, 40 years ago was impossible. It was the kind of thing we dreamed about. It was the kind of thing we fought for. So I’m looking at this audience and I am feeling wonderful about it. And then after the panel discussion, person after person got up, including some of the younger professors, to assert that their goals of social justice for blacks, for women, for minorities of all kinds were incompatible with free speech and that free speech was an antagonist.

    2. Maybe they’ll stop calling FIRE a right-wing outfit…

  2. FIRE is do8ng great work, but in almost all of these personell cases whether on the left or the right I wonder about the rest of the story, especially considering accusatory statements made by Felber.

    1. People in general who act like this have solid track records of being shitty and difficult to work with. That does not mean you can just up and fire them for any reason, especially when there are restrictive employment covenants in play. But, yeah, I suspect this person is not a pleasure to work with.

      1. It’s not even that Jimmy — the thing I wonder about here is that he was hired to teach History and what was he actually teaching?

        The 20th Century ended 20 years ago, and current-day activism really isn’t what he’s being paid to teach….

      2. As I read the information he was not fired, his contract was not renewed. I think that makes a difference.

  3. Would calling FIRE from a crowded school auditorium be protected?

  4. Should a department be forced to have an active member of the KKK? If the answer is, no, then zero tolerance for the neo-Marxists. All such people should be fired. All government privileges should be cancelled if a school has any neo-Marxist employee.

    1. You ask the question wrong. There is no quota or affirmative action for members of the KKK. But such a member is qualified and already employed at a public institution, then the government cannot fire him/her merely for protected speech, no matter how distasteful.

      1. Aargh!!! Can we PLEASE have an edit button? Only “and already employed” was supposed to be italicized.

      2. Except in this case the person apparently had a contract which needed to be renewed and simply wasn’t. I’m not sure whatever protections public workers “regularly employed” have in Mississippi applied. Mississippi is generally an “at will” state

        1. Which is a potentially important point about the situation in the original article. But not, I think, relevant to DavidBehar’s hypothetical.

      3. How about calling the people funding the organization and the administration straight up racists? Protected speech, sure but I wouldn’t expect anyone to stay employed when they intentionally drive off the people paying the bills and smear the people in charge. A little nuance goes a long way.

        1. When the organization is the government and the people ultimately funding it are the taxpayers, then yes we do expect people to still be employed after making such accusations about the people in charge. We tolerate it all the time.

          The challenge here is remembering that state-run universities are arms of the government even though they also do private fund-raising and have some non-governmental characteristics. Note that I’d be equally okay with spinning off the state-run universities and making them completely private entities free to hire and fire whoever they like.

  5. Seems suspicious, but would a professor normally expect to put such conditions on communication with his supervisor and keep his job? In any other job you’d be gone pretty quickly.


    This movement conservative
    blog has operated for
    8 DAYS
    without gratuitous use of
    of a vile racial slur and for
    603 DAYS
    without imposing partisan,
    viewpoint-driven censorship
    (so far as we are aware, anyway).

    1. If you would stop making vile slurs, it would be longer…

    2. Artie. Why not move to Venezuela where the Democrat platform is in full effect?

  7. As capitalism is a naturally arising corollary of freedom, you can’t get rid of it without getting rid of freedom. Minorities don’t do so well in such situations.

    And that ignores that nobody does as well in such a situation. Kiss your iPhones goodbye in favor of functionaries who decide they are worthless fluff, except for his buddies who he permits to struggle to invent a crappy one, and they all curiously get to be the ones to use the old mansions as you go get in bread lines.

    But aside frok all that, anticapitalism yay!

  8. Well, It creates knowledge to legitimize state violence

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