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Campus Free Speech

Academic Freedom Alliance Supporting Suit against the Mayo Clinic

Dr. Michael Joyner alleges the Mayo Institute tried to muzzle his public speech in his area of expertise


The Academic Freedom Alliance announced today that Michael Joyner, M.D. is suing the Mayo Clinic for violating his contractually protected academic freedom. The AFA had provided financial support in Joyner's efforts to resolve this problem internally, and it is now supporting his state suit.

In June, the AFA sent a public letter to the Mayo Clinic complaining about its treatment of Dr. Joyner. The Mayo Clinic adopted its current free expression and academic freedom policy in 2020, which promised that its researchers would be free to discuss their scholarly conclusions and opinions without fear of censorship or retaliation. And yet,

Dr. Joyner, a distinguished professor and faculty member with thirty-five years of experience, is recognized as a leading expert on topics of scientific and public concern. Over the years, in his personal capacity, he has participated in numerous interviews with the media related to his areas of professional expertise. Mayo Clinic's admonishments, written warnings, and disciplinary actions against Dr. Joyner—which include a one-week unpaid suspension, denial of any salary increase at his next contract renewal, and threat of termination of employment for failure to comply with Communications Department preclearance and oversight of media interviews—are a direct attack on his academic freedom. Furthermore, the restrictions on Dr. Joyner's ability to speak publicly on controversial and important topics is a serious restraint on his speech.

The Mayo Clinic refused to change course, and so Dr. Joyner has been forced to seek a remedy in the courts. From the AFA press release,

"As the complaint clearly states, academic freedom is a key guarantor of scientific integrity," said Lucas Morel, chair of the AFA's academic committee. "We believe this lawsuit will set an important precedent about the right of other scientists, doctors, and academics to speak publicly and freely on topics relevant to their expertise. Americans should expect expert commentary to reflect the scientific evidence, not the financial or political interests of the institution. We hope Dr. Joyner is awarded the damages owed to him for violation of his rights."

The full complaint can be found here.

Previous coverage of the controversy by CNN can be found here.