Speech that is forbidden at the University of North Texas
A major victory for free speech: A federal judge ruled on March 11th that officials at the University of North Texas can be held personally responsible for firing a professor because they did not like his political opinions.
In his 69-page order of March 11, Judge Sean Jordan, of the United States District Court for Eastern Texas, found that university officials should have known that math professor Nathaniel Hiers’ speech “touched on a matter of public concern and that discontinuing his employment because of his speech violated the First Amendment,” before they fired him for going public with his disagreement with the left-wing concept of “microaggressions.”
The university was claiming qualified immunity for school officials in the case, meaning that the school wanted its officials to be excluded from being held responsible for their actions merely because they were acting in their position as state employees. Jordan denied the claim of qualified immunity and also denied the school’s demand to have the case dismissed outright.
You can read the judge’s order here [pdf].
The background: Hiers, having found flyers in math department’s lounge warning faculty against triggering “microaggessions” in their conversations, responded as shown in the picture above, placing one flyer on the chalk rack of the blackboard and wrote his own opinion of it above.
Ralf Schmidt, the Math department’s head, immediately criticized Hiers for doing this, and within a week fired him without notice.
Math department Chairman … Schmidt demanded the “coward” who wrote the message come forward, according to Just the News. Hiers acknowledged he wrote the line as a joke and refused to apologize. He also refused to renounce his disagreement with the concept of “microaggressions,” and refused to be subjected to “supplemental diversity training,” according to Just the News.
Only days later, the school rescinded Hiers’ teaching contract. The school used the absurd excuse that Hiers could “be perceived as threatening” others with his opposition to extremist, left-wing orthodoxy.
When Hiers requested an explanation, Schmidt wrote a letter that blatantly admitted Hiers was fired for expressing his opinion.
The judge reviewed this evidence and though he dismissed a number of Hiers’ claims he also ruled that Schmidt and other college administrators do not have qualified immunity for their actions, and that the lawsuit can go forward.
It is very clear in reading the facts of this case that the university officials were acting aggressively to silence dissent at the school, and were using Hiers as an example so that others, out of fear of losing their jobs, would toe the line.
Nor is this the only story where officials at North Texas have moved to silence debate. In another case Uuniversity officials removed Professor Timothy Jackson, the editor of a music journal (which he also founded), and defunded the journal because Jackson had disagreed with another leftist professor. When Jackson sued, he also sued both the college and the individuals involved.
And like Hiers, the court in January ruled in Jackson’s favor, allowing the suit against those individuals to go forward.
It would benefit free speech at North Texas University greatly if both of these cases decided against the college and the particular fascist goons there who do not believe in freedom of speech.
Even better however if the university found its bottom line suffering. First, the school clearly squelches free thought. Why should any parent or high school student want to waste good money attending such a school?
Second, North Texas University is a public college, and thus gets some of its funding from state funds. It seems entirely appropriate for the Texas legislature to reconsider the money it gives this school. In fact, it has been an ongoing dereliction of those legislators’ duty that they have not done so already, considering that the Jackson story broke more than a year ago.