Speech that is forbidden at the University of North Texas
Nathaniel Hiers, fired by his boss as a math professor at the University of North Texas for daring to express a political opinion, has won a $165K settlement from the university.
This story is a follow-up on a previous column from March, when a judge had ruled that Hiers’ lawsuit could go forward. The judge also dismissed the university’s claim of qualified immunity for its officials, thus leaving them personally liable under any settlement.
The background: Hiers’ was fired when, having found flyers in math department’s lounge warning faculty against triggering “microaggessions” in their conversations, responded as shown in the picture to the right, placing one flyer on the chalk rack of the blackboard and wrote his own opinion of it above.
It appears that though the settlement was a victory for Hiers, paying him for damages and his attorneys’ fees, it does not get him his job back. Nor does it appear the officials who fired him wrongly will pay any of the settlement. Instead, the University of North Texas is picking up the tab.
Thus, this victory is not the triumph Hiers’ legal team, the Alliance Defending Freedom, claims it is. For a relatively small fee, North Texas University has successfully blacklisted Hiers’ from their faculty. It still remains a haven for censorship, blacklisting, and oppression, having repeatedly been the subject of blacklisting stories in the past few years.
In February 2021 for example the university fired Professor Timothy Jackson from the journal he founded, because he thought he had the right to criticize in print the racist, anti-white, and (most important) inaccurate rhetoric of another professor. And though Jackson has filed a lawsuit and has so far won some initial victories, he still no longer edits that journal, and likely never will again.
Then, in June 2022 the university student government passed a resolution [pdf] demanding that the school blacklist any club that expresses any dissenting opinion about the queer agenda.
THEREFORE, LET IT BE RESOLVED THAT, any UNT Student Organization that engages in harassment, discrimination, hate crimes, and/or violation of UNT policy through transphobic posts, statements, and actions be immediately suspended to protect the mental, emotional, and physical health of transgender students at UNT. [emphasis mine]
Note that the student government didn’t just condemn actual physical crimes or harassment, it demanded the ban of speech it didn’t like. And in commenting on this resolution, the university president, Neal Smatresk, apparently had no problem with such censorship, stating that “It is unacceptable when people are hateful, or groups go out of their way to bully or demean marginalized populations. There is no place for this behavior on our campus.”
Hiers’ victory merely reduces some of the harm he has experienced, but it leaves North Texas University still free to blacklist and censor. Everyone that works there had better toe the line, or they will lose their job. Worse, they could find themselves subject to ostracization and blacklisting, simply because they exercised their first amendment right to free speech.
Texas legislators should also take note. North Texas is a public college, with substantial funding from the state. It seems to me that a review of its funding is in order. If it wants to be a Stalinist university, that’s its prerogative. Texas taxpayers however should not have to pay for this.