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Pushback: Professor wins big against Auburn for punishing him for his opinions

No free speech at Auburn University
Freedom of speech considered bad at Auburn University!

Bring a gun to a knife fight: After his superiors fired him as chair of the economics department at Auburn University because he had criticized the university’s policy of passing scholarship athletes for doing no work, professor Michael Stern sued, and has now won a $645K court case.

You can read his complaint here [pdf], and the jury verdict here [pdf]. The case hinged on the decision of Joseph Aistrup, the former dean at the College of the Liberal Arts, to fire him as department chair in May 2018 because Stern had publicly raised questions about the high numbers of athletics majoring in “Public Administration,” a program that seemed designed to give them a free ride. This conflict began on February 4, 2014:

Auburn University’s Faculty Athletics Representative (“FAR”), Dr. Mary Boudreaux, put on a presentation in the University Senate wherein she claimed that there was no clustering of athletes by any major at Auburn. Plaintiff [Stern] questioned her in relation to the Public Administration program and football, given the contrasting information Plaintiff was told by a colleague. (During the 2013 Iron Bowl, Dr. Randy Beard (Economics professor and Plaintiffs colleague) noticed that almost all of the star players on the football team had Public Administration as a major).

Dr. Joseph Aistrup (new College of Liberal Arts Dean at the time) ran up to Plaintiff on the way out of the Faculty Senate. He looked green and like he was going to cry. He said, “Oh my God, Mike, I can’t believe you mentioned our program. I’m going to hear about this.”

In reviewing the complaint, it appears that many officials at Auburn supported Stern, but in the end, after those officials had left the university, Airstrup was allowed to sabotage his career there. The wording of the jury ruling suggests that Airstrup, not Auburn, will be liable for the compensatory and punitive damages, but this is unconfirmed.

Though Stern has won his lawsuit, he has not regained his job as Economics Department chairman. He remains merely an associate professor, his career clearly damaged. At the same time, Airstrup is also gone, no longer dean of Liberal Arts College.

Whether this victory for free speech will change anything is hard to say at this time. The culture at Auburn appears increasingly unfriendly to free speech. In August 2021 for example the student government rejected a conservative student for office, merely because he was conservative.

The big concern is that this intolerance at Auburn is not the exception but has become the rule. This oppressive culture against free speech is spreading and growing everywhere in American academic circles. The light of freedom is going out, and there are only a few signs — such as Stern’s effort here — of anyone attempting to relight it.

Conscious Choice cover

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Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


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  • George C

    There is a retired NFL lineman in the PHD program in the math department at MIT. So people really good at sports can handle rigorous academics, although IMHO maybe not so good at the same time. They should let people do one year of sports then one year of academics alternating for 8 years. It would be more expensive for the big football schools but the product would be better.

  • Cotour

    Canada, related, because it is all related:

    What does she not get? All authoritarians / governments want all the guns in the hands of the government and not the hands of the public. It is fundamental. Ask Mao, ask Hitler, ask Stalin, ask Gates, ask Soros, ask Shwab, ask Bloomberg, ask anyone in the U.N.

    “Canada’s Semi-Automatic Firearm Ban Would Include Many Common Hunting Rifles and Shotguns”

    For your safety we must disarm you, so we have all the guns for your safety. BUT, we will promote and sell alcohol, and promote smoking dope, and mandate you have an experimental drug injected into your body without choice. All by the numbers more harmful to humans than firearms. So, the entire argument if a fraud, a bait and switch.

    Remember, there are always two conversations underway, and your end of the conversation is in the long term not relevant.

    “Benjamin Franklin once said: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

    She makes the statement about the Trudeau government: “They lied!”

    And that is their job and why your default position must always be that anything that comes out of any government is A LIE! They are paid to manage you by lying to you. That is all they can do to retain or further acquire political power.

    Canada is the front line in the installation of the New World Order and their agenda. And America given the current success rate of this Biden administration is right behind the Canadians.

    The government is the main threat to the people’s freedom. It’s not the Chinese, it’s not the Russians that are the threat to your freedom, it’s your own government.

  • Edward

    George C noted: “There is a retired NFL lineman in the PHD program in the math department at MIT. So people really good at sports can handle rigorous academics, although IMHO maybe not so good at the same time.

    I worked with two people who received their degrees through sports scholarships. One was a PhD and the other an engineer. Both complained that the coaches wanted them to practice so much that they had difficult times attaining good marks in their major fields of study. The coachs’ threat was to attend practices or lose their scholarships. I am glad that they both were able to graduate and get good jobs in the exciting field of space science.

    Stern has an excellent point. Universities are places of higher learning, and if they are willing to pass athletes who do not learn, then what assurances to employers have that degrees from those universities are worth anything? This is a reasonable question for the faculty and students to raise with the administration. Stifling questions such as these may help the sports programs, but it also reduces the confidence the rest of us have with the value of those universities.

    Come to think of it, stifling the free discussion of any questions or ideas reduces this confidence. What good are college graduates if they are unable to think out of the box? Employers might as well hire high school graduates. If we are to improve as people, societies, or nations, we need the freedom to explore ideas, new or old, to determine whether they are good, bad, or need tweaking. Some of my best engineering ideas started as bizarre or completely unworkable thoughts that only needed massaging into brilliance.

    My boss once needed to heat the bottom dome of a meter-diameter cylindrical vacuum chamber. He had heater tape wrapped around the cylinder to drive the molecular water off the walls, but not the bottom. I thought a hibachi would do nicely but can’t use one because it is a fire and carbon monoxide hazard. But we can use the hotplate from the break room.

    (One of my peeves is when a movie or TV show has the characters brainstorm solutions, and for each proposal someone says, “can’t, because …” The “because” is only an obstacle that should be examined for removal or for alteration of the original idea. SpaceX’s Falcons are reusable even though they can’t be. Starship — well, Starship is all kinds of bizarre, untried, and unlikely from manufacture, to ignition on the pad, to reentry, to a quick flip just at landing. Ford’s automobiles come in multiple colors, because someone reexamined the reason that everything once came only in “Model-T Black.” And he was free to speak up.)

    Freedom of speech. Our country is much better off because we have it, and universities would be much better off with it, too.

  • Cotour

    Related, because it is all related:

    CIA Fighting to the Death to Keep Damning Kennedy assassination Files Secret EVERYONE Wants Answers To

    Guess what president Biden will decide to do related to files concerning the CIA and the Kennedy assassination, you know for national security concerns?

    Especially as both the CIA and the FBI come under further scrutiny related to their clear manipulations of the DOJ, media and the shaping of a particular flavor politics in America.

    The CIA / FBI directly involved in the Kennedy assassination? (No way ;)

    “Despite several government agencies’ attempts to keep them secret, thousands of classified documents concerning President Kennedy’s assassination will be released next week.

    In the aftermath of Lee Harvey Oswald’s death, more than 15,000 documents remain locked away in the National Archives – including dozens that experts believe could prove the CIA’s direct links to the assassination.”

  • Cotour

    You never know, what are the two things that would tear America down? To the point where the truth would force it to be torn down in disgrace and be rebuilt?

    The real truth related to 1. The Kennedy assassination and 2. The real truth related to 9-11.

    Period, done.

    What does the New World Order desperately desire? The destruction of the American Constitution and what it has built, the only thing that stands in their way to planet wide WEF / Sorosian / Schwab dominance.

    Its kind of a like the Nomad logic episode of Star Trek where the master computer is forced through logic to destroy itself.

    Captain Kirk at his best:

    This is the logic that both the radical Left and the deep state use to justify their carefully balanced disruptive actions against the intent of the Constitution and what it seeks to counterbalance, the nature of man related to the abuse of power.

    And in between these two “perfect” modes of thought, action and manipulation We The People seek to live our lives in some degree of peace and freedom. There are ALWAYS two conversations underway, and your conversation and questions related to real truth become irrelevant. YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!

    Is it perfect? Hell no, it’s all perverted and corrupt.

    But believe it or not it is the best we have got to go with, bar none. The Founders were without doubt brilliant in their efforts, true Progressives of their day.

    The political warfare and all of the treachery, lies and corruption that goes with it continues because that is what the Constitution structures, requires and demands.

    What is the truth? You tell me what the truth is.

  • Cotour

    Just say no. (And get rid of your government if you can)

    Canada, confiscation of guns:

    This man is participating in a conversation that assumes that his argument has any standing when those who he is arguing against have already made the decision.

    This is but one more element of the WEF / Globalist agenda to get the planet under total control. Period.

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