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.”

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