In 1963, with debates on North Carolina’s campuses raging, a handful of powerful state representatives snuck into law a bill that banned North Carolina universities from allowing communists to speak on campus. Not only communists were banned but so too were individuals who had claimed 5th Amendment protections in cases where they were accused of engaging in subversive activities. I found a copy of the actual bill. It is posted here.
Fast forward to today. I’m going out on a limb here but I’m going to guess that no state legislature would allow such a bill to be passed today. Individual legislatures may desire to limit speech on their state’s campus, but I doubt they would be successful.
But they no longer have to......because the Federal government has essentially colluded with many on campus who wish to control speech.
Enter the strange case of Professor Teresa Buchanan at LSU. Professor Buchanan had, yes had, an unblemished 20 year career at LSU. She was productive, won teaching awards, and appears to have been a contributing member of the university.
She also had a potty mouth and liked to tell jokes laced with sexual innuendo.
When Teresa went up for promotion to full professor something happened. It seems a student or two and a community member complained about her language. Teresa was supported all the way the chain of command in her bid to earn promotion but was eventually denied by the Provost. Not only was she denied promotion......but the administration brought charges against here that would END HER CAREER.
What, may you ask, did she do to get terminated? Did she not show up to work? No. Did she plagiarize a paper? No. Did she fabricate data? No. Did she not teach her courses. Nope, nope, and nope.
It seems her crime was that she cussed.....and told a joke.
Despite a university committees finding that she should not be fired, the administration went ahead and terminated her. They cited the Department of Education’s direction on “sexual harassment” and “creating a hostile workplace.” People and organizations had warned us that the DOE’s language would be used to ill effect, that it was overly broad, and that faculty would be fired for teaching controversial topics and for employing certain words.
To its credit, the AAUP has censured LSU. You can find their report on the internet.
In 1963 a handful of elected representatives infringed on the free speech rights of communists. It took 5 years before the law was found unconstitutional by the courts. During that time period, university presidents and faculty joined in a chorus of voices to protest the law.
In 2016 we have a handful of unelected lawyers in the DOE issuing non-binding “letters” to universities that provide the justifications for kangaroo courts and for the infringement on free speech rights of students and faculty. This time around we have no such chorus of voices.
This time around, they are complicit.
John Paul Wright and Matt DeLisi
Professors of Crime and Criminology