No, of course I’m not talking about President Schill’s decision to discipline Law Profressor Nancy Shurtz. Johnson Hall doesn’t make mistakes.
I’m talking about Rutgers President Robert Barchi and a professor who tweeted something stupid and offensive about New York City real estate, near as I can figure. InsidehigherEd has the report here. People complained. An extensive and expensive investigation of the twit apparently recommended some discipline. It also provoked the sorts of criticism that President Schill got for his handling of the Shurtz matter, such as this from Erwin Chemerinsky, now Dean of the law school at Berkeley:
… I, of course, am not arguing that free speech on campus is absolute. Campuses can punish speech that is incitement to illegal activity or that threatens or directly harasses others. Campuses also can engage in more speech, which long has been recognized as the best response to the speech we don’t like. There can be efforts to educate the community about the history of blackface. There should be debates about whether it is ever appropriate to use blackface even when advocating against racism in higher education.
But what campuses never can or should do is punish speech because it is offensive.
I would have hoped a law school faculty and a university president who is a lawyer and law professor would have recognized this. Unfortunately, what happened at the University of Oregon is all too typical of what is happening on campuses across the country where the desire to create inclusive learning environments for all students has led to punishing speech protected by the First Amendment.
Barchi now seems to want to end things, and pulls out the boilerplate every university president should keep in their template folder:
“Like many in our community, I found that Professor ________’s comments showed especially poor judgment, were offensive, and, despite the professor’s claims of satire, were not at all funny,” he wrote. “At the same time, few values are as important to the university as the protection of First Amendment rights — even when the speech we are protecting in insensitive and reckless.”
Which should end things right there – but instead he’s going to appoint another committee.