Phi Beta Cons

Happy Thanksgiving, Pt. 2

More on the Thanksgiving Day flap, from Joseph Knippenberg of the Ashbrook Center blog No Left Turns:

A professor is being fired for forwarding George Washington’s 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation to his colleagues on a faculty email list.
Well, it’s not quite that simple. His email provides a link to the source (Pat Buchanan’s website) and closes with this ironic statement: “I apologize if I preempted the Diversity Office in posting this.” He knew he was tweaking someone’s nose, and the tweakees responded, with five colleagues filing complaints about harassment because of the link to Buchanan’s site (which, of course, presents his views about immigration, albeit not on the page to which the good professor linked). The letter he received indicating that the administration was recommending his firing cited his violation of harassment and email use policies. The former charge, as FIRE’s response argues, would withstand legal scrutiny, at least as related to this particular event. He is apparently not a first-time violator of the college’s email use policies and has been subjected to “intermediate sanctions” in the past.
A little googling gives us more background, including this, this, and this, as well as this and this. It’s pretty clear that FIRE doesn’t provide us with the context, which includes all sorts of previous legal action stemming from the professor’s strong opinions about immigration and his conflict with Hispanic activists. His adversaries were primed to find offense in something apparently innocent, and his supervisors were clearly fed up with defending him. That said, forwarding the Thanksgiving Proclamation can’t be a firing offense. It’s not harassment, and, even if it is a violation of email policy, it’s the kind of thing people do all the time and which administrators typically do not punish. My reading of the situation is that the professor found a way to needle his adversaries that should have been unassailable. His adversaries of course won’t be embarrassed by their overreaction to this. His employers ought to be pilloried for succumbing to their pressure. And they deserve to lose the inevitable lawsuit.

John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.