Suffolk Professor Resigns Over Anti-Military Statements of Colleague

We have been following the uproar over Suffolk Professor Michael Avery’s email criticizing the sending of care packages to troops abroad. Many of us joined in that criticism while supporting Avery’s right to raise his objections. Now, an adjunct professor, U.S. Army Reserve Major Robert Roughsedge, serving in Afghanistan has resigned over the controversy — a curious response that seems to suggest that Avery should not have been allowed to voice such positions.

First, to clarify some possible misconception from articles, Roughsedge is not a full-time faculty member but an adjunct faculty member. The latter are not subject to the same appointment process and do not have the same academic status as full-time faculty. Indeed, adjuncts are usually selected by deans and at most subject to a confirmatory vote of the faculty.

Second, Roughsedge seems to have a rather conflicted logic in taking this action. He calls the email “hate speech,” a view that is wildly out of step with the general definition of this term. Indeed, if obnoxious speech is hate speech, we could criminalize a significant portion of speech. Avery was voicing his view of role to U.S. military personnel in the current war. That may be wrong-headed but it is not hate speech. Otherwise, much of the anti-Vietnam protests were hate speech. Hate speech is an often controversial category of criminalized speech that has only passed constitutional muster because it is kept narrowly defined. Even with a narrow construction, it is an area that greatly concerns free speech advocates.

Roughsedge further stated that “It’s basically like a 5-year-old throwing a temper tantrum, that is not how we teach our students to rationally look at the issues . . . We want rationale adult discourse and that is not something I would tolerate in my class and it is not something the school should tolerate from one of its professors.” I am more shocked but the notion that Roughsedge would not tolerate such views in this class. If the class is discussing this subject, I cannot imagine a law professor prohibiting the utterance of such views. Moreover, I have not an inkling as to what Roughsedge means by “it is not something the school should tolerate from one of its professors.” What a law school cannot tolerate is the denial of academic freedom and free speech in an educational environment. Roughsedge appears to want a school that punishes faculty for stating views that he finds obnoxious. Such schools would be in violation of free speech principles and governing academic guidelines. Some schools – particularly religious schools — enforce orthodoxy but they are hardly the model for most academics. Roughsedge would have been better served but responding with a reasoned retort — joining many other at the school and outside the school.

Roughsedge teaches a course on Terrorism and the Law. A Suffolk graduate, he is a partner at Lawson & Weitzen where he lists “professional liability” as one of his areas of practice. While he has every right to disassociate himself from the school, I think he needs to seriously consider his commitment to the academic enterprise. I greatly respect his service in our armed forces. That service helps defend the values that distinguish us from our enemies, including the right to free speech.

Source: Fox Boston

30 thoughts on “Suffolk Professor Resigns Over Anti-Military Statements of Colleague”

  1. “I read the examples a lot of folks here give and I am reminded of “I was just following orders.” Scary.”

    Seeing the vehement response to some professor – pointing out that soldiers should not engage in illegal acts (torture, illegal wars, murder, indiscriminate killings, et cetera), and when they do they should not be supported merely because they can not be blamed for being ordered to commit crimes – I was unable to see any difference between the prescribed allegiance to the powers that be and “befehl ist befehl.”

    In other words:

  2. “…All opinions and statements are not equal in court, the military, or the legal system. So I think it is out of place in a law school to denigrate the legal function of the police and judges and to encourage or contest their legitiamte functions …” (I just saw this.)
    school is not an arm of the state, your argument is apples and oranges.
    I read the examples a lot of folks here give and I am reminded of “I was just following orders.” Scary.

  3. AY:

    Good thoughts there, AY. Here’s one of my favorites ironies from Wordsworth:

    What are fears but voices airy?
    Whispering harm where harm is not.
    And deluding the unwary
    Till the fatal bolt is shot!

  4. Dredd, consider what a leader must be in order to meet the criteria for being a leader who would be followed:

    “….wisdom, sincerely, benevolence, courage and strictness …”

    Sun Tzu was referring specifically to a military leader, all the way from a general down to a squad leader; however, we might also apply it to our own Congressional and Administration leadership. Exactly where are we to find those qualities these days? The obverse of Sun Tzu’s admonition is that if a leader does NOT have those virtues, then they are not a leader worth following. When reading Sun Tzu, one must not only look at the light, but at the shadows of his writings as well.

  5. mespo,

    Maybe this is apt……

    “Where there is reverence there is fear, but there is not reverence everywhere that there is fear, because fear presumably has a wider extension than reverence.”


    I think most folks operate on fear….whether be it success or failure….it is what motivates….

Comments are closed.