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. “The Moral Law causes the people to be in complete accord with their ruler, so that they will follow him regardless of their lives …

    The Commander stands for the virtues of wisdom, sincerely, benevolence, courage and strictness

    Sun Tzu, Chinese General

    This is the essence of “the king can do no wrong” …

    Back to the 13th century intellect anyone?

  2. The U.S. reputation in the world has suffered and declined during the years of neoCon bigotry, harshness, inhumanity, and despotism, according to a congressional report.

    No one likes “bullying” (military imperialism).

  3. They could do a heck of a lot worse than study Sun Tzu.

    The problem may be that they have not studied Sun Tzu enough.

  4. with respect to our recent military accomplishments to say that we follow sun tzu may be stretching it a bit.

    1. If the US military has rejected our forefathers, then we would have military warlords running the country now. That is a stupid statement, even more so to say that because the military uses Sun Tzu’s The Art of War as one of their guides. I am very happy our military uses Sun as their model for war fighting since he is very good on the subject of war. I am also quite happy that they do NOT use Clausewitz On War since the performance of Germany in the military sphere has not been very successful.

      Medicine is also termed an art by the way. Though I do not worry about my doctor bringing his brushes and easel into the operating room or carving his initials into my flesh when he is done.

      The military is NOT there to make policy decisions. It is the civilian leaders who have to be convinced that war is a disease since THEY are the ones who are calling the shots, as our forefathers wished.

  5. Arthur Randolph Erb 1, November 22, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    Questioning the actions of some cops or courtsI hardly translates into saying that we need to get rid of the police and courts which is the implication of the profs arguements against support for the military troops.

    The greatest enemy to public liberty is the military, and always has been. So says he who knew how to write the U.S. Constitution.

    1. He also found out that the greatest threat to HIS liberty was the British Army which forced him to FLEE from the White House. That was because of the lack of a good strong US Army. He learned from that experience. Too bad you have not.

  6. “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.”


    Like you, I respect his service to the nation, but that’s not a free pass to ignore everything he was sent there to defend. As we’ve learned from recent events at Penn State and elsewhere: respect is not worship; accomplishment does not imply license, and, perhaps most importantly here, shiny brass on your shoulders does not create a halo.

  7. Arthur,

    What is wrong with saying we need to get rid of the police and courts? (I don’t believe that’s what he said, but let’s say he did.) In an academic setting this speech is allowed.

    There is also nothing wrong with you disagreeing with this speech and stating your own argument with it. Why do you think it is wrong to question the need for police and courts?

    1. If you argue this seriously in a law school, then it undermines the whole purpose of that school since there will be no need for lawyers at all. It is like saying to hell with the law and teaching that as the norm for lawyers. Sort of defeats the purpose don’t you think?

  8. Erb,

    Oh, I don’t know…..I can think of a couple of police officers that don’t deserve our support. Try thinking UC Davis for a start. And there are probably about a dozen other anecdotes listed in the Turley archives that suggest that police officers do not always deserve our support.

    1. Questioning the actions of some cops or courtsI hardly translates into saying that we need to get rid of the police and courts which is the implication of the profs arguements against support for the military troops.

  9. Arthur,

    In an academic setting, ideas should be open to debate. People should not be forbidden to have opinions that others do not like. Argument should be met with argument. If you choke off people’s speech because you don’t like it, you will be stuck in a loop of listening only to things that you already believe. You will learn nothing. Why bother going to school at that point?

    On the DoJ thread I posted a montage of some of the truly horrible things law enforcement has been ordered to do against their fellow citizens. I do not think they should have followed these orders. We have video footage called “Collateral Murder” wherein we see US soldiers mowing down civilians, to include children. Nearly everyday, the US president orders civilians killed via drones. None of these orders should be followed. It is our duty as citizens to question the rightness and legality of these actions.

  10. That service helps defend the values that distinguish us from our enemies

    At least it should, but that is becoming a cliché, and not much more.

    This type of thinking is the front edge of the Tsunami that has inundated other significant American landmark ideologies.

    In the War Colleges, where Roughsedge’s ideology is supreme, they teach things utterly in contempt of traditional American values.

    Thus, I completely agree with Professor Turley’s position in his post.

    For example, if war is an art, it is not infectious, but if it is a disease then it is infectious, as “The Father of the U.S. Constitution” said it is.

  11. Since so many are lawyers here, I think that the prof who was against the university giving support to the troops with care packages should be put into domestic law enforcment terms. Would advocating that we not support police and disrespecting and vilifying them for doing their sworn duty according to law, be a reasonable thing for an officer of the court to do? Free speech is NOT permitted in a court of law and outlandish statements will result in jail time for those who confuse the judge with a regular person. 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 and rights.

  12. Oh that was hate speech all right – anything that offends the delicate sensibilities of an Army officer is by definition hate speech. Particularly since there is such a strong dislike of servicemen & women in this country today – you never hear anyone say anything nice about them at all.

    OS – I hope Major Rutledge does not reconsider. If he would not permit this rather mild (in inane) line of argument to be given in his classroom he is not a professor. Avery showed himself to be an ass and Rutledge apparently wants to show that he can be one too.

  13. As I’ve had cause to say on many occasions, it’s not illegal to be a jerk, or we’d all be in jail at one time or another.

  14. This seems to be a case of throwing the baby out with the bath water. There are many ways Professor Roughedge could make his displeasure with Professor Avery’s statement known short of resigning. I agree this sends the wrong message. I hope Roughedge reconsiders, because leaving the University in protest sends the wrong message. He should be free to advocate his reasoned position in the academic forum. If he thinks Avery is an ill informed idiot, he should be free to say so, just as it is Avery’s prerogative to be an ill-mannered and insensitive clod.

  15. Terrorists do not want you to believe or even hear what they deem hertical. Interesting then that his course is on terrorism and the law.

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