New Jersey College Rescinds Suspension of Professor For Picture Of Daughter Wearing Game of Thrones Teeshirt

thrones19n-1-webIn Paramus, New Jersey, Professor Francis Schmidt has faced a bizarre suspension after he posted a photo of his daughter wearing a tee-shirt with a quote from the HBO “Game of Thrones” series that read “I will take what is mine with fire and blood.” Bergen Community College in New Jersey suspended Schmidt as a possible threat to the Dean. While such theories would fit a storyline out of the Game of Thrones, it sits rather badly for an academic setting respecting the freedom of speech. The school has

imagesSchmidt teaches art at Bergen Community College in New Jersey and received an absurd eight-day suspension by the school after an official saw the photo and reportedly deemed it a possible threat.

College spokesman Larry Hlavenka Jr. says that a “compromise” was reached and the letter rescinded. However, Schmidt not surprisingly is unsatisfied with the absence of any apology

Schmidt shared the photo with about 55 social media contacts, including a dean at the college. He was called before college officials the next day who questioned him about the photo and what it meant. Even after this meeting with human resources and security officials, he was suspended without pay and ordered to visit a psychiatrist before being cleared to return to campus. It is not merely a moronic decision by multiple Bergen officials, it was clearly a denial of fundamental free speech principles.

I have previously written about the increasing monitoring and discipline of teachers for conduct in their private lives. We have seen teachers face discipline over social media pictures holding a weapon. Even a picture of a teacher holding a glass of a drink is enough to trigger discipline. Students have faced the same crackdown on social media and extracurricular statements.

I happen to agree that the resolution is unsatisfactory. Patti Bonomolo, the college’s director of human resources, issued a statement that “By sanctioning you as it did, BCC may have unintentionally erred and potentially violated your constitutional rights, including under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.” The problem is with the words “may have unintentionally.” It clearly violated his free speech rights and the decision was not just abusive but idiotic. There is no indication that any of these multiple officials will be reprimanded, let alone seriously disciplined, for this act.

The statement also says that the compromise was agreed to because the college wanted to avoid “protracted discourse” and legal fees.

Notably, Schmidt’s objections to the resolution came after the college said that the statement was written in conjunction and agreement with his attorney. It is not clear if that reflects a conflict or a change with his own representation on the issue.

The conduct of school officials in this case is reminiscent of the continual controversies over “zero tolerance” policies in elementary, middle, and high schools. School officials continue to mete out draconian punishment to avoid any exercise of judgment (or expose themselves to any accountability) in enforcing rules. The students are then victimized but the teachers and officials remain protected. As we have noted in many other stories, there is virtually never any discipline taken against school officials in such cases. Here, however, we are dealing with a college and a professor. The school took it upon itself to punish an academic for an image from social media — an image that itself seems overtly harmless. Yet, the most that the school can do is say that it was rescinding the letter and “may” have impeded free speech rights. That is clearly not enough for an educational institution committed to free thought and free speech.

KayeWalterThe ultimate responsibility for the failure to take more substantive action must fall on College President Kaye Walter. If the college had some real evidence of a violent threat by this academic, it should act on it. That does not appear to be the case, which means that multiple school officials acted in conjunction to deny free speech to a professor and did so without any cognizable basis. Walter was brought in to the school after it was rocked by a scandal related to its previous president who was fired for expense account abuses. This is a far more significant scandal because it undermines the school’s very foundation as an academic institution as well as its reputation among colleges.

23 thoughts on “New Jersey College Rescinds Suspension of Professor For Picture Of Daughter Wearing Game of Thrones Teeshirt”

  1. What a moronic reaction to a fan T-shirt. I would put my little boy in a “Dinna Fash Saddenach” Outlander shirt if I could find one in his size.

    It’s a show.

    Zero tolerance makes zero sense. I swear, it’s like the brains have just drained right out of the education system. For this to happen at a college is embarrassing.

  2. Iconoclast:

    This looks like an ad hoc decision but it’s hard to fathom the reasoning. That’s why I suspect there is more history here than just the bare facts of the article.

  3. Agreed, Mespo. One wonders if any of these schools have specific policies when it comes to social media or if they’re just winging it.

  4. mespo727272

    How could the dean have seriously considered this photo a threat in the absence of other conduct?

    Maybe the faculty member in question is an ex-football player.

  5. I must have missed something because I’m not sure exactly what was wrong with the picture in the first place. How could the dean have seriously considered this photo a threat in the absence of other conduct?

  6. Pogo your repeated comments regarding “the left” as boogy man are equally unsubstansive. My response to you reflected the silliness.

  7. The termination of this professor for the picture of his daughter in the Game of Thrones t shirt is ludicrous. Doesn’t matter what the political identity of the College president is.

  8. All men are created equal before the law, and only that.
    All men are otherwise unequal, having different cognitive skills, physical abilities, preferences, and dislikes.

    The left would like to smash this all down, all must conform to their ideal.

  9. “still has to deal with institutionalized racism

    Ah, the ghost in the machine theory.
    Not scientific, much as it cannot be disproven.

    Its intent in fact is to never be able to be disproven, always existing, always to blame. The left’s current and most reliable Goldstein.

  10. Actually, Pogo, the answer to Sara Hoyt’s question is that both are equally unjustly oppressed because each is oppressed by a circumstance they never controlled, i.e. their birth. The black woman, despite being raised in affluence, still has to deal with institutionalized racism through no fault of her own; while the white man has to deal with the bad choices of his mother, also through not fault of his own. Both are oppressed, and both oppressions are unjust. Which deserves help more? Neither – both must be helped if we are to call ourselves a just and fair society, even if it requires a cost from all of society. If we wish to make the ideal of all men being created equal a reality, we must help every member of society overcome the inequitable circumstances of his or her birth. All your quote shows is Ms. Hoyt’s thorough indoctrination into right-wing thinking, especially when it comes to what she thinks “the left” thinks.

  11. Until the costs goes up, academics will continue their assault on the Bill of Rights.

    Right now they control the timing and pace of assaults; we win a few and lose more. The erosion of our rights continues.

    Let’s be clear, both the right and the left attack the First (and other) Amendments; however the assault by educators in charge of our young is especially pernicious.

  12. Isn’t educational thinking wonderful? People like this should have their degrees revoked.

  13. Nick,

    Sara Hoyt had a great post on this called ‘Moral lepers.’.

    “The left, though, can’t apply logic to its beliefs, because if it did they’d crumble at the touch (no? really? Answer me quickly: which one is more UNJUSTLY oppressed? A black woman raised in the lap of luxury by college-professor parents or a white man in the Appalachia raised by a druggie single mother? Which one deserves your help more? If you said the woman, you just proved you internalized your Marxist training perfectly, but you can’t think. If you said “the man” you just proved you are trying to game me. The actual answer is “It depends on the content of their characters.” That’s the ONLY sane, rational answer for a non-racist human in a free society.)

    So instead, they rely on a system of “cleanliness.”

    Having defined some thoughts as unclean — those that disapprove of any women for any reason whatsoever, or which fail to believe men and women are exactly alike (we’re not. Vive la difference), those that say the poor might have done something to bring their plight on themselves, those that approve of any republican, ever, those that intimate that the person might vote for anyone but a democrat/socialist/communist, those that disapprove of communism and all its works and all its empty promises – they then go around trying to avoid the contagion of those thoughts.

  14. Pogo, Exactly. I often lament what has transpired on college campuses since I attended in the early 70’s. When I returned in the late 90’s I was shocked!

  15. Lefty protesters 1968: “What do we want?
    Free speech!
    When do we want it?

    Lefties running universities 2014: “We meant free speech for us.

  16. Ohio State U. and many other campuses had guidelines posted on acceptable Halloween costumes. The Fire is a website that documents continual assaults on free speech by the education industry. Our education industry, the college campus being the Pentagon, have declared war on the First Amendment. It is not a clandestine or guerilla campaign. It is a blitzkrieg. This is not a drill, folks.

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