University of Massachusetts Nursing Dean Fired After Saying “Everyone’s Life Matters” [Updated]

downloadWe have been discussing the growing fear of professors and students over the loss of free speech on campuses for years, but recently those concerns have been greatly magnified with the investigation or termination of professors for expressing opposing views about police abuse, Black Lives Matter movement or aspects of the protests following the killing of George Floyd.  There is a sense of a new orthodoxy that does not allow for dissenting voices as campaigns are launched to fire faculty who are denounced as insensitive or even racist for such criticism.  The most recent controversy involves the recently installed University of Massachusetts-Lowell Dean of Nursing Leslie Neal-Boylan. Dr. Neal-Boylan had only been in her position for a few months when she was fired.  The reason, according to many reports, is that she sent an email on June 2 to the Solomont School of Nursing on the recent anti-racism demonstrations across the country that include the words “everyone’s life matters.” As a blog dedicated to free speech, it has been difficult to keep up with the rising number of cases of the curtailment of speech or academic freedom on our campuses.  What is equally alarming is the relative silence of most faculty members as individual professors are publicly denounced by their universities, forced into retirement, or outright terminated for expressing dissenting views.  This case however raises an equally serious concern over the loss of due process for academics who find themselves the focus of a campaign for removal — or simply summary dismissal.

I reached out to the University and updated the column with the response, which does not clarify most of these questions but suggests that the Dean may have been terminated for other reasons.  I have also reached out to Dr. Neal-Boylan for a response on both the cause and merits for her termination.

Dr. Neal-Boylan was heralded last September as a “visionary leader” by the university in taking over the deanship.  Her writings include strong advocacy for those with disabilities in the nursing field. Those writings show tremendous empathy and concern for inclusivity in the profession.

This controversy began when Dr. Neal-Boylan wrote the email which started with the following words: “Dear SSON Community,” the email provided to Campus Reform begins. “I am writing to express my concern and condemnation of the recent (and past) acts of violence against people of color. Recent events recall a tragic history of racism and bias that continue to thrive in this country. I despair for our future as a nation if we do not stand up against violence against anyone. BLACK LIVES MATTER, but also, EVERYONE’S LIFE MATTERS. No one should have to live in fear that they will be targeted for how they look or what they believe.”

One can understand that many felt that the statement detracted from the need to focus on the treatment and loss of black lives. However, one can also read these words as a nursing dean expressing opposition to all violence.  However, the email was immediately denounced in a tweet as “uncalled for” and “upsetting”  by “Haley.”  The university quickly responded to Haley and said “Haley – Thank you for bringing this to our attention. The university hears you and we believe black lives matter. See the letter the chancellor sent out Monday.”  The letter isa statement in support of Black Lives Matter.  Soon thereafter the University reportedly fired Dr. Neal-Boylan.

University spokesperson Christine Gillette issued a statement to the site Campus Reform Wednesday that stated  “The university ended the employment of Dr. Neal-Boylan on June 19 after 10 months in her role as dean of the Solomont School of Nursing. As with all such decisions, it was made in the best interest of the university and its students.”

What is particularly concerning is a June 19 letter referenced on the site that was allegedly written by Neal-Boylan and sent to Provost Julie Nash. The letter states “It is important to point out that no one ever gave me an opportunity to share my views of how the college and school were interacting nor explain myself regarding the BLM email. My meeting with you, [Dean] Shortie [McKinney], and Lauren Turner was clearly not intended to give me an opportunity to defend my actions. I was condemned without trial.”

The statement from the university does not state what specifically is “in the best interest of the university and its students.”  However, the failure to specifically state the grounds and the process used to reach the decision is alarming.  The University let the public record stand — and the view that Dr. Neal-Boylan was fired for expressing the view that “Black Lives Matter, but also Everyone’s Life Matters.”

What is “in the best interest of the university and its students” should include free speech and due process.  The mere fact that we do not know if Dr. Neal-Boylan was afforded either right is chilling.  If there were other grounds against her, the university should state so.  Instead, the clear message to faculty is that the dean was fired for expressing concerns over the loss of lives across the country in these protests.

I can understand the sensitivity to those who feel that the inclusion of other lives tends to take away the focus on the need for action on the treatment of African-Americans in our society.  However, it is possible that, as a leading health care figure, Dr. Neal-Boylan was speaking out to seek to end all violence in the protection of human life.  Medical and health care professionals tend to oppose all loss of life and violence.  The question is whether an academic should be able to express such a view and, equally importantly, whether there is a process through which a professor can defend herself in explaining the motivation and intended meaning of her words.

The uncertainty over the process used in this case creates an obvious chilling effect for other faculty members. In 30 years of teaching, I have never seen the level of fear among faculty over speaking or writing about current events, particularly if they do not agree with aspects of the protests.  Not only is there a sense of forced silence but universities have been conspicuously silent in the face of the destruction of their own public art and statues. Even New York Times editors can be forced out for simply publishing opposing views.

As we have previously discussed, chilling effects on free speech has long been a focus of the Supreme Court.  Free speech demands bright line rules to flourish. The different treatment afforded faculty creates an obviously chilling effect on free speech.  Avoiding the chilling effect of potential punishment for speech is a core concern running through Supreme Court cases.  For example, in 1964, the Supreme Court struck down the law screening incoming mail. A unanimous court, Justice William Douglas rejected the law as “a limitation on the unfettered exercise of the addressee’s First Amendment rights.” It noted that such review “is almost certain to have a deterrent effect” on the free speech rights of Americans, particularly for “those who have sensitive positions:”

Obviously, many of these schools are private institutions but freedom of speech and academic freedom have long been the touchstones of the academy. What concerned me most was that I could not find a university statement on a matter that resulted in the canning of one of its deans — just an ominous note that the page of Dr. Neal-Boylan can no longer be found.

Update:

I contacted the University to confirm (1) whether Dr. Neil-Boylan was fired for her statement about “everyone’s life matters” and (2) whether she was given an opportunity to hear the complaints against her and to contest the allegations.

The university responded with this statement:

“Leslie Neal-Boylan’s employment at UMass Lowell ended on June 19, after she was informed she would no longer serve as dean of the Solomont School of Nursing. She had been in that role for 10 months. Although a tenured full faculty member, she declined to join the nursing faculty. As with all such employment decisions, it was made in the best interests of the university and its students. Although we are not able to discuss specifics of a personnel matter, it would be incorrect to assume any statement by Dr. Neal-Boylan was the cause of that decision.”

This suggests that there were other reasons for the termination but, if the letter posted from Dr. Neal-Boylan is accurate, she was not aware of what those reasons might be.  If she is unaware of those allegations, this would be a rather Orwellian position where the university protects her privacy by refusing to confirm the basis for her termination even to herself.  I was hoping that the University would at least say that she was given those reasons and an opportunity to defend herself.  Instead, the university did not deny the allegation that Dr. Neal-Boylan was denied the opportunity to respond and contest any allegations.

The problem with the response is it leaves even more questions.  Dr. Neal-Boylan was fired soon after the University public stated that it was looking into the controversy over her statement.  She has said that she does not know any other reason, or at least that is what the letter posted on the Campus Reform site suggests.  Indeed, she is being quoted as writing:

“Her firing was “attributable to one phrase in my initial email that otherwise was very clearly a message to NOT discriminate against anyone. To those students who were upset regarding my email, wouldn’t it have been better to use that as a teachable opportunity to explain that leaders also make mistakes and use this as an example of why lifelong learning is so important?”

If her firing was unrelated to the statement, the University could have so stated without any violation of privacy. Such a clarification would have put to rest concerns over free speech.  Instead, there is lingering confusion, including with the subject of the action.

316 thoughts on “University of Massachusetts Nursing Dean Fired After Saying “Everyone’s Life Matters” [Updated]”

  1. Doesn’t she have appeal rights through the university’s administrative process? I don’t think we’ve heard the end of this.

  2. All black lives don’t matter. Just ask the people in Chicago. Or ask the grieving father whose son was shot in Seattle.

  3. Didn’t Trump sign an executive order to punish colleges that didn’t support free speech? He needs to hammer them on this. They are already in severe financial trouble from the ChiCom virus shutdown, even the well funded ones like Harvard. Withholding federal research funds would be a giant stick. Additionally, the gender/ethnic studies depts much be hot beds of racial and sexist discrimination. They should be investigated. The ideal plan would be to also force cuts in tuition by these greedy colleges to make college affordable.

    1. My word…. if this termination is based solely on that quote, then we are in trouble as a nation… what if all she meant is that there are clearly more inequities of treatment in this country than that of JUST black people. There is cultural bias to Hispanic, Asian, Muslim etc…. maybe just maybe she is pointing out the greater picture of eliminating bias on all fronts for the greater good…. if we have gotten that sensitive to such an innocuous seemingly POSITIVE comment we are in trouble

      1. Unfortunately I think we are in trouble… Too many people are now “harmed” and “aggrieved” by the most innocent of word choices. (Well said, by the way)

  4. Black Lives Matter is a good slogan, but it is a sound bite. The normal extension of the sentence would be “Black lives matter as much as white lives”, but some are using it to mean “Black lives matter but white lives don’t”. This latter interpretation can be the only explanation for sacking some for saying “Everyone’s life matters”.
    Related, I remember watching a tv debate where a young Muslim woman was immediately talked over by a Muslim man when she said “It is not only white fascism that we need to worry about”.

  5. And as Professor Turley WELL KNOWS, a FEATURE of people ‘disappeared’ in Stalin’s era (less than 100 years ago) was their ‘airbrushing’ out of pictures, one day so-and-so would be mentioned, the next day all references to the disappeared one were deleted, including public pictures carefully altered, and no mention was EVER made again.

  6. It follows that emergency department nurses follow a triage algorithm that race is the primary criterium for medical care.

  7. It is really weird that places that were considered bastions of free speech are now bastions of censorship.

    Thought crime at it’s finest.

  8. Public colleges and universities that do not provide protection for free speech and academic freedom should lose their accreditation. Private schools who state they honor free speech and academic freedom should be held to account by the various accrediting bodies when they fail to live up to their promises.

    Loss of accreditation, and thus loss of access to Title IV funding is the only thing rogue administrators will understand.

    1. “DOING THE RIGHT THING”

      Abraham Lincoln cared intensely about “blacks.”

      Abraham Lincoln advocated for compassionate repatriation for the benefit of displaced Africans.

      Thomas Jefferson, the “American Colonization Society,” Indiana and Missouri were among the many Americans who completely understood the imperative for compassionate repatriation.
      __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

      Racial separation, Lincoln went on to say, “must be effected by colonization” of the country’s blacks to a foreign land. “The enterprise is a difficult one,” he acknowledged,
      but “where there is a will there is a way,” and what colonization needs most is a hearty will. Will springs from the two elements of moral sense and self-interest. Let us be brought to believe it is morally right, and, at the same time, favorable to, or, at least, not against, our interest, to transfer the African to his native clime, and we shall find a way to do it, however great the task may be.
      ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

      Indiana and Missouri preceded Lincoln’s sentiments.

      By 1832 the legislatures of more than a dozen states (at that time there were only 24), had given official approval to the Society, including at least three slave-holding states.11 Indiana’s legislature, for example, passed the following joint resolution on January 16, 1850:12

      Be it resolved by the General Assembly of the State of Indiana: That our Senators and Representatives in Congress be, and they are hereby requested, in the name of the State of Indiana, to call for a change of national policy on the subject of the African Slave Trade, and that they require a settlement of the coast of Africa with colored men from the United States, and procure such changes in our relations with England as will permit us to transport colored men from this country to Africa, with whom to effect said settlement.

      In January 1858, Missouri Congressman Francis P. Blair, Jr., introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives to set up a committee

      to inquire into the expediency of providing for the acquisition of territory either in the Central or South American states, to be colonized with colored persons from the United States who are now free, or who may hereafter become free, and who may be willing to settle in such territory as a dependency of the United States, with ample guarantees of their personal and political rights.

      Blair, quoting Thomas Jefferson, stated that Blacks could never be accepted as the equals of Whites, and, consequently, urged support for a dual policy of emancipation and deportation, similar to Spain’s expulsion of the Moors.

      – Robert Morgan

  9. Very well presented, as usual.
    But I believe that an academic should be able to say: “I don’t believe that Black LIves Matter any more than any life” and not be fired.
    Or say: “I reject the entire statement; it puts black lives over others.’
    Or: “It’s true that black lives matter, but not true this gives them a right to riot, burn and loot!”

    All she said was ‘yes, black lives matter, but so do all other lives.’

    How can ANYONE POSSIBLY BE FIRED for such a statement!

    We don’t have rule of law in the USA any more.
    If this is not reformed soon, the Republic is doomed.

    1. [ital]All she said was ‘yes, black lives matter, but so do all other lives.’
      How can ANYONE POSSIBLY BE FIRED for such a statement!
      We don’t have rule of law in the USA any more.
      If this is not reformed soon, the Republic is doomed.[/ital]

      We now have mob rule in the USA. Because of the uniformity and synchronization of the messages in mainstream media I believe it’s organized and coordinated to such an extent that if a whistleblower were courageous enough to risk their murder for the sake of the republic and such a person came forward with documentary evidence of its organization and plans it could meet the criteria for prosecution as sedition and treason. I believe that there are powerful people in government and in media who have plotted to destroy the rule of law by destroying almost all small business and causing economic hardship to a third of the workforce from the fake Corona lockdowns and then fomenting anarchy with the media campaign to demonize police with elected mayors and governors encouraging lawbreaking and attacks on police. This is all so perfectly coordinated that it can only be the result of a comprehensive and long-planned takeover of the government by means of mainstream media. What are the odds that this can be stopped? Near zero in my estimate.

      “How can ANYONE POSSIBLY BE FIRED for such a statement!”? Being fired summarily with no recourse is a lot less worse than being killed for saying those words.

      In 1793-1794 the radical egalitarians of Robespierre’s Société des Jacobins, Amis de la Liberté et de l’Égalité killed probably thousands of Frenchmen for maybe even less of a dissent from the mob. Or look at the show trials of Stalin’s Russia with loyal functionaries losing not just their jobs but sent to the gulag or maybe just disappearing. Or look at the Cultural Revolution of Chairman Mao. Or the Killing Fields of Pol Pot in Cambodia. It’s the exact same thing and it’s happening in the US and the president and attorney general can’t do a thing to stop it.

  10. Colleges and universities are no longer educational institutions of higher learning. Rather, today, they are Leftist Indoctrination Factories (“LIFs”). It’s a fact that colleges and universities are deliberately not hiring staff that hold views that are deemed incompatible with the leftist agenda. And the results amply demonstrate that the LIFs are successful in programming and force-feeding their leftist agenda on impressionable young minds. For example, the 2020 Youth Patriotism Index—a first-of-its-kind survey commissioned by Young America’s Foundation examined the views of high school students and college students to assess the differences regarding their respective opinions of America, its institutions, and its values. The data shows a clear divide between the opinions of high school and college students:

    66% of high school students believe America is exceptional, compared to 47% of college students.

    55% of high school students believe America is a good example for other countries, compared to 37% of college students.

    70% of high school students hold a favorable view of America’s history, compared to 44% of college students.

    63% of high school students report feeling proud of America, compared to 40% of college students.

    However, the conclusion that leftists will draw from these results is that they need to begin their leftist indoctrination programs at a much earlier age. I’m certain they are working hard at this objective as I write this. And the chances are strong that they will succeed. After all, the LIFs have the backing of the major corporations, most of the leading billionaires, the mainstream media, the Democrat Party, and, of course, all of the assorted hate-America groups carrying on their anti-America, anti-freedom, and anti-liberty agenda. That’s a powerful, united block. If this adverse trend continues, the rise of fascism in America will become inevitable.

    1. “the conclusion that leftists will draw from these results is that they need to begin their leftist indoctrination programs at a much earlier age. I’m certain they are working hard at this objective as I write this”

      You’re late to the party, comrade. The leftists took over k-12 long ago.

      1. I understand, Lorenzo. Perhaps the Leftist Indoctrination Enterprises (“LIEs”) do a better job at the college or university level because, on the whole, children in high school are still strongly influenced by their parents, and their values and standards, whereas that direct influence tends to decline for students at colleges and universities. More data would reveal if my hypothesis is correct, such as data on live-at-home students versus away-from-home students.

    2. James, you need to create a better acronym by replacing “factories” with a word that starts with “e”.

      Leftist indoctrination e_______s, or LIEs.

  11. Do we know what the rest of the email said? To me the quoted part sounds like an introduction which would then be followed by a ‘but’. If the firing was really solely because of ‘everyone’s life matters’, Mrs Neal-Boylan will make some decent money with a legal settlement, but I’m skeptical as we are having a lot of warped realities these days by critical information being withheld. Like those people in Detroit who got run over by a police car while they were ‘peacefully protesting’ while later the video footage emerged how the car was desperately trying to escape while people were smashing the back window and jumping on the hood. I’d rather not jump to conclusions without having the full picture.

Leave a Reply