SUNY Suspends Student For Posting Views On Biological Gender

There could be a significant First Amendment case brewing in New York after the School of Education at the State University of New York-Geneseo suspended student Owen Stevens for posting his view that gender is limited to biologically males and females.  As a state institution, SUNY is subject to the limitations of the First Amendment and Stevens could challenge the action based on his statements on Instagram.

I have not been able to find the letter sent to Stevens by the school but it is quoted on a conservative website, The Daily Wire. According to that report, Owen posted on Instagram that there are only two genders. This may be that posting:


The school reportedly maintains that such statements made on social media are grounds for suspension and other disciplinary action.  While she did not refer to him by name, SUNY-Geneseo President Denise Battles sent out a message stating that “[y]esterday, I was made aware of a current student’s Instagram posts pertaining to transgender people.” Battles acknowledges that “There are clear legal limitations to what a public university can do in response to objectionable speech. As a result, there are few tools at our disposal to reduce the pain that such speech may cause.” However, the school then suspended Stevens.

A spokesperson is quoted by the Daily Wire declaring students must follow the “professional standards” of their chosen field by acting and behaving in ways that “may differ from their personal predilections.”

That does not sound like an accommodation of the First Amendment, which protects your right to express your “personal predilections.” Many object to his view of transgender persons, but it is a view that often expresses a myriad of religious, political, social, and biological beliefs.

The suspension letter reportedly states:

You continue to maintain, “I do not recognize the gender that they claim to be if they are not biologically that gender.” This public position is in conflict with the Dignity for All Students Act requiring teachers to maintain a classroom environment protecting the mental and emotional well-being of all students.

The question is whether holding such beliefs means that Smith is incapable of maintaining a classroom that is respectful and protective of all students, including transgender students. We have previously discussed professors who express animosity toward white students, males, or conservatives but few have been subject to suspension or termination unless they manifest such bias or prejudice in classrooms or on campus. (See stories here, here, here, here, and here) I have long opposed discipline for teachers for their expression of political or social views outside of schools. Indeed, as we have previously discussed, one professor called for more Trump supporters to be killed. Another called for strangling police. Rhode Island Professor Erik Loomis, who writes for the site Lawyers, Guns, and Money, said he saw “nothing wrong” with the killing of a conservative protester — a view defended by other academics.  Yet, recently a professor was suspended for writing against reparations.  The result seems like a sharp divergent treatment based on the content of views on the left or the right of the political spectrum in the treatment of faculty members.

The spokesperson told the site that “SUNY Geneseo respects every student’s right to freedom of speech and expression,” but “[b]y choosing to enter into certain professional fields, students agree to abide by the professional standards of their chosen field. At times, these professional standards dictate that students act and behave in certain ways that may differ from their personal predilections.”

Yet, Smith is not saying that he would apply his views in classrooms or refuse to comply with “professional standards.” Instead, the school seems to be saying that one of those professional standards is conforming your views (or at least your public statements) to the accepted views of a “chosen field.” That would seem like the abridgment of free speech.

Again, we do not have to agree with Smith to support his right to speak freely. We often support the free speech rights of individuals who espouse views that we find offensive or even grotesque. You cannot say that you are in favor of free speech so long as you do not use it in a way that we do not like. It is hard to see any limiting principle in the position of SUNY-Geneseo. It would mean that the “chosen field” of any student could limit their ability to speak out on issues in their private lives. The alternative is to enforce “professional standards” by requiring adherence to those standards in the professional setting.

The school may be looking at a substantial free speech challenge in this case and we will continue to follow it. In the meantime, it would be useful to see the letter of suspension and any references to any other postings by the school to judge the strength of a possible case.


234 thoughts on “SUNY Suspends Student For Posting Views On Biological Gender”

  1. The rest of the nation would find the problem in the letters U or NY. Were it not for 9/11 they would have a perfect record of being the left armpit of the nation. The other left Armpit is a toss up between Seattle and San Francisco. Which leaves the role of donkey for Washington DC. aka asno, and other behind the tail features.

  2. Censorship is only one part of the totalitarian equation. Punishing someone for opposing views is the other. We are doomed if this continues. Even the French are worried about academia in America

    1. I posted the exact issue on this exact blog.
      It seems that more academics may be caught by an either/or logical statement.

    1. DSDs (differences/disorders of sexual development or intersex conditions) are not sexes, they are medical conditions that affect males or females. People with DSDs are still either male or female; there are still two sexes. An intersex person’s development is atypical of other males or females but these medical conditions are not proof of a third or intermediate sex. Their conditions are often referred to as “disorders of sexual development” because DSDs usually indicate infertility or other medical issues, some serious; DSDs are medical conditions, not sexes. In human reproduction there are two gametes; there is no third gamete, there is no third or fourth or fifth sex. Human reproduction 100% of the time happens between a male and a female. The SUNY student in question is correct that their are two sexes and that someone “feeling” like they are the opposite sex doesn’t change anything about their actual biological sex. Sex change is impossible.

      1. “there are still two sexes”

        What sex is a hermaphrodite?

        What sex is a 46,XX/46,XY chimera?

          1. People with Klienfelter’s or hermaphroditism account for < 0.2% of all live births. These are pathological conditions.

            1. 0.2% of all live births is over 15 million people.

              I’ll ask again:

              What sex is a hermaphrodite?

              What sex is a 46,XX/46,XY chimera?

  3. Sex: male and female. Sex-correlated gender, physical and mental (e.g. sexual orientation) attributes: masculine and feminine, respectively.

    1. You’re oversimplifying. Even if you just look at reproductive organs, someone may be intersex.

      1. Why do leftist think that all good ideas must be mandatory and all bad ones banned?

        It would seem that they would be able to defeat bad ideas with good reasoning and persuade us of the rectitude of the good ones.

        1. Because the right to speak is the right to prevail, which means they might lose and they might be proven wrong. They cannot handle that.

        2. “Why do leftist think that all good ideas must be mandatory and all bad ones banned?”

          We don’t.

          Why do you believe this false thing about those on the left?

          1. Why do you believe this false thing about those on the left?

            We believe it because we observe them in action. This isn’t that difficult.

            1. I dare you to name even a single person who “think[s] that all good ideas must be mandatory and all bad ones banned.” Give an actual person’s name and quote some of the things they’ve said that makes you think they believe it.

              I’m on the left, and you certainly can’t honestly argue that I think that. If you claim I do, you’re lying.

              1. I dare you to name even a single person who “think[s] that all good ideas must be mandatory and all bad ones banned.”

                They actually don’t admit to this in explicit terms. Funny thing about that.

                1. Ah, so you’re a mind-reader who knows what people think when they don’t say it. Got it.

              2. That’s easy: Management at Lucasfilms, just for starters, who canceled Gina Carano’s acting contract for the Mandalorian. No, that’s not an “actual person’s name” but give me time and I’ll come up with a bunch… because people thinking in bunches are usually the ones who come up with such assholic groupthink decisions. I would argue that taking away one’s livelihood is a pretty good example of banning.

                1. You think that Lucasfilms canceling Gina Carano’s contract for the Mandalorian is an example of someone saying “that all good ideas must be mandatory and all bad ones banned”? Seriously?

                  What a bizarre interpretation.

                  When Trump fired someone for what they said, did you likewise consider that as Trump saying “that all good ideas must be mandatory and all bad ones banned”?

          2. >>“Why do leftist think that all good ideas must be mandatory and all bad ones banned?”
            >We don’t.

            Then why does the left, excluding you, engage in cancel culture and in banning ideas that do not conform to the PC culture?

            1. It’s not just that. The range of debate in academic faculties runs the gamut from A to B. The arts and sciences faculty I know best granted tenure to over 100 professors over the period running from 1986 to 2011. (That particular faculty employs few adjuncts and few p/t faculty). A disgruntled alumni organization checked the local voter rolls. A grand total of six were enrolled Republicans (remember, these are long-term residents with research degrees; the ones not enrolled are resident aliens). Of the six, one is a flag-waving advocate of multiculturalism (Ed faculty) who either checked the wrong box on the form or enrolled Republican as a prank. Another was a somewhat twee social psychologist whose public writings suggest he also checked the wrong box on the form. Another was an open-borders libertarian (an economist, natch). Another was an exceedingly diffident man (in the biology department) not likely to cause trouble on any committee. Another was a specialist in early music, also fairly diffident. The only one who ever said much in public venues was an intellectual historian who has been subject to internal investigations for ‘sexual harassment’ and to two sets of two-minutes hate campaigns over the years, one orchestrated by the comparative religion faculty.

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