My concern is the biased or conflicting handling of such cases. I have defended faculty who have made similarly disturbing comments denouncing police, calling for Republicans to suffer, strangling police officers, celebrating the death of conservatives, calling for the killing of Trump supporters, supporting the murder of conservative protesters and other outrageous statements. These comments were not protested as creating an “unsafe environment” and were largely ignored by universities. However, professors and students are routinely investigated, suspended, and sanctioned for countervailing views. There were also controversies at the University of California and Boston University, where there have been criticism of such a double standard, even in the face of criminal conduct. There was also such an incident at the University of London involving Bahar Mustafa as well as one involving a University of Pennsylvania professor. Some intolerant statements against students are deemed free speech while others are deemed hate speech or the basis for university action. There is a lack of consistency or uniformity in these actions which turn on the specific groups left aggrieved by out-of-school comments. There is also a tolerance of faculty and students tearing down fliers and stopping the speech of conservatives. Indeed, even faculty who assaulted pro-life advocates was supported by faculty and lionized for her activism.
As we have previously discussed (with an Oregon professor and a Rutgers professor), there remains an uncertain line in what language is protected for teachers in their private lives. A conservative North Carolina professor faced calls for termination over controversial tweets and was pushed to retire. Dr. Mike Adams, a professor of sociology and criminology, had long been a lightning rod of controversy. In 2014, we discussed his prevailing in a lawsuit that alleged discrimination due to his conservative views. He was then targeted again after an inflammatory tweet calling North Carolina a “slave state.” That led to his being pressured to resign with a settlement. He then committed suicide
The efforts to fire professors who voice dissenting views on various issues including an effort to oust a leading economist from the University of Chicago as well as a leading linguistics professor at Harvard and a literature professor at Penn. Sites like Lawyers, Guns, and Money feature writers like Colorado Law Professor Paul Campus who call for the firing of those with opposing views (including myself). Such campaigns have targeted teachers and students who contest the evidence of systemic racism in the use of lethal force by police or offer other opposing views in current debates over the pandemic, reparations, electoral fraud, or other issues.
The issue raised by Philippe is not whether he should be sanctioned but how these other professors have faced investigations, compelled retraining, or other measures for writings that simply disagree on public policy issues or express opposing political viewpoints — far short of discussing the gassing of white people.
University administrators often yield to protests and seek investigations and suspensions as a matter of course for targeted academics. However, when controversies arise on the left, they tend to quickly (and correctly) cite free speech and academic values. The sharp contrast in how controversial speech is handled in these cases raises serious concerns over free speech and academic freedom.