St. Joseph’s University Refuses To Renew Contract For Professor Who Prevailed In Free Speech Fight

In February, we discussed investigation of St. Joseph’s University math professor Gregory Manco after he criticized reparations anonymously on social media. It was a direct and serious attack on free speech and ultimately the university concluded that Manco did not violate any school policy. However, in a chilling turn of events, the university has now refused to renew his contract. The message seems clear that, even if you are found to have protected speech, you are not protected as an academic for raising a dissenting voice . . . even anonymously.

The controversy began over three tweets from Manco’s anonymous Twitter account, “South Jersey Giants.” Manco compared slavery reparations to the great-great-grandchild of a murder victim asking the perpetrator’s great-great-grandchild for compensation.  He also observed that racial training “divides us and *worsens* race relations.” Finally, when a woman said that black people and Native Americans “have been hurt horribly” in the United States, Manco responded “yet here you still are.”

Manco received a written notice from the school’s human resources department that he was responsible for tweets “biased or discriminatory,” and he has since been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation.

It is easy to see why many would be offended by how he expressed his views, including the statement “Now get this racist reparation bulls**t out of your head for good.” However, other academics espousing anti-police or anti-Republican views have used similar language without triggering a campaign for termination.

We have previously discussed the concern that academics are allowed (correctly) to voice extreme views on social justice and police misconduct, but that there is less tolerance for the voicing of opposing views on such subjects.  There were analogous 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.

Nevertheless, in the past, I have defended extremist views on academic freedom grounds lie those of University of Rhode Island professor Erik Loomis, who has defended the murder of a conservative protester and said that he saw “nothing wrong” with such acts of violence. (Loomis also writes for the site “Lawyers, Guns, and Money.”) I have defended faculty who have made similarly disturbing comments “detonating white people,” denouncing policecalling for Republicans to suffer,  strangling police officerscelebrating the death of conservativescalling for the killing of Trump supporters, supporting the murder of conservative protesters and other outrageous statements.

In the Manco case, the free speech objections raised by many of us were seemingly and begrudging accepted. They had to be accepted given the express protections in the faculty handbook for such speech. However, it proved a pyrrhic victory for Manco who was then promptly canned when his contract came up. While the university insists that it made this decision on a math position on entirely separate (but unexplained) grounds, the decision appears to be raw retaliation for voicing such dissenting views and then challenging the university.

For other faculty members, the message could not be more clear: free speech rights will not protect you.  In a statement to The College Fix,  spokesperson Gail Benner stated that this was nothing more than a decision based on an evaluation of need. Moreover, she insisted “a non-renewal does not affect an individual’s eligibility for future employment opportunities with the University.” That latter statement is almost laughable. After suspending Manco for possible bias and discrimination, the university is now terminating him. He will be viewed as damaged goods or a prohibitively high risk by any other school. The campaign to punish him for his opposing views will likely resume at any school considering him for a new position. Once tagged, you are shunned and sanctioned.

Whatever the “needs” in math (and how they have changed in a year), one would hope that the university would strive to retain Manco as a demonstration of its commitment to free speech. After all, much of the last year for Manco was lost on an abusive investigation. That is, of course, unless the whole point is to send the countervailing message on the perils of free speech.

This is precisely why fewer and fewer professors are willing to speak out on such questions. Most remain in cringing silence or, worse yet, join the mob in denouncing colleagues. The threat is too great for most academics to stand against a mob.

Manco shows that, even when successful, you can lose everything that matters to an intellectual from speaking and publishing opportunities to your very job. 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  just days before his last day as a professor.

Manco will face obvious challenges in any lawsuit. These are discretionary decisions and most courts do not want micromanage academic decision making. The university knows that. It wanted to avoid further controversy by terminating the academic. Problem solved. However, there remains a danger that a court could allow such a case to go to discovery and Manco could demand documents and depositions to expose any connection to his earlier investigation.

The university insists that it is merely made a decision based on “an as-needed basis.”  However, it was made abundantly clear that St. Joseph’s University did not “need” faculty challenging issues like reparations, even anonymously.


34 thoughts on “St. Joseph’s University Refuses To Renew Contract For Professor Who Prevailed In Free Speech Fight”

  1. Cancel Culture is a Dress Rehearsal for Mass Murder | Stefan Molyneux – see on YouTube

  2. This is not the St. Joseph’s I knew in the early 1960s as a collegiate debater at Duquesne University. Good and decent students and clerical and lay staff whose goal was a good education for the students. Issues were left for assigned debate topics each year — not to invade math and other courses or to penalize anyone for his (yes, then, HIS) thinking, beliefs, etc. Shame on St. Joseph’s!!

  3. I’ve been following this. The professor was given an EXTERNAL investigation. The university obviously did not get the decision they were hoping for. Hopefully the professor sues.

  4. This seems like retaliation. The courts generally do not like retaliation. SUE, SUE, SUE again.

  5. Absolutely chilling, horrifying. Academia has been totally captured. The U.S. is rapidly transforming into a fascist, totalitarian state.

  6. The way to stop the systemic, Progressive-sanctioned persecution of people like Dr. Manco is to hold the administrators personally responsible. The administration of St. Joseph’s University should lose their jobs and answer to Dr. Manco for damages.

  7. If his Twitter account was anonymous, how did the school find out about his Tweets?

    1. No doubt some disgruntled alumni with an axe to grind knew what his Twitter handle is. But the problem really is the President of the University.

  8. Professor, you should realize by now and forgive the repetitiveness, if the Left doesn’t have Double Standards they won’t have any Standards at all.

  9. “The threat is too great for most academics to stand against a mob.”

    They need to read, and heed the theme of, Ibsen’s great play: _An enemy of the People_. That will embolden their courage.

  10. It’s time we start torching these snowflakes and reduce them to liquid. I’ve never seen so much kowtowing to minorities. My advice is to send these babies (and staff) to a dermatologist to help grow some skin.

  11. “Tolerance will reach such a level that intelligent people will be banned from thinking so as not to offend the imbeciles.”

    Just a thought for a Friday morning.

  12. The sad part is that he will be replaced by a politically correct math professor who believes that math, showing your work and being on time is racist, that math is subjective and that math is good only when it serves the needs of the masses. The best and brightest being replaced by the WOKE.

    1. To your point, I had a conversation with a fellow CPA yesterday regarding how more and more licensed professionals are abandoning fundamental principles and reason for this Marxist ideology. Attorneys, Educators and now Doctors are using their profession like a weapon in support of this madness. If math falls, then everything else goes with it.

      1. “If math falls, then everything else goes with it.”

        Paul Rossi was a math teacher at Grace Church High School in Manhattan. He was recently fired. His “crime?” He objected to the CRT view that objectivity — the very foundation of mathematics — is “racist.”

        His letter is remarkably well-written. And his arguments about the insanity of CRT are spot on.

        1. And they will lie to your face and tell you CRT is not being taught in K-12. That gaslighting has been exposed and frankly I don’t care what you call this indoctrination, it has to end.

          1. Olly,

            You have no moral standing to accuse anyone of lying when you defend a pathological liar in Trump. The likes of you failed to cancel the teaching of Darwinism, and now your attempt to cancel CRT will likewise be for naught. After all, if Trumpists can push the Big Lie, Progressives can push the “lie” of CRT. Even-steven!

            1. Oh, my! Still suffering mentally from the Trump Derangement Syndrome! I’m constantly amazed how any comment about any subject in any forum at any time causes hateful people such as this to turn to “it’s Trump’s fault” — and/or the fault of those who are not “woke” supporters of the far far left and of the “systemic racism” crowd.

              1. Stop projecting. I don’t hate anyone you know. But I could begin to hate someone who has the nerve to tell me who I hate when I tell them that I don’t!

  13. Professor, you are right about an academic being damaged goods in such a case. You sneeze in California and they say “God Bless You” in New York. If a person can perform in their job that should be the only basis of being hired.

    This is very dangerous. This must be confronted. History has proven that it is fallacy not to do so. If they have ruined his career, then it seems logical he has a viable argument for damages.

    I agree with a previous comment. This information should be brought, front and center, to the attention of the alumni of this institution and others. All university programs depend on outside funding to survive. Hit them in the pocketbook! Send them a message.

    This is not a left or right issue. This is an assault on civil liberties.

  14. It’s hard to comprehend such a level of self-righteousness and self-deception that would dupe people into believing their calling for the firing and deaths of others is justified…moral even! The unhinged walk among us.

  15. The math professor understated, by three generations, the “greats” in his hypothetical.

    1. President Tyler — born in 1790 — still has two living grandsons.

    1. I wonder how little St. Joseph’s fundraising will get this summer at its alum “social” in Avalon NJ. I hope some just boycott it and those who attend give nothing.

  16. And the Lefties wonder why normal Americans are getting angry.

    The pendulum always swings back and then we will have to protect Lefties from the inevitable payback.

    And they will squeal like scalded pigs, claiming victim status.

  17. “Prof”:
    Put right out front.
    Went in dumb, come out dumb too. Hustling round Saint Joseph’s in his allegator shoes. Drunk on the weekends at his bar be ques.
    They are stomping on free speech now.

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