As many on this blog know, I have an expansive view free speech and academic freedom, including (as in a recent column) some statements in classes that some students would consider insulting or offensive. I have the view of faculty discussing mandates. However, universities have a right to impose what they consider to be reasonable and necessary health measures. A professor should be protected in challenging the basis for the rule while nevertheless complying with the rule. This is his class but it is the university’s classroom.
I also think that this lecture was excessive in its rhetoric and its length. I think a more appropriate approach would have been to state his position more concisely while referring to written statements posted on a blog or some other source if students want to understand better why he opposes the mandate.
However, this type of categorical refusal to comply with the school rule is unlikely to be supported in court. Even natural antibody claims are facing difficult receptions in the court.
Professor Clements clearly cares deeply about teaching and his students. I disagree with him on the vaccine topic. I was eager to take the vaccine and I am tested every two weeks at GWU. However, this is an important debate to have on campuses but there are few opportunities for such exchanges. Indeed, it is outrageous that this video may be banned by social media, which will not allow their users to hear such opposing views. I prefer such points to be made in a forum rather than a class where students signed up to learn a specific subject.
It is also important to recognize that the university also cares for students and has come to an opposing conclusion on the public health requirements for a safe school. Courts uniformly require compliance with such rules. I would however prefer for schools to allow faculty like Clements to teach virtually.
The controversy does raise an interesting issue. If Clements had a religious claim, he would presumably be given an exemption in most businesses. However, if you have philosophical or scientific objection, it is not considered a basis for an exemption. (I could not find whether the university allows exemptions for virtual classes.). Clements clearly has deep-seated objections to the vaccine, but they are science rather than religious based.
In the end, the lecture is unlikely to help his case with the court. A judge is likely to view the class as supporting the university in raising the logistical problems of having multiple faculty take the same stance in classes with students walking out and others objecting to the choice of not taking the course or being taught by an unvaccinated, unmasked professor.