The Importance of Being Earnest: Professor Suspended for Dismissing a False Racial Incident

Theater professor Dr. Steven Earnest of Coastal Carolina University is the latest faculty member to face suspension for expressing a dissenting view on campus. What is notable about this case is that students are demanding his termination because he failed to show sufficient empathy over a mistaken racial incident.

The controversy began on September 16th when students came into a classroom and found names written on a board. The names were recognized as being students of color. Students organized a protest over minority students being singled out for an unknown nefarious purpose.

In reality, the names were written on the board by a visiting artist who was responding to a minority student who said that she felt isolated. The artist listed other students of color in the theater department as a resource for the student.  They left the names on the board.

Despite the fact that this was an effort at positive reenforcement, the University still apologized to the student body for the incident. The visiting artist also apologized for her “thoughtless and careless” action.

Earnest, however, voiced a dissenting view in response to an email from the Department of Theatre’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee apologizing to the student body: “Sorry but I dont think its a big deal. I’m just sad people get their feelings hurt so easily. And they are going into Theatre?”

Students learned of the email and declared Earnest either racist or racially insensitive. They demanded that he be fired. Rather than supporting his right to free speech and academic freedom, the dean of Coastal Carolina’s College of Humanities and Fine Arts, Claudia Bornholdt, reportedly ordered Earnest to stay out of his classroom. He was then suspended.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) issued a letter to the university to object that Earnest was being fired for being insufficiently upset by the incident.

I can understand that some students may have felt offended by the email, but Earnest has a right to express his view of the incident — just as they do.

Notably, the university is a public university in South Carolina. Thus, the First Amendment applies directly to this dispute.

Moreover, the faculty manual expressly guarantees:

“Coastal Carolina University adheres in principle to the American Association of University Professors’ Statements of Academic Freedom and its policy to defend academic freedom against any encroachment. The University, as a center of learning, depends upon the free search for truth and its free dissemination. The University has adopted both of the following statements: the AAUP report, “Freedom in the Classroom,” and the AAUP’s 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure.

Faculty members of Coastal Carolina University are entitled to full freedom in research and in the publication of the results subject to the adequate performance of their other academic duties. However, research for pecuniary return will be based upon an understanding with the authorities of the institution. Faculty members are entitled to freedom in the classroom to discuss their subjects but should not introduce controversial material which has no relation to the subject.”

The action taken against Professor Earnest runs contrary to both the First Amendment and the AAUP principles formally adopted by the university.

These students fail to see that defending free speech is a protection of not just the right of Professor Earnest to speak but their right to denounce such speech.

Oscar Wilde wrote in The Importance of Being Earnest that “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” That is why we protect a diversity of viewpoints to allow the truth to emerge through the crucible of free speech. 

44 thoughts on “The Importance of Being Earnest: Professor Suspended for Dismissing a False Racial Incident”

  1. Just more proof that our public schools, colleges, and universities are now merely LIEs (Leftist Indoctrination Entities). All participants in the LIEs must adhere to the Official Leftist Propaganda Agenda or suffer the consequences.

    1. I hope the students keep boycotting his class. He wants his freedom of speech, he can be shut down by proper use of freedom of association: namely, the right not to associate with (aka the right not to take classes taught by) him.

      Conservatives don’t want to attend a class run by Ilhan Omar, liberals have a right not to want to attend classes run by this Earnest clown.

      Freedom, amiright?

  2. Trump Will Be Lost In A Safe Space

    The problem is that a safe space, where Trump can converse free of engagement with liberals, isn’t what devoted Trumpists want. Trumpism isn’t about avoiding libs, it’s about triggering libs. This highlights the essence of Trump’s success on Twitter: He wielded so much influence there because that’s where the journalists are. Every time Trump launched some new, offensive tweet, reporters wrote about it which enabled Trump to dominate mainstream conversation. It was this engagement, with mainstream, that created the conflict fueling Trump’s rise. In that way, Trump’s social media presence was fundamentally focused on the elite, not the millions of conservative followers.

    Condensed From:

    This piece notes that Parlor was a dud because liberals never went there. So nothing said on Parlor traveled out to the mainstream. It just stayed at Parlor, wilting on the vine. Trump’s new site could meet that same fate.

    1. “This piece notes that Parlor [sic] as a dud because liberals never went there. So nothing said on Parlor traveled out to the mainstream. It just stayed at Parlor [sic], wilting on the vine. Trump’s new site could meet that same fate.”
      Parler was shut down by the “tolerant” libs for being too successful. Get a history book there, Pinocchio.

      1. Apple has a right to decide who gets on their platform. Private property rights, right? Would you want Fox News to be forced to host The Young Turks?

        ib4 “it’s magically different with Fox News!”

  3. “Shut Up And [Learn]!”

    – Laura Ingraham

    How can students learn if they are teaching?

    Is tuition paid for an “acting out” form of psychoanalysis or education?


    student noun

    stu·​dent | \ ˈstü-dᵊnt
    , ˈstyü-, chiefly Southern -dənt \

    Essential Meaning of student
    1 : a person who attends a school, college, or university a high school student a group of college students See More Examples
    2 : a person who studies something

    Full Definition of student

    1 : scholar, learner especially : one who attends a school
    2 : one who studies : an attentive and systematic observer


    teacher noun

    teach·​er | \ ˈtē-chər

    Essential Meaning of teacher
    : a person or thing that teaches something Experience is a good teacher. especially : a person whose job is to teach students about certain subjects She is a first-grade teacher. a language/math/science teacher
    Full Definition of teacher

    1 : one that teaches especially : one whose occupation is to instruct

  4. This should scare the begeebers out of every sane person. Group dynamics can quickly devolve into destructive outcomes. “Group think” (unchallenged thinking) does not belong in universities.

    Unless the spell is broken (through free and factual debate) in short order, this will not end well.

    1. What do you want for a solution to the evil pink haired liberal menace? Sending the cops to beat these students up for refusing to sign up for Earnest’s classes? Short of that there’s nothing you can do. He’s doomed to teach empty or mostly empty classes now.

  5. It’s an axiom as old as time that as one moves farther from the truth he moves closer to corruption and his own spiritual demise. And as Selwyn Duke observed about groups: “The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it.”

    1. Enter the American Founders:

      1st Amendment

      Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

  6. What I would love to see happen is take these students who feel put upon and connect them with, say, the girls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram, most of whom still live in physical and sexual slavery. Those girls, who are now women, are also “of color” and were kidnapped by men, if you can call them men, which I dispute, of color. Having your feelings hurt is kind of part of the deal in this big messy mud wrestling match called life. Get. Over. Yourselves.

  7. When I taught tax law, I told my students that 85% of the work is facts, 10% is common sense, and 5% is knowledge. If you have the facts wrong, your evaluation of these facts must be wrong as well. In this case, students jumped to conclusions and did not verify the facts. Nevertheless, everybody needs to apologize!?
    Colleges should start teaching basic scientific methods of inquiry, which would have led these students to verify before judging.
    Main point is, however, that the deans, provosts, and presidents of colleges and universities have no backbone. They should step up to this nonsense and stop empowering these ignorant snotnoses.

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