Furman Professor Suspended Due to his Presence at the 2017 Charlottesville “Unite the Right” Rally

There is a major free speech fight brewing at Furman University after Computer Science Professor Chris Healy was placed on leave pending an investigation into his presence at the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Regardless of how one feels about Healy’s political views or associations, the suspension raises serious challenges to free speech and associational rights. Last month, a group called Sunlight Anti-Fascist Action posted a picture of Computer Science Professor Chris Healy at the rally, writing and asked “What’s that you’re standing next to, Chris – a Confederate flag?” The group and others then pushed for an investigation by the university, which Furman President Elizabeth Davis agreed to order.

Davis stated that the suspension was justified not simply due to the attendance at the rally but the fact that Healy is “alleged to be associated with other organizations that are connected with white supremacist groups that promote racism, exclusion and hatred.”

She also linked counseling services to help faculty and students “process these events.”

Davis insisted that “it is our responsibility when matters like these come to light to engage in robust dialogue about what belonging and thriving mean on our campus and beyond. As we continue to struggle with this difficult situation, we intend to engage our campus in further conversation.”

It is also her responsibility to protect free speech and associational rights for an institution of higher education, even a private university.

Indeed, while the First Amendment does not directly apply to a private institution, state law does impose some of the same protections. Under Section 16-17-560, South Carolina mandates:

“It is unlawful for a person to assault or intimidate a citizen, discharge a citizen from employment or occupation, or eject a citizen from a rented house, land, or other property because of political opinions or the exercise of political rights and privileges guaranteed to every citizen by the Constitution and laws of the United States or by the Constitution and laws of this State.”

The university itself expressly commits to the principles of the American Association of University Professors, including the following:

“College and university teachers are citizens, members of a learned profession, and officers of an educational institution. When they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but their special position in the community imposes special obligations. As scholars and educational officers, they should remember that the public may judge their profession and their institution by their utterances. Hence they should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others, and should make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution.” [emphasis added]

Healy did not apparently associate his political activity or expression with the university. Indeed, it is not clear what if anything he said at the rally.

Moreover, it is not clear from the coverage what groups Healy is accused of supporting. However, this was a political demonstration during his own time and there is no allegations of any bias or misconduct on campus or in his educational capacity. There was nothing unlawful about Healy participating in the rally and he has not been accused of any violent act.

There were violent, racist, and antisemitic groups at the march. There were also those who oppose the removal of statues like the one of Robert E. Lee on historical or other grounds.

I do not know Healy’s political views but it does not matter from a free speech perspective. We are often called upon to defend the rights of those with whom we disagree or even those who we detest. Indeed, the extremist groups present at the Charlottesville rally were voicing antisemitic views that are threatening to members of my own family.

That is why it does not matter what Healy may believe or advocate. I have defended faculty who have made similarly disturbing comments “detonating white people,” abolish 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. I also defended the free speech rights of University of Rhode Island professor Erik Loomis, who defended the murder of a conservative protester and said that he saw “nothing wrong” with such acts of violence.

Even when faculty engage in hateful acts on campus, however, there is a notable difference in how universities respond depending on the viewpoint. At the University of California campus, professors actually rallied around a professor who physically assaulted pro-life advocates and tore down their display.

When these controversies arose, faculty rallied behind the free speech rights of the professors. That support was far more muted or absent when conservative faculty have found themselves at the center of controversies. The recent suspension of Ilya Shapiro is a good example. Other faculty have had to go to court to defend their free speech rights.

Furman University should be clear on its scope of its assertion of authority over such political expression outside of the school. Where does the university draw the line? Many faculty view Trump rallies or even the GOP as inherently racist and even violent. Others condemn leftist associations with Antifa and other groups as supporting violence. Will the university now investigate all such associations?

Free speech and academic freedom demand bright-line rules to avoid the chilling effect of ambiguity. Political associations outside of the school should not depend on the permission of the majority at a university. Whatever the trauma produced by this picture, the lasting damage to the university will be far greater if faculty and students are now subject to the monitoring and the approval of the university for political expression or associations.

Once again, with the exception of conservative sites like College Fix, there have been no significant objections from faculty over the notion that their political associations or activities off campus can now be the subject of suspension or termination. The ACLU is again absent, though the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) has taken up the controversy.




56 thoughts on “Furman Professor Suspended Due to his Presence at the 2017 Charlottesville “Unite the Right” Rally”

  1. Unite the Right

    Unite the Constitution

    The Constitution is Right

    Everything Else is What’s Left

    1. Just Realize the constitution allows laws (beyond what’s in the constitution), so if you’re behind the constitution you’re behind every law ever passed, including social programs and gun control.

      1. Legislation that denies rights is unconstitutional – gun legislation is unconstitutional, unfair “Fair Housing” laws deny the absolute right to private property, which, if not absolute, does not exist, comrade. That you don’t like rights does not bear.

      2. “you’re behind every law ever passed”

        laws preventing inter racial marriage?

        The Constitutions role is to prevent congress from passing laws that violate the rights of the people.

  2. In the not to distant future the government will keep a social credit score on how we behave. Somehow I see freedom being infringed on in this country.

  3. So this Professor was placed on leave for attending a rally 5 years ago. A college football coach was let go because he wore a questionable to the college T-shirt while on fishing with his sons on vacation (his own time?); a professor has been let go because his course is too hard.

    1. And yet we, who know deep down in our bones that this is wrong and will lead to our destruction, only chat about it on a blog. It is going to take far more effort to subdue and undo what the prog /left has done to us.

  4. When will your ability to rent an apartment, travel or get a loan or a job be decided on by what you have said or what you believe? If the adults remaining in this nation do not stand up – FIRMLY – and put an end to this intimidatin/manipulation soon, we will become – not a nation of free people, but a hive of drones doing what we are told.

  5. Remove ‘Freedom of Speech’ from the game of Tree(3) and you have Tree(2). Remove ‘Voice of Opposition from Tree(2) and you have Tree(1). Do What Your Told and Nothing More

  6. Charlottesville is such a rich Tableau for revealing how insane the Left/Dems have become. It’s hard for people to actually remember now for some reason (hint, hint) but the ‘Unite the Right Rally’ organizers were represented by the ACLU against the City of Charlottesville in the runup to the rally. The city had illegally denied the permit and had screwed with them in other ways. The mayor of Charlottesville has publicly stated “Charlottesville is the capitol of ‘The Resistance’, and he was leading the abuse of power and criminal acts of the city govt with brio and zero shame, despite being defeated in court.

    The day of the riot was truly something out of Kafka. The city HATED being forced to issue this permit and was not going to permit the legal, constitutionally guaranteed, fought for by the ACLU rally to proceed. Get just how lawless these maniacs are. So what do they do? First, they encouraged and supported and organized every radical leftist group to come and have counter-protests setup to essentially surround the Unite the Right group. Then due to the Antifa types getting out of control, they declared a riot just before the rally was to begin – but after thousands of Unite the Right ralliers were fed in through a maze of fences into essentially a pen to be held in. After cancelling the rally and ordering the people there legally who had a permit to protest to leave, they were then funneled right into the violent, awaiting mob of Antifa black bloc types who cops didn’t restrain or interfere with at all. It was literally legally sanctioned open season violence at scale.

    Keep in mind that Turley confirmed that there were a significant number of people there who were not white supremacists/nationalist. This is where the sleaziness and really, the stupidity of the Right reveals itself. There were some really scummy white nationalist types who first began organizing the rally but they decided to make it very hard to figure out who was behind it all. They didn’t really make clear how prominent white nationalists would be and also remember that at this time the white nationalists were desperately attempting to make the term ‘alt right’ a broad umbrella for right wing dissidents and at that time alt right didn’t mean white supremacist/separatist/nationalist. So they sucked in some naive people and then also were able to attract the weird Confederacy fetishization types, many of whom are not racists, which was surprise to me. But when I looked into them after the riot I realized these are the folks who do Civil War battle re-enactments, they are very active and loud about the statues. They got sucked in too – remember, the ACLU was representing Unite the Right at this point, and the city was violating their rights. It drew in some right wing folks who truly didn’t know what they were getting into. It was also a heady time for right wingers, getting Trump into office emboldened many activists who may not have had the clearest ideas. Fyi, I’m fine with ripping down the statues of any confederate generals as long as its done by the local community.

    But many right wingers didn’t get tricked. Gavin McGuniness wisely kept the Proud Boys clear of the event that day, which likely lead to much more harm to conservatives that day. The Proud Boys had been drawn into becoming the defenders at many conservative rallies over the previous year or so as the Left had taken to violence and nobody on the Right really stood up. But the Proud Boys did. Simply because it was made up of young men who loved this country (not only white). Not due to any racism. But Gavin saw this as the trap it was so he didn’t participate.

    Sadly, we live in such a subverted society that such truths as what I’ve laid out above are not ever dealt with properly head on and accountability for the Left is nowhere to be seen. Oh yeah, about that girl who was run over by a car and killed. That kid was a loner who drove in from a long ways away and was trying to leave cuz of the violence that had exploded when Antif attacked. He was surrounded by a mob and was in danger. His actions were not illegal but he was hounded by the DoJ. They went to insane lengths not to just prove that he acted intentionally in the car to hurt the protester – WHO WAS FRIKKING WHITE – but to rather try and prove that he’d actually planned to come down and kill people and that this was part of a broader conspiracy. Of course, none of that is true but hey, he was a right wing young white man, just throw him in the garbage for life, I guess that’s the kind of legal case that’s just too icky for Jonathan to look at though…

    Someone has to tell this story honestly, seems it’s left to me.

  7. This guys is a known violent racist. Keeping him on is a major liability. When he is caught discriminating against students the school will have to pay out quite a lot.

  8. “There were violent, racist, and antisemitic groups at the march.”

    These days all the violent groups are on the left. At any march/demo of this general type the violence is always started by the “ant-racists” and “anti-fascists” and their hangers-on. Certainly true at Cville. See the official Heaphy Report, easily found online. But the current FBI/DOJ program of criminalizing all opposition to the Regime (driving it underground) while simultaneously continuing to cast a blind eye to Antifa lawbreaking might have the perverse effect of stimulating attacks by atomized lone wolves. Or maybe that’s exactly what the FBI/DOJ wants.

  9. I really don’t care what his politics are. How are they relevant to teaching Computer Science?

  10. I wonder how such an objectively progressive law got passed ion South Carolina. At least it would have been considered progressive until about 7-8 years ago. And free speech absolutist Frank Zappa would be routinely called a neo-nazi if he were alive today.

  11. didn’t you know…Free Speech is only for Leftist!
    Time to CUT all college federal aid and tax all non-profits where anyone gets more than $100k

  12. These creepy fascists dig up something the professor did 5 years ago — during which time, apparently, no one was “triggered” or ‘traumatized” by him — and demand punishment. I now believe in reincarnation, because we’re seeing it in real time — today’s liberals are the rebirth of the Stasi, KGB, and Black Shirts.

  13. I would agree with Mr. Witherspoon that it is persecution but it is being used to intimidate others into not speaking at all. It would seem as there is precedence for the S.C. Supreme Court to likely impose a similar remedy in this case in light of the state law quoted by Professor Turley, if it has to go that far. Seems like a substantial settlement will be coming in the not too distant future. Don’t sneeze at the importance of state law and state constitutions, especially with the present U.S. Supreme Court, who are schooling many on the left about how a federal republic works. I suspect that S.C state law, which seems very clearly written, will supersede the somewhat muddled Principles of The American Association of University Professors.
    Maybe other states should consider implanting this South Carolina law into their state legal code.
    So standing next to a confederate flag is suspicious political activity and implies support. I suppose the next thing these people will want to shut down are all the 6 flags theme parks if they include a confederate flag.

  14. The right is libertarian. Diversity [dogma], Inequity, and Exclusion (DIE) is not a principle of libertarianism.

    1. Diversity [dogma] (i.e. color judgment, class-based bigotry). #HateLovesAbortion

    2. No, just of free speech. Most people, on all sides, find racist relics like these tools to be distasteful in the extreme, and their events are not well-attended or well- supported, generally speaking. I don’t have a problem with the decision per se – it’s the contextual ignorance surrounding the justification. It can be good to let bad ideas self-immolate under the heat of public scrutiny.

      And FWI, I consider Antifa and BLM to be modern iterations of the old Dem KKK, the main difference being the supplanting of religious righteousness with cold, intellectual obtuseness and prevarication. None of it is healthy.

    3. Hey Gru, wasn’t JOE BIDEN a big supporter of Robert Byrd the ex KKK big shot? If so how come he gets the benefit of some sort of statute of limitations? Being a hypocritical partisan is a sure sign of weakness of thought.

    4. You should add to whatever list you are concocting, Robert Byrd, Senator of the Democrat Party and Joe Biden who eulogized him at his funeral. Byrd was a high ranking member of the KKK and served in Congress for almost 60 years spending all of his time as a Democrat.

      Is that the type of Democrat you are talking about?

      1. Nailed it. Bravo. Leftist heads imploding. You don’t have to agree simply due to the fact another human has spoken. That instantly eliminates any possibility that mutual understanding or legitimately human compassion might occur. Sometimes I think these kids are just as scared of responsibility for their really good feelings as they are the opposite. I cannot imagine living in that self-imposed, mental hell.

      2. KKK is their thing, not ours. Just laugh when the Dems call you racist, just bring up their horrific history and their current patronizing view of the ‘black community’.

    5. Gru wrote, “Whole lotta KKK supporters in these comments.”

      That’s exactly the kind of bald-faced lying nonsense we expect around here from inciting internet trolls trying to attack with ad hominems and deflect the conversation and rile up those they hate. FOT.

  15. Would they have suspended him had he been seen supporting Antifa or some other violent left wing group? I think not. There is an odor of hypocrisy in this action

  16. Are you saying that this is a conservative professor? Because when I hear all the whining about the free speech rights of conservative professors, you really mean the free speech rights of the KKK.

    I am sure there have been laws put on the books in South Carolina to protect the rights of the KKK. Indeed, I am sure that the KKK members of the South Carolina government put them there.

    I think a University should be able to fire a professor who is in the KKK. I do not think this is a threat to conservative professors who want lower taxes. There are really not fine people on both sides of the KKK.

    1. Just FYI: I don’t disagree about the (Democrat founded, it wasn’t a ‘Right-wing’ group) KKK, but it’s worth noting that in modern times their ranks have dwindled to the point that the ENTIRE MEMBERSHIP would not fill a football stadium. Are those hangers-on reprehensible? Yes. Are they some kind of legally protected threat, or a majority? No. Not even close, this is not the 1950s and it’s stupid and counterproductive to pretend otherwise with all we have on our modern plates.

      I think if they tried to relive their glory days they’d likely be met by most with an uncomfortable chuckle, maybe a slightly sad shake of the head, before being passed on by. It’s also worth noting that, for better or worse, the Carolinas have been trending blue for some time. It isn’t ‘the Right’ making a lot of the laws there.

      1. James,
        Not lost on me the FBI tried to conflate white supremacists investigations and make it appear there more than there really were.
        Are there some out there?
        Are they in numbers that are actually a national security threat some claim?
        But then we have the left who declares anyone who disagrees with them, are white supremacists. Even if they are not white, like me.

        1. I think so too. There will always be pockets of racism, but in my experience no truly sane and self-actualized person on earth any longer holds onto it as a virtue. It’s a great diversionary tactic, though, due to that fact.

      2. South Carolina is not “trending blue.”

        SC Governor: Republican
        SC Lt. Governor: Republican
        SC Attorney General: Republican
        SC Secretary of State: Republican
        SC Senators: both Republican
        SC Representatives: 6 of 7 are Republican
        SC state House: 81 of 124 Representatives are Republican
        SC state Senate: 27 of 46 Senators are Republican

        The KKK is currently a right-wing white nationalist group.

        1. PS – and sure, there are psychos like David Duke. There are also people like Robert Byrd. funnily enough, no ideology has an exclusive license on bad actors or stupid ideas. The fact remains: factions of the Reconstructionists were pretty much responsible for the KKK, they were absolutely attempting to thwart the Republicans of the era, and that is whether we like it or not. Unfortunately, unfettered, hatred has a tendency to metastasize. That is precisely why so many of our modern issues are so concerning to so many.

          1. There are also people like Al Sharpton, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Bill DiBlasio, Bernie Sanders and others that have supported our enemies. Bernie HONEYMMONED in Moscow when the USSR was way more of a threat than they are today…crickets. Ted Kennedy went to Moscow to trash Reagan behind his back as he tried to work against the president. Ed Market DEMANDED that we disarm UNILATERALLY and he is also one of the reasons we can’t use nuclear power to the degree we actually need.

            Should all of the above be banned from government?

        2. They are the remaining Democrats, a fraction of their original size, ever since the Democrats refused to be members and chose to express their racism in other ways.

        3. The KKK is currently a right-wing white nationalist group.

          Yea I heard National figured head for the KKK, complain, Florida shouldn’t be shipping the illegals to NYC…”“We have a shortage of workers in our country, and you see even in Florida, some of the farmers and the growers saying: ‘Why are you shipping these immigrants up north? We need them to pick the crops down here,’”
          Sorry that was the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi Can’t separate the goals of he KKK from the Democrat Party.

    2. Rally–I am pretty sure you have no idea what you are talking about, but on the chance that you do, please enlighten all of us of the laws in SC protecting the KKK and specifiy the members of their government that put them there.

  17. Sigh. It’s all belief persistence and stimulus error on modern campuses, and the only way to fix it is for sanity to regain hold at some point; that, and saying, ‘No.’, which for many students, might very well be the first time in their lives they’re being asked to take the word seriously. The temper tantrums, though they still elicit a shaking of the head, I at least understand. The gymnastic twists of faculty et. al. make zero sense when it isn’t kids who are forking over the cash, and that will only be exacerbated in the future when we produce citizens that will be utterly incapable of participating in adult society in any meaningful way.

    If one didn’t know better, they might think human extinction was the ultimate goal. That or the most profound stupidity imaginable on display. After Harvard’s announcement that children, who do not even possess object permanence until after two years of age, somehow grasp, without a developed brain, the complexity and nuance of concepts like gender *while still in the womb*, makes me think it’s the latter.

    Honestly: how could one possibly realistically expect to have conversations of any import whatsoever in such an environment? It has all surpassed parody, and we will feel the reverberations for a long, long time. We have been dragged backward by decades or even centuries.

      1. I thought the same, because it is patently absurd, and from one of our most storied institutions. What happened to ‘clump of cells’? Guess only ‘cis embryos’ are inert matter. Maddening.

    1. And they’re weaponizing their rights while stomping on the rights of those they oppose. They’re f’ing hypocrites wielding immoral double standards.

  18. Ms. Davis sanctimoniously linked psychiatric resources to help people “process”.

    Dead giveaway that a kangaroo court has been assembled.

    Mr. Healy needs a lawyer, a ton of money, and the patience of Job.

    His ordeal is just starting.

    And the intimidation of conservatives by the left continues.

Comments are closed.