The faculty was not happy when Joyner was widely quoted for telling the Times that “there are social aspects to sport, but physiology and biology underpin it… testosterone is the 800-pound gorilla.” As noted by Inside Higher Ed, the comments were picked up by various other media outlets as part of the ongoing controversy involving swimmer Lia Thomas.
The Mayo Clinic College of Medicine sent him a disciplinary letter that mandated that, in the future, he “vet each individual media request through Public Affairs including follow-up requests; allow them to do their job as they determine what topics are appropriate and are responsible for protecting Mayo Clinic’s brand and reputation… cease engagement in offline conversations with reporters,” and “discuss approved topics only and stick to prescribed messaging.”
Ordering faculty to ” stick to prescribed messaging” raises serious questions of academic freedom and free speech. Yet, while conservative sites have raised concerns, faculty members (including his colleagues at Mayo) are again conspicuously silent. The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) should be pursuing this matter with vigor. The 1915 AAUP Declaration called for the protection of both free speech and academic privilege. The Declaration stressed the guarantee of “unfettered discussion” free of the “prescribed inculcation of a particular opinion upon a controverted question.”
Likewise, the influential writer Roscoe Pound long ago objected to the idea that professors should “keep quiet or confine himself to classroom discussion on such subjects seems to me distinctly against the public interest.” He added:
“I do not see why the university professor should be restrained in any way in the discussion of any subject of public interest which comes within the scope of his studies . . . If he conducts his discussion as a scholar should, the fact that at the same time he makes a vigorous and possibly effective presentation of his views to the public ought not to be taken against him . . . In short, I think the scholars in this country have been altogether too meek.”
Mayo’s actions in this case are deeply troubling, and all professors should question the demand to adhere to “prescribed messaging” by an academic institution.
Here is the letter sent to Dr. Joyner.