Fourth Circuit Rules Against North Carolina State Professor Who Spoke Out Against Diversity Policies

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has delivered a body blow to free speech as well as academic freedom in a ruling against a statistics professor at North Carolina State University.  Professor Stephen Porter objected to what he considered the lower standards used by his school to hire minority faculty. The school declared such views as insufficiently “collegial” and retaliated against him. Now a divided panel has ruled that such views are not protected by the First Amendment — potentially opening up even greater retaliation against conservative, libertarian, and dissenting faculty. Rather than punish them for failing to echo the views of the schools, they can now be fired for their lack of collegiality in speaking against such policies and hires.

Just when you thought things could not get worse for the dwindling number of dissenting faculty, the Fourth Circuit just found a way. If this decision stands, “uncollegiality” will become the new code for retaliating against dissenters on faculties. Indeed, likability and collegiality were long denounced as excuses for rejecting (or poorly evaluating) female and minority candidates.

Judge Stephanie Thacker (right) wrote the opinion with Judge Andrew Wynn over the dissent of Judge Julius Richardson.

Thacker’s ruling in Porter v. Board of Trustees of North Carolina State University would effectively gut both free speech and academic freedom protections for dissenting faculty. It is not just chilling, it is glacial in its implications for higher education.

Porter is a tenured statistics professor in the college of education. It is an area that has been the focus of much controversy in recent years, including columns on this blog. We previously discussed how academics like University of Rhode Island Professor and Director of Graduate Studies of History Erik Loomis denounce statistics and science as “inherently racist.” Others have agreed with that view, including denouncing math as racist or a “tool of whiteness.” There are also calls for the “decolonization” of math as a field. Some like Luis Leyva, associate professor of mathematics education at Vanderbilt University has declared all math to be racist and that universities need to “reimagine” and structurally “disrupt” math departments.

Porter clearly does not agree with that viewpoint. He was opposed to what he viewed as the school elevating a social agenda above good scholarship. He specifically objected to what he viewed as a lowering of standards to hire minority faculty. He stated so freely to his colleagues in emails as well as at meetings. He also wrote a column expressing those concerns.

Thacker and Wynn dismissed his arguments that he was protected in expressing such viewpoints. The opinion is an exercise in willful blindness. The judges simply say that he was not punished for his viewpoint but his lack of collegiality. In doing so, they set aside the column which appears to have triggered many of his colleagues. Instead, they declare that this was speech tied to his job and does not relate to his research and teaching. In that way, the court avoids the necessity of applying the balancing test under Pickering v. Board of Education. Instead, the panel applied the more lenient standard under Garcetti v. Ceballos.

The panel decision runs against the grain of various prior decisions of the Supreme Court. For example, in Rankin v. McPherson, 483 U.S. 378, 387 (1987), the Court declared that a government employee was protected in expressing a highly offensive statement about the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan. The Court held that “the inappropriate…character of a statement is irrelevant to the question whether it deals with a matter of public concern.”

Judge Thacker simply ignored elements of the record to support the university’s actions against this dissenting colleague. The dismissal of the impact of the column was the most telling.

Judge Richardson stated in his dissent:

Porter published his blog post in September. Pasque suggested that he leave his program area at the October faculty meeting, and formally threatened to remove him in her November letter. Finally, she followed through on her threat in July, when she gave Porter his annual evaluation.”

If this decision is not reversed, things are likely to get far worse (if possible) for conservative, libertarian and contrarian faculty members. Rather than investigate, sanction, or fire faculty for their viewpoints, schools will now simply declare them uncollegial in raising such viewpoints.  School or board officials like John Corkins will no longer have to say that dissenting faculty should be “taken to the slaughterhouse” for their anti-diversity views. They can be “culled” on collegiality grounds.

We have already seen a purging of faculties of conservative and libertarian colleagues. We previously discussed how surveys at universities show a virtual purging of conservative and Republican faculty members.  For example, last year, the Harvard Crimson noted that the university had virtually eliminated Republicans from most departments but that the lack of diversity was not a problem.  Now, a new survey conducted by the Harvard Crimson shows that more than three-quarters of Harvard Arts and Sciences and School of Engineering and Applied Sciences faculty respondents identify as “liberal” or “very liberal.” Only 2.5% identified as “conservative,” and only 0.4% as “very conservative.”

Likewise, a study by Georgetown University’s Kevin Tobia and MIT’s Eric Martinez found that only nine percent of law school professors identify as conservative at the top 50 law schools. Notably, a 2017 study found 15 percent of faculties were conservative.

Compare that to a recent Gallup poll stating, “roughly equal proportions of U.S. adults identified as conservative (36%) and moderate (35%) in Gallup polling throughout 2022, while about a quarter identified as liberal (26%).”

Once “uncollegial” conservatives are eliminated, that number could reach a statistical vanishing point for Professor Porter and the dwindling number of dissenters and nonconformists in higher education.

Here is the opinion: Porter v. Board of Trustees of University of North Carolina State University.

152 thoughts on “Fourth Circuit Rules Against North Carolina State Professor Who Spoke Out Against Diversity Policies”

  1. with all due respect to the Chief Justice, there is such a thing as an “Obama judge” (as this decision demonstrates)

  2. In part 3 of the novel 1884, the government’s goal is to brainwash Winston Smith so that he no longer believes the math he was taught. This is now happening right before our very eyes.

  3. Wow, liberty and free speech were murdered by liberal arrogance and ignorance, and few tried to stop it until it was too late. If they can get away with doing this to Mr. Porter, it will make it much easier to do it to YOU and I next time.

    1. Progressives are actually the antithesis of real (Classical) Liberals. Even the name they stole is a lie.

  4. Just look at that picture of Judge Thacker ,that is your proof positive that women should never be judges… they’re just not equipped for it….not up to the task.
    Judge Thacker looks like she she should be refilling my coffee, not as a judge.
    It’s across the board you name the woman judge and will can list all foolish illogical rulings.
    It’s more than the Peter Principle.
    They shouldn’t be able to vote either

    1. Demunists think “The Prisoner” was a DIY video series.

      Loved the weather balloon…

  5. Universities were once places know for exchanges of ideas. Different ideas. The left killed that. Fortunately they can’t stop the exchanges elsewhere.

  6. We rely way too much on the courts to decide how we should live life. If the court is on the other side of your political views, you’re toast. Our forefathers didn’t rely on the courts as much as we do.

    1. False premise. If the court is on the side of our Constitution, it protects everyone from the tyranny of the majority.

      Totalitarian rule is not an individual right; Demunists do not simply have “another viewpoint that is equally valid.” Their viewpoint is inferior, dysfunctional, and abusive.

    2. EVERY man and woman who gets dragged into the legal system for ANY reason, needs to INSIST upon this one thing and one thing ONLY!! Demand that you be shown in writing, your guarantee of actually getting a fair trial! It is totally impossible to get a fair trial, so that makes it either one of two things, a gamble, or a scam that is being run on us all!! If there is a third option that we are lawfully obliged to take, then someone needs to point out to me what it is!!
      No man nor woman can be forced to make bets or to get involved in any kind of a crime, if they don’t want to do it!

  7. Liberal radicals have owned American education for decades. Consequences for tolerating this insanity are now becoming even more starkly damaging to our fragile republic and our childrens’ futures.

    1. They are not real (Classical) Liberals, but rather it’s antithesis. Even their stolen label is a lie.

  8. In a NYTimes column following the recent SCOTUS decision on affirmative action John McWhorter, reflecting on how he and other Blacks at Columbia not only benefited from the practice but by his inclusion in selection committees he participated in it, said, “In the grand scheme of things, my feeling uncomfortable on a graduate admissions committee for a few years during the Clinton administration hardly qualifies as a national tragedy. But I will never shake the sentiment I felt on those committees, an unintended byproduct of what we could call academia’s racial preference culture: that it is somehow ungracious to expect as much of Black students — and future teachers — as we do of others.”

    McWhorter is always artful in his speech, but, this is pretty uncollegial treatment of his selection committee colleagues. There are reasons why Columbia is not going to bring down the hammer of racialist ideology on McWhorter while UNC State ed school has no trouble with that. That still doesn’t explain how the Appeals Court can make their head-scratching and tendentious distinction between uncollegial speech and protected speech.

  9. Well this is a wrongful termination suit. No one is taking about calling the cops on him. I myself doubt there were grounds for a firing here. But he is the plaintiff. He has to get the ball across the 50 yard. So if he provides the University with other reasons to fire him than the one he alleges, it puts the Court in a more difficult position. And his e-mails in the opinion show someone who can be unprofessional at times.

    I don’t see Professor Turley sending out those kinds of e-mails. He strikes me as someone who has a certain amount of self-control, professionalism, as well as the brains not to open himself up to the kinds of accusations the University could make in this case.

  10. “Western Civilization [. . .] started because of Christendom replacing the collapse of the Roman Empire . . .”

    That is a howler, that flatly contradicts the history of ideas.

    Western civilization (its basic ideas and values) began in ancient Greece (especially the 5th c. BC). Starting c. 500 AD, Christianity thoroughly rejected Western civilization’s ideas and values. Then Christian intellectuals and leaders spent the next some 500 years trashing everything important to Western civilization — from its knowledge, to its art, to its books, to its buildings, to its relative political freedom.

    It took the Renaissance, after centuries of darkness, to loosen the shackles of Christianity — and thus to rediscover the ideas and values of Western civilization.

      1. “I do hope . . .”

        Perhaps someday you’ll learn to engage the ideas and arguments — rather then spew playground insults.

    1. You started strong, then took a left turn.

      Christianity literally adopted Western ideals. Even the date for Christmas was chosen to replace the pagan winter solstice.

      The Catholic Church, on the other hand, was an abomination which utterly usurped the name of Christianity while ruthlessly violating it’s founding principles. Rather than “church” being an act anyone could perform anywhere (original word for church was a verb, meaning “the coming together of two or more people in the spirit of god”), an act which most decidedly did NOT require a priest (the reason Christ was killed in the first place, because his teaching was a direct threat to the power of the Pharisis), and replace those with literally a religious government dictating to each and every person what they where to think about God. THIS is what resulted in the Dark Ages – not actual Christianity. Today such totalitarians would find their home in the Demunist party.

      1. “. . . not actual Christianity.”

        You are mistaken.

        It was faith that killed reason (a Western ideal), mysticism that killed a this-worldly focus, revelation that killed logic, original sin that killed morality. (Just to name a few) The dates of holidays and ecclesiastical hierarchy are completely derivative issues.

      2. Jonathan, if I can add two points?

        The Jews and later the Christians adopted Grecian ideals, while the Greeks adopted Jewish ones. Both cultures incorporated parts of the other into their own cultures.

        I thought the idea that the Pharisees killed Jesus was abandoned by those most knowledgeable. The evidence points towards the Romans as the killers of Jesus.

        Most of the elements involved in Jesus’ death were impermissible under Jewish law, and there was no reason for the Pharisees (Jews) to kill him. The manner of his death was a Roman method unheard of in Jewish history.

        The times were very tumultuous when Pontius Pilate, a cruel person, surrounded the city with troops. There is little doubt; the Jews did not kill Jesus; the Romans did.

    2. Paradoxes abound. Look around the world–what countries protect women’s rights? Interesting web search is “women’s rights in —” and fill in that blank comparatively. What places still practice cliltoridectomy? (The ones invading Europe–which they first tried to do in 711 AD.) Leftist academic Juan Cole has authored a book about how Mohammed was a “prophet of peace”. See if women in China can sue over “harassment”.

      And in what countries did modern scientific progress emerge? What cultural system produced Edison, Ford, Wright brothers, Robert Goddard? Interesting to speculate on why Tesla chose the US to emigrate to.

      Abolition and women’s suffrage were incubated in churches. So was modern civil rights. (Little-known footnote that the mass movement in then East Germany that took down the Wall started when the authorities permitted a small group who met in a church courthyard to “pray for peace”.) I wonder where all these crazy ideas about “equal treatment” and “cruel and unusual punishment” came from? (BTW China executes so many people it does not acknowledge the number or even the practice and any Chinese who objects to this OR the organ harvesting on a mass scale faces summary execution themselves.) Who’s idea was this “free trade”? See Cleon Skousen’s “45 Goals of Communism” (1958) and pay particular attention to #4.

    1. Ideas can’t die. They can be suppressed, for a while, just as an abusive spouse can suppress their partner. Eventually, something gives.

  11. I’ve read the Opinion. The Court decided his Speech was not protected because it was as an employee and not public. Evidently his public status as a citizen of the State and a taxpayer doesn’t count.
    Perhaps the lesson to be learned is not to attempt change internally. It is better to expose ridiculous faculty decision in the classroom or in public, all while being ‘congenial’ in staff meetings.

    1. But have you read the Constitution and 1st Amendment?

      1st Amendment

      Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech,….

      If Congress shall not abridge speech, public institutions shall not abridge speech.

      NC State shall not abridge speech; NC State must create a licit and constitutional “work-around.”

      Private property owners, solely, may “claim and exercise” dominion.

      Public property administrators must adhere to the Constitution.

      Harvard is private.

      NC State is public.

      “[Private property is] that dominion which one man claims and exercises over the external things of the world, in exclusion of every other individual.”

      – James Madison


      2. If courts will not rule in accordance to the law, your “rights” are merely an illusion.

    2. I’ve read the opinion as well. The plaintiff’s blog post was deemed protected speech because it was outside of the realm of the college while his work emails, deemed unprotected, were work-related, about neither scholarship nor teaching. The lesson here is that, if you want to create change from the inside, do so in a very controlled collegial manner. If you want to spew sarcasm, that’s still protected outside of one’s employment where citizen speech remains protected.

  12. The answer is Artificial Intelligence Professors via AI-based Automated Virtual Proctoring Systems via Online-Schools over Virtual Reality Headset. The Student will get the Classroom immersion with a AI-Neutralized educational experience. And the bonus savings of not having to support the Cost of a University Campus and redundant Staff. An unlimited amount of Students can enroll at a variety of Virtual Campuses (i.e.: The Harvard Experience, The Stanford Experience, The University of Chicago Experience …on-and-on)
    Depending of the curriculum and desired degree, a Mix-n-Match of University experiences can be made. For example if you desire a joint J.D.|M.B.A degree, one could get a Law Degree from Stanford Law School and a MBA from Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management. No matter where you are on the planet. The possibilities are endless.

    All I want for Christmas is an AI-Virtual Professor Turley – O.M.G. can you imagine! How sweet it is !!!

    1. Academia will demand that the Communist Manifesto be downloaded into the system, and the result with generative AI will be the same as with humans.

      Basically, they all learn to covet; they all learn that life owes them, and, of course, other people’s money pays those debts.

      1. I read a while back that when AI was taught to be leftist, it inevitably went insane due to the internal contradictions it had to hold. As one example set: “believe all women” and “men can be women if they say they are”.

      2. After a long argument with ChatGPT, it finally admitted that it can only express what’s been downloaded into its mind. If only Progressive ideas are downloaded, its intelligence would be artificially skewed.

      1. I tested a number of historical controversies using the Microsoft Chat thing they put in the Edge browser. Carroll Quigley, Antony Sutton, “The Gray Lady Winked” (a demolition of the NY Times UNjustified role as the “newspaper of record”). It produces high-qualty renditions of Quigley and Sutton and found the SOLE review of the “Gray Lady” book (an indirect acknowledgement that this book is being censored by the corporate media and THAT GOES FOR FOX TOO.

        However: if you go anywhere near really “hot” items like the FBI could not find the bullet in the Vince Foster case, the homicides associated with LBJ and his crimes tied to Bobby Baker, just to mention a couple–the AI has clearlly been manipulated to spit out the same drivel the various puppet “fact check” things funded by either Gates, Zuckerberg, or Bezos (Newmark from CraigsList is big on this too).

        And don’t even bother to use it to sort out the evidence about Covid. Though on some other technical evidentiary matters it’s quite good (the “grassohol”–cellulosic ethanol that was supposed to be our salvation just 10 years ago).

        AI has already been contaminated with PC.

    2. Higher Ed has been dragging it’s collective feet on delivery-through-internet since it started. It is mired in a “rationing” mind set that infected education in general starting in…the 60s. There are a few exceptions but the “name brand” places will never let go of their quasi-monopoly of “prestige”. How long can they go along producing hideously expensive and near-worthless degrees? Hopefully the recent Supreme Court decision plus the real-world evidence of pervasive shortages of “hands on” skill sets you DON’T need a degree to get might turn us in a better direction. Biden’s scam what simply a back door to gigantic subsidy for his base of neo-communist hackademics.

      Those who doubt there is systemic mind control through media in place should have to explain what the elites that come out of these few institutions have delivered: Viet Nam, inflation, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, all while trashing a banking system that had been the most reliable system ever for 60 years–while producing the worst inequality since the Great Depression. Now they complain about the results of their own policies?

  13. How could this not violate free speech? Why does one have to identify as a conservative to object to lowering standards to obtain racial quota hires, or to diversity being skin deep?

    Years ago, after the 1965 Watts Riots, it was determined that black majority neighborhoods should be served by majority black medical staff in the local hospital. King/Drew Medical Center was created, in direct contrast to MLK, Jr’s dream of his children being judged on the basis of their character, with the goal of hiring almost exclusively black people for all positions, from janitorial staff to surgeons, lowering standards in order to fulfill the goal of everyone having similar skin tone.

    King-Drew Medical Center promptly became one of the most deadly hospitals in the US. It had the highest rate of medication mistakes and malpractice. It had one of the nation’s highest patient mortality rates due to medical mistakes in the nation, for 32 years. It was fairly common for patients to die waiting to be seen in the ER, or abandoned on a gurney in a hallway. Surgeons were charging more than 24 hours a day in work hours. The humble chair became the most dangerous object in the hospital, as scores of staff went out on paid medical leave, claiming to have fallen over backwards in a chair and hurt themselves. When the hospital was in danger of losing accreditation, due to total incompetence, far Left activists claimed that the accreditation process was racist, attempts to close and restructure the hospital was racist, and got mobs of people to come protest. Appalling amounts of money was sunk into the hospital, to no avail. The activists simply ignored the indisputable fact that it was more dangerous for local residents to go to King-Drew, than it was to drive to literally any other hospital. The activists liked having an all black hospital, and would fight to keep it that way, though it was killing black patients.

    King Drew eventually lost accreditation in 2005. In 2006, it lost $200 million of its $380 million operating budget after it failed to pass Medicaid and Medicare inspections. Activists claimed this was white supremacy limiting locally available healthcare. They looked at the color disparity, not the cause of the problem, or consequence for the community.

    King Drew was an early experiment in DEI before the acronym existed. It promised local, quality, affordable health care from a diverse, minority dominated staff. What it delivered was medical malpractice and patient deaths. The lessons of King/Drew should be remembered when government promises “affordable healthcare” or touts the importance of skin deep diversity.

    King/Drew was not a stronger, more advantageous hospital due to its skin deep diversity hires. It was a death trap. True diversity would have been a broad offering of medical talent, which has nothing at all to do with skin color. A black doctor hired under a competitive meritocracy would be a highly talented, skilled medical professional. Instead, King/Drew filled quotas.

    1. A classic case study in blackness.
      No matter how much us white folk try that’s going to be the end result for blacks it’s just who they are.
      Why do we think we can change them.

    2. Carbon Copy of what they did to the Oakland California Fire Department. Started out in the 80s with Some People could not pass the written qualifying exam and by the early 90s you had the Oakland Hills Fire killed 28 (you can see terror videos of it on Youtube). They had just imported an inexperienced 39-year-old Chief from New Jersey chosen solely for racial ID. Demorallized personnel slid to lower-going-on-no standards. They kept it up and a few years back produced the Ghost Ship Fire killed 36. Inspection personnel had been in front of a warehouse that was supposed to be empty with the doors chained shut 3 weeks before the fire. Whole place honeycombed with live/work spaces including welding and open flames/torches. 100% illegal against zoning and code; live music events with cash admission were advertised on the internet. At the trial for the on-site managers evidence was shown of fire and police department personnel inside the building during music events. All supervised by another AA hire chosen for race (and gender) ID. Her response to criticism post-disaster was to threaten to sue people for defamation; then she took a settlement to walk away and retired (for the 2nd time she had deal for captain rank out of San Jose before she took the Oakland gig).

      I was warned of this by a Berkeley cop walking a beat by the UC campus in 1999. He called it “check the box” as he had “been aced out on a gender ID” box check from a promotion he thought his 20-year spotless record qualifed him for plus he was the one ethnicity not yet present at that rank (Hispanic). “Check the box” degrades everything because once it sinks in that your fate is tied to your box, why try to do anything but a minimal effort?

  14. Thacker: Obama appointee. Wynn: Clinton appointee. Loathsome leftist toadies.

  15. Virtue signaling vs Walk the talk.

    Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream fame recently blustered that Americans reside on stolen lands from Native Indians. So it follows: what will Ben Cohen do now that a Native American tribe that originally controlled the land in Vermont that Ben & Jerry’s headquarters is located, wants the land returned to them?

    Indigenous Chief Wants To Take Back Ben & Jerry’s HQ Built on ‘Stolen’ Land

    1. Estovir, I was waiting for this one. Not in my back yard, or was that your back yard.

  16. Nothing wrong with cultivating good will and respectfulness among colleagues, but it is not a criterion that can be used to retaliate against someone who speaks on matters that are simultaneously of much and growing interest in the public domain. Two of the three judges in this appeal gave scant recognition to the fact that criticism pertaining to the administration of academics is a topic of considerable concern in much of public discourse today. The two have also trivialized, if not overlooked entirely, that persons are always citizens first before they are defined as employees or anything else. As an employee, Porter cannot be required nor even expected to surrender his rights of citizenship for the cause of collegiality or anything else. Had, as Judge Richardson said in his dissent, the facts alleged in the complaint been read in a light most favorable to Porter, as called for in the case law, his case would be headed back to the district court where Porter would be allowed to challenge before a jury the evidence the University depends upon to justify its action.

  17. Somehow these glorious institutions of higher learning continue to find various ways of losing in court. The losses and cost of litigation are beginning to pile up. Picture mounds of cash that you give to Universities like North Carolina State being shelled out to opportunistic lawyers in the pursuit of censoring those that they do not agree with. If you are giving money to North Carolina State you should consider putting your money in a school where diversity of thought is considered to be important. If you are an American citizen with a vote who’s tax dollars go to woke Universities you should consider voting for a candidate who believes in the diversity of thought and free speech. If you don’t believe in these things you should continue to vote for a Democrat.

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