Tenured Professor Fired for Accurately Quoting Leading Campus Speech Code Case
I wrote about the case when the professor had merely been put on leave; now, he is “no longer employed by” the university (which, in this context, seems to mean that he has been stripped of tenure and fired). I thought I’d repost my analysis, but also add a link to Randy Kennedy’s and my draft article defending “Quoting Epithets in the Classroom and Beyond.”
Dambrot v. Central Michigan University (6th Cir. 1995) is one of the leading cases on the First Amendment and campus speech codes. It struck down a Central Michigan University speech code that banned, among other things, any speech
that subjects an individual to an intimidating, hostile or offensive educational, employment or living environment by … (c) demeaning or slurring individuals through … written literature because of their racial or ethnic affiliation; or (d) using symbols, [epithets] or slogans that infer negative connotations about the individual’s racial or ethnic affiliation.
But it also upheld the firing of a basketball coach who had used the word “nigger” in a motivational speech:
According to Dambrot’s testimony, Dambrot told the players they hadn’t been playing very hard and then said “Do you mind if I use the N word?” After one or some of the players apparently indicated it was okay, Dambrot said “you know we need to have more niggers on our team…. Coach McDowell is a nigger, … Sand[er] Scott who’s an academic All-American, a Caucasian, I said Sand[er] Scott is a nigger. He’s hard nose, [sic] he’s tough, et cetera.” He testified he intended to use the term in a “positive and reinforcing” manner. The players often referred to each other using the N-word during games and around campus and in the locker room. Dambrot stated he used the word in the same manner in which the players used the term amongst themselves, “to connote a person who is fearless, mentally strong and tough.”
The court concluded that the speech wasn’t on a matter of “public concern,” and thus not protected against the government as employer, because it wasn’t tied to any broader matters, wasn’t part of classroom teaching, and “served to advance n
Article from Latest – Reason.com