2 Professors Face Discipline After Posting Flyers Denouncing a Conservative Colleague

There’s an intriguing and hard free speech controversy brewing at Tennessee Tech University.  Two academics, Julia Gruber and Andrew Smith, circulated a flyer accusing another scientist, Andrew Donadio, of being a racist and stating that he is”on our list.” They are now facing possible area.  It appears that this mess all started because Donadio applauded a bit too loudly at a meeting of the Putnam County School Board. The board rejected the proposition and Donadio, an assistant professor of nursing at Tennessee Tech as well as a nearby county commissioner, applauded loudly. What he did not know was that Gruber was sitting in front of him and found his applauding excessive and offensive.Gruber then contacted Smith, a professor of English at Tennessee Tech. Smith had a complaint with Donadio over his functioning as the advisor for Turning Point U.S.A..  The conservative type is frequently the goal of liberal academics and activists because it maintains a Professor Watchlist that tracks college who say”radical” or biased opinions in class.  The group insists that it is seeking to not only expose such bias except to allow pupils to avoid such classes.Smith and Gruber distributed a menacing-looking flyer of Donadio on a chair of knives (ala The Game of Thrones) that accused him of”hate speech” and becoming a racist. There is not any evidence to support claim.
The flyer stated in part:

“This racist school professor believed it would be a excellent idea to begin a Tennessee Tech chapter for this particular federal hatred group, where racist students can combine to frighten, threaten, intimidate, and terrorize individuals of color, feminists, liberals, and so on, especially [sic] their educators. Their organization made a national”Professor Watchlist” to frighten and bully innovative teachers, including most women, African American, and Muslim academics…
You are on our list. Your despise & hypocrisy aren’t welcome at Tennessee Tech. No more Unity With Racists. Hate Speech Is Not Free Speech.”

Following a complaint was filed by Donadio, campus police identified that the professors out of safety footage. The flyer’s reference to being on a list was viewed as threatening and the academics were also found to be in violation of two state policies, Firstthey are required to”conduct themselves fairly, honestly, in good faith and in compliance with the greatest ethical and professional standards.” Secondly, they must create”an environment that promotes academic freedom, diversity, fair treatment and respect for all faculty, staff, pupils and the general people.”
It is hard to defend the conduct of Smith and Gruber, that clearly sought to frighten a colleague for his political views.  They embody the intolerance for opposing views that is destroying higher education and free speech. Turning Point is a recognized student group on campus that Smith and Gruber were attempting to demonize and label a racist. The clear intent is to make it more difficult for students and faculty to support the class.
However, this was also an act of free speech. They are eligible to speak out against a colleague and they insist that the flyer’s reference to the list was meant to model the list from Turning Point.  I don’t find the reference as a plausible threat.
My next concern is that the faculty policies are so generally and ambiguously written that they can be used arbitrarily or capriciously.
That leaves us at a muddle.  The actions of Smith and Gruber have been in my opinion reprehensible in tagging a colleague as a racist who engages in hate speech. It was unfair and unsupported. If it were true, Smith and Gruber might have filed a complaint with the university. They could also have spoken or written against his perspectives instead of simply anonymously distribute rumors or allegations. They lacked the integrity or the courage to do .
Rather, they had to activate a campus backlash against a colleague.  It is hard therefore to accept their attempt to claim victim status once they sought to frighten Donadio because he glanced overly loudly and retains views that they oppose.
I believe that the behaviour of Smith and Gruber are worthy of condemnation and a possible official reprimand.  I wouldn’t support conclusion or stripping them . Repeated conduct could warrant increased punishment. That can be a close issue for me personally honestly as there are free speech values at stake on either side. The problem for me is that the attempt to harass and defame a colleague in this type of effort.  They also sought to label a student class as racist without making any formal complaint or provide any evidence to support that price.
1 course could function as Donadio to look for civil liability for defamation but that route would present serious challenges.  Donadio is a public and a public figure due to his county place and also his public advocacy.
The standard for defamation for public officials and figures at the USA is that the product of a choice more than 50 years back from New York Times v. Sullivan. Paradoxically, this is exactly the environment where the remark was written. The situation came out of the highly divisive span of the civil rights movement.  Even the New York Times had conducted an ad speaking about abuses of civil rights marchers and the arrest of Martin Luther King Jr. seven days. He was awarded $500,000 — a massive judgment for the moment.  Sullivan’s lawsuit was one of a number of civil actions brought under state laws that targeted Northern press covering the violence against liberty marchers.  The judgments represented a possible threat to the media and ordinary citizens in simplifying our politicians.
Even the Supreme Court ruled that tort law would not be able to be used to overcome First Amendment protections for free speech or the free media.  The Court sought to create”breathing room” to your media by highlighting that regular that currently applies to both public officials and public figures.
It would be tricky to sue Smith and Gruber more than claims that Donadio is a bisexual since that can be viewed as opinion and consequently protected address. Tort liability for those statements from the flyer would contravene center free speech rights.
Needless to say, Smith and Gruber were clearly hoping to frighten and silence Donadio (as well as students that are members of the category ) but they are not the step of free speech principles.  They are the test of free speech principles. We frequently need to protect the address of individuals like Smith and Gruber who small tolerance or respect for the free speech or academic freedom rights of others.
According to the school paper The Oracle, both Smith and Gruber were found guilty of violating university policies and are awaiting a decision on their punishment.