By Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Susan Svrluga | Washington Post
Can a professor be fired for term?
This question is discussed after a professor incensed thousands of people with social-media comments a few hours after the death of Barbara Bush, the wife of former President George H.W. Bush and mother of former President George W. Bush. Randa Jarrar, a professor at Fresno State, went to Twitter earlier this week to attack the legacy of the former First Lady and give her names – and the professor seemed to mock her critics and tell them to send their complaints directly to the university president judge.  Many were furious with Jarrar's comments like "I'm glad the witch is dead." On social media, in public statements and direct appeals, people called on public university leaders to dismiss Jarrar.
These demands broke out of a debate on freedom of speech and academic freedom, and whether there are lines that even university professors can not cross.
"I'm never fired," Jarrar wrote on Twitter.
But experts for term said the protection is not unlimited.
"It is a common misconception that academic freedom is absolute," said Gregory Scholtz, director of the Department of Academic Freedom, Term and Governance of the American Association of University Professors, a group that defends professors' right to speak as citizens without being sanctioned. But a university can apply for a dismissal if a professor's speech ̵
"A faculty member may be accused of unethical behavior or may be charged with incompetence," Scholtz said. The association recommends that professors should be judged by a panel of peers who have not been unilaterally fired by an administrator or board.
Jarrar did not respond to requests on Friday. But the president of Fresno State, Joseph Castro, said in a press conference on Wednesday that – though he could not discuss details of the case of Jarrar because it is a personnel matter – officials would examine the facts, as well as the total collective agreement Fresno Bee. "A professor with tenure has no full protection to say and do what they want," said Castro. "We are all held accountable for our actions."
On Thursday evening, Castro made a statement stating that academic freedom was "the core of our university." He said he was a fervent supporter of this freedom. "I acknowledge that individuals in the exercise of freedom of expression can present personal opinions in a provocative manner, and I also appreciate the rights of the First Amendment of individuals, even if others may find the speech unpleasant and inappropriate."
Recognizing that people have different opinions about the right balance between freedom of expression and the responsibility to exercise them in a way that encourages constructive dialogue. We are constantly striving to achieve this balance.
Last year, Lars Maischak, a Fresno editor, passed away after announcing "Trump must hang."
Shortly after Bush's death, Jarrar was released this week, releasing a tide of tweets that left the legacy of According to Fresno Bee, Jarrar wrote: "I'm glad the witch is dead," Jarrar said. "Barbara Bush was a generous, smart and amazing racist who raised a war criminal with her husband."
, a professor of creative writing, wrote in another tweet, "I can not wait for the rest of her family to go down, as 1.5 million Iraqis do. Byyyeeeeee.
Her words did not go unnoticed, with more than 2,000 people responding to Jarrar before privatizing her Twitter account, the bee reported.
She cited her critics as "racists going mad in my mentions," and She said she had been attacked because she was "an Arab-American Muslim-American" woman with some punch. "
And most of all, she told them she was a retired professor, six-figure, with a solid work safety record.
Jarrar has even told people how to contact university staff if they want to move in a complaint:
"LOL let me help you tag my president @JosephlCastro What I love as an American professor is my right freedom of expression, and what I love about Fresno State is that I always feel protected and at home, "wrote Jarrar. "GO BULLDOGS!"
But on Wednesday, Castro told the bee that Jarrars comments were "beyond the freedom of speech, that was disrespectful."
The school paper Collegian wrote in an editorial: "In this age of extreme ideological divide, we ask why Jarrar felt the need to share their righteous thoughts the only place where something productive rarely happens," and finally "Jarrar chose a bad taste over wisdom."
The members of the Protection College have basic principles in higher education to make sure that they can tackle controversial and provocative ideas without fear of retaliation. But academic freedom and tenure are not a license to act unprofessionally, said Terry Hartle, a vice president of the American Council on Education. Generally speaking, not specifically about Fresno State, he said, the further a faculty member comes from uninterested academic inquiry, "the more likely questions will be raised about academic integrity and professional judgment."
Sigal Ben-Porath, professor of education at the University of Pennsylvania, said while Jarrars opinions were disrespectful and not thoughtful "about a person who was just dying and who valued many people … but it was clearly below that Protected First Amendment. "
Her comments have an additional layer of protection because Jarrar is a faculty member, Ben-Porath said. Tenure aims to promote a fundamental goal of universities – the expansion of knowledge – said Ben-Porath, author of the recently published book "Free Speech on Campus".
"This is part of what we expect as academics," she said: "… not only work on the dogma, but push the boundaries of what is acceptable, what people say, think or think That's the academic freedom. "
But it does not always work that way today, she said. "There are strong efforts by organized groups online to use the faculties as a way to silence the left language." In some cases, there have been violent threats against a professor or campus, and she said faculty members at some universities have lost their jobs through online protests.
Ari Cohn of the Foundation for Individual Educational Rights saw in the meantime a well-known pattern. "This is just a continuation of last year's appeal to faculty members for outrage mobs for saying something that offends people," Cohn said.
He was not surprised that people were so offended by comments so soon after Bush's death. But he said it was undeniable that Jarrar, a government employee, spoke privately on a matter of public concern by commenting on the policies of the Bush administration. "The state of Fresno could only punish this statement if it shows quite clearly that its interests are being damaged," Cohn said.
One thing is clear: social media reinforces both the reach of controversial commentary and indignation
The Foundation for Individual Education has teamed up with the ACLU of Northern California, the National Coalition Against Censorship and other organizations, and the president of Fresno Urged to stop investigating Jarrar, "The Fresno State Disagrees with the First Amendment and the Principles of Higher Education."
Diane Blair, Fresno State Communications Professor, Chairwoman of the California Faculty Association, said she could not confirm whether Jarrar had reached out to the union, but said, "In more general terms, we believe that faculty freedom of speech have rights, especially if someone speaks as a private citizen from a personal Twitter account and not as a representative the University. "
Even if a Univer Abolition of a permanent professor can make shooting a lengthy and costly legal battle.
In October, Michael Stuprich, According to Ithacan, he had filed a $ 1 million lawsuit in the English department of Ithaca College after he was released.
The lawsuit alleges that Ithaca College failed to conduct an academic procedure for a dispute over a student, and received a D in Stuprich's class, later alleging an e-mail Stuprich sent him off the mark was unnecessarily harsh. Stuprich said the university violated its own release policy.
In 2006, engineer Professor Debabrata Saha sued George Washington University for $ 1 million, having made Saha the first professor in the history of the university to have resigned, according to the George Washington Hatchet.
Faculty Review Panels Found Saha had not attended faculty meetings, submitted study assessments, or researched what they called a "monstrous and prolonged neglect of their professional duties," the newspaper reported. Saha had been suspended four times in eight years and was once removed from the classroom.
When the officials reported to Saha that they were reviewing the professor's term, the school police had to escort Saha out of the classroom.