Jonathan Turley is fascinated with the issue of whether faculty members and employees generally should lose their jobs over controversial conduct outside of the workplace, particularly when it involves political speech. “There remains an uncertain line in what language is protected for teachers in their private lives,” the George Washington law professor writes. As I’ve discussed here before, I don’t think it’s nearly as uncertain as Turley does. When a faculty member’s conduct or statements on social media make an objective observer think, “No competent, professional institution would hire someone like this,” it’s bye-bye and don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
Even Turley seems to waver in this ridiculous case.
Conservative commentator Lucian Wintrich was about to speak on the topic “It’s OK to Be White”—I LOVE that topic!— at the University of Connecticut when a protestor grabbed his notes. He in turn tussled with her, causing a near riot, and campus police arrested him. The protestor was Catherine Gregory, associate director of career services at Quinebaug Valley Community College.
Today the University came to its senses (or realized public opinion wasn’t going to allow it to get away with its attempt at liberal fascism) and dropped the charges against Wintrich while charging Gregory.
What should happen to Gregory?
Gregory’s lawyer, Jon Schoenhorn argues that his client was justified in her actions because Wintrich’s views constitute “hate speech” and his actions “are beyond the First Amendment” in their insults to minorities. This is obviously nonsense, and I would argue it even qualifies as a frivolous and dishonest defense, an ethical violation. Unless the man is complete nitwit, he must know that there is no excluded variety of speech called “hate speech” that the First Amendment doesn’t protect. He’s lying, or he’s too incompetent to be a lawyer.
Rule 3.1 says in part,
“A lawyer shall not bring or defend a proceeding, or assert or controvert an issue therein, unless there is a basis in law and fact for doing so that is not frivolous, which includes a good faith argument for an extension, modification or reversal of existing law.”
Well, there is no such thing as a good faith belief that a court is going to defy the First Amendment and get away with it. I expect such anti-idemocratic garbage from the likes of, oh, Howard Dean, Reagan Chastain,, Facebook, Jamelle Bouie, the University of California at Berkeley, or Chris Cuomo.
All of these ignoramuses have declared that “hate speech” can be banned, but Dean is a doctor, Chastain is a fanatic, Facebook is a monster, Bouie is a racist, and Berkeley is Berkeley. They’re not lawyers…well, Cuomo is, but he’s an CNN journalist, so that cancels out any legal ethics or trustworthiness. Schoenhorn is a real lawyer. He’s supposed to know better.
More lawyerly, if ridiculous, is this part of his defense, via Turley:
“Schoenhorn… insisted that his client was merely trying in a “mild and measured way” to calm the situation. However, she was the one causing the commotion, not calming the situation. Schoenhorn added “What Ms. Gregory did was the equivalent of unplugging a microphone. It was not to stop a speech.” Hmmm, I think turning of a microphone is a way to stop a speech. Moreover, what was Gregory’s intention in stealing the speech if not to stop it.”
But enough about Gregory’s lawyer: she’s the one who needs to be fired. (He just needs to go back to law school.) Carlee Drummer, President of Quinebaug Valley Community College, issued a statement that such conduct would not be addressed by the college because “the employee attended the event as a private citizen.” She’s dead, dead wrong. As a private citizen, Gregory embarrassed her employer, defied basic values of a liberal education, and triggered the Ethics Alarms Bad Employee Principle: If what you do or say makes objective observers wonder if an educational institution with such an employee has the judgment and values to be trusted with the care of young minds, then the educational institution employing you should make you an ex-employee to protect the integrity and reputation of the school.
Turley, typically, won’t come out and say that this was a firing offense. Instead, he writes,
Unfortunately, college professors and administrators like Gregory have taught students that they do not have to respect the free speech rights of others under the same twisted logic. In a letter to the editor in The Daily Campus, student Emily Steck denounced the university for allowing [Wintrich’s] speech and supported Gregory’s disgraceful conduct:
“When your students were faced with the words of a man intending to incite anger, deny the reality of oppression and ultimately physically assault someone over A PIECE OF PAPER you were not there. What about this event made your administration believe that freedom of speech should be prioritized over hate speech?”
Steck’s inability to understand why freedom of speech would ever be “prioritized over hate speech” is a chilling example of the new legitimacy given intolerance and speech controls on our campuses. There is not a hint of concern that Gregory’s approach is a slippery slope that leads to the silencing of any voices that the majority deems “hateful.” Steck is part of a new generation of censors who have no understanding of the foundation of our society in core free speech principles.
And so? AND SO??? The Professor ends his post there. Allow me to finish it for him.
Fire Catherine Gregory.