Comment Of The Day: “From The Ethics Alarms ‘Horrible People’ Files: The Vile Progressive Professor (Yes, Another One, and Yes, I Would Fire Her)”

More interesting musings on the proudly vicious Fresno State prof, who is the current poster model for many things: the ugliness of today’s political divide, the abuse of freedom of speech and academic freedom, and the arrogance of academia. I just realized that Randa qualifies as a fick, someone who “openly and blatantly violates social norms of responsibility, honesty or fairness without shame or remorse.”

Here is Humble Talent’s Comment of the Day on the post, From The Ethics Alarms “Horrible People” Files: The Vile Progressive Professor (Yes, Another One, and Yes, I Would Fire Her):

I’m seeing an absolute deluge of comments online rehashing the general theme of: “You free speech activists sure seem to discard your principles when it’s convenient.” And It’d like to take a moment to dissect that.

Before I get too far into these weeds, I want to make a distinction: I think the cleanest comparison between the left and the right on this issue would be the left’s protection of Randa Jarrar from firing, and a situation where the right protected someone who had invoked the ire of the left—let’s assume a Nazi. I don’t think there’s a large contingent of people lining up to say that employers should retain people who are openly anti-Semitic. There might be some, but I feel this would be the exception as opposed to the rule, and that these people would be warping the principle of free speech to things they shouldn’t. This means that almost by nature, the people saying variations of “You free speech activists sure seem to discard your principles when it’s convenient.” are almost certainly comparing apples to oranges.

But I think that those people don’t really understand the distinction that makes that true. Following that… Cast Iron Pot, meet Stainless Steel Kettle.  It would be great if just for once progressives actually lived up to their own ideals. If they believe, as they’ve been telling us for years now, that free speech has consequences, and they believe that this case is actually synonymous to all the other cases that they think prove the abject hypocrisy of the right, then by all means point out that hypocrisy, but do so in a way that doesn’t protect Jarrar… Because you’re admitting what she did wasn’t protected. Look, there’s a possibility that someone in any situation might be able to define a difference between two situations that you might not see. They might be wrong, but there could be at least a semblance of internal consistency, even if it’s flawed… If you think that this is the kind of situation that the free speechers would normally be defending but aren’t for partisan reasons, while simultaneously defending what you admit you would normally not specifically for partisan reasons, then you don’t even have the fig leaf of internal consistency and should hide your head in a sack.

The principle of free speech doesn’t make someone free from consequences, the people I’m interacting with would tell me  in every other situation this issue has come up. Talk about projection re: discarding principles! They’re probably confusing “consequence” with “prevention”. Free speech covers the right to speak, and the right to hear what someone else has to say, but it doesn’t mean that once you’ve said things, your employer cannot fire you, it doesn’t mean that your friends must remain your friends, that people cannot criticize your speech, or mock you for it. Although because of the First Amendment, in America unlike… say… the UK… whatever you say  won’t have you end up in jail (I’m thinking Markus Meecham).

Because we’re talking about a State school, the First Amendment actually does give her a little more protection than the average employee, but the First Amendment and tenure are not suicide pacts. There are specific tests to determine whether the professor was acting as an employee or as a citizen. Randa could not be fired merely for saying some variation of the theme “Ding Dong The Witch is Dead”, as distasteful as that is, on Twitter, because the government, even while happening to be an employer, cannot punish speech made outside the scope of an employment. The problem for Randa is twofold: One…. She tied some of her tweets to her employment, which is stupid in the extreme. And two: She directed harassment to the school’s crisis hotline. I think Jack is being overly kind here…. even if she wasn’t aware the phone number was the crisis hotline, she still knew that number wasn’t hers, and that SOMEONE would most probably be left bearing the brunt of her fallout. Either of those things individually would probably satisfy the legal tests to determine that the relationship between Randa and the government was more appropriately seen as employee/employer than citizen/government, and together the case is just stronger.

That’s the legal case… The principles question though…. Is the call for Randa to be fired materially different from calling for boycotts, de-platforming, and advertiser withdrawals? It’s amazingly easy to draw a distinction between the de-platforming movements and Randa. Randa is being punished for speaking, progressives are attempting to de-platform in order to prevent someone from speaking, and other people from hearing. But is there a distinction between calling for someone to be fired for gleefully celebrating the death of a person for purely partisan reasons and calling for the boycott of companies that have said something an individual deems offensive, or writing advertisers of those companies to have them pull their support?

I think that a distinction has to be made between punishing companies and individuals. Action against organizations should happen for organizational behavior, or behavior reasonably tied to that organization. Hannity failing to disclose the conflict of interest towards someone he featured on his program is Fox’s problem, The CEO of Chic-fil-A privately donating to a Prop-8 organization is the CEO’s problem.

But is a boycott of Fox News in the case above a free speech issue? Is there a material distinction between calling for Randa to be fired and calling for an organised boycott of Fox? I’m struggling with this perhaps more than I should be. What do you all think?


21 thoughts on “Comment Of The Day: “From The Ethics Alarms ‘Horrible People’ Files: The Vile Progressive Professor (Yes, Another One, and Yes, I Would Fire Her)”

  1. “She tied some of her tweets to her employment, which is stupid in the extreme. And two: She directed harassment to the school’s crisis hotline.”

    That last one’s the kicker for me. She directly pranked/hurt/punked/harmed her employer. Not as bad as SWATing someone, but it doesn’t have to be. She should be fired, no question. If she didn’t know what the phone number was, then she’s too stupid to have the keys to the place, so the end result is the same; fire her.

  2. I agree with Isaac. Although in either case, she should be fired. She presented herself as an employee, and, thus, representative of, the University. I doubt being tenured allows policy-setting.

  3. I think this goes beyond simple exchange of ideas. Freedom of speech is about the free flow of information, opinions, and ideas. The right to freedom of speech, like most rights in the Bill of Rights (other nations may differ) is not absolute, and can be restricted in terms of time, in terms of place, and in terms of manner. That’s where we get into the question of “shouting fire in a crowded theater” or the equivalent. The exchange of ideas, information, and opinions is one thing. Disruption of business, disruption of scheduled activities, and protests deliberately set up as provocations to violence are another. I have no problem with businesses chucking protestors out the door who are trying to disrupt commerce, the police cuffing and stuffing protestors who try to stop a scheduled activity, or the police coming down like a sledgehammer on Antifa.

    This deliberately outrageous behavior initially fell under exchange of ideas, opinions, etc. This woman posted deliberately inflammatory and hateful opinions on twitter before someone who had just died was even buried. Obnoxious? Yup. Rude? Yup. Baiting those who disagreed with her? Yup. But, the opinions that Barbara Bush was a racist or that her son was a war criminal are still protected statements of opinion. To hear the left lately, though, the protection for statements of opinion is very limited. This is the same left that, at least as far as the Duck Dynasty folks or Chick-fil-A, was of the opinion that you should be harassed, held up to ridicule, hated, and forced from your job for expressing opinions that didn’t gibe with theirs, but not arrested…yet. Lately they have moved to the opinion that certain expressions should be deemed “hate speech” and subject the speaker or writer to criminal liability. Suddenly, however, they are reversing course, and no one dares condemn this. If Hillary were to drop dead and I posted similar thoughts, starting with “Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead,” I’m sure the left would want me fired from my job, stripped of my license, and jailed for hate speech, even though there would be negligible difference between what I said and what this woman said. As I’ve often posted, if it were not for double standards, the left would have no standards at all.

    Thankfully, this woman’s idiotic posting of not just a real phone number, but a suicide crisis phone number as the place to tell her off crosses the line from exchange of ideas or information into disruptive behavior, and that’s enough to justify firing her ass, or would if she weren’t employed by a university populated entirely by either like-minded lefties or weenies too afraid to take action against her.

  4. I think some discussion of tenure and academic freedom is needed. There are calls to fire her and she claims she has tenure and is immune to being fired. This is when some people state they want to get rid of tenure. So, what was tenure for and what is academic freedom?

    Let’s cover a greatly simplified history of tenure first. In the old days (when even I was young), the university, much like the church, wasn’t a building, but was people. In early universities, students often met in the professor’s apartment or a rented room and sat on the floor copying the book he read along with his commentary. The university was just a bunch of faculty (often loosely associated with the church) and often didn’t have any physical presence. When new faculty came in, they were given a probationary period before being granted status as part of the university. This is similar to being a partner in a law firm. People with tenure were hard to get rid of because they were part of the university. Faculty weren’t merely employees. This tradition has been handed down over the centuries.

    Academic freedom is next. Academic freedom is necessary to have a western-style university. We have centered much of our research in our universities, so they need to be able to research things. The things they study are supposed to be on the edge of new knowledge, so by definition they will be controversial. In the past, we have valued people studying such things, so we guarantee that we won’t fire them if they find that cigarettes cause cancer, that the planet isn’t warming as fast as the UN says, or ways to make our food-crops pesticide resistant. That is academic freedom and the reason for it. Now, it has been used to say that you can’t fire a professor for any statement they make or any action they take at the university. I’m not sure that is really what it was intended to do, but some schools seem to take that interpretation.

    So, tenure and academic freedom aren’t the same thing, but they make professors harder to fire than most people. To fire this professor, you have to overcome 2 separate hurdles. Are her actions protected by her institution’s interpretation of academic freedom? If so, go no further and she can’t be fired tenure or no tenure. If what she did is not covered by her institution’s interpretation of academic freedom, what is the bar that allows her institution to fire a tenured professor?

    I suspect she will be fired even with those 2 hurdles in place. Academic freedom (in the original sense) is mostly dead at state schools. Try to have a researcher publicly speak about genetically modified foods. Just try. It will get cancelled due to ‘safety concerns’. The same thing will happen if you bring in someone who researches IQ in different populations. Too many topics have become taboo at the universities and you can’t do that and maintain a culture of academic freedom. Liberal topics seem to get a more generous treatment, but by demanding that non-PC topics be banned, leftists have greatly diminished academic freedom. As for tenure, most schools have provisions that say if you make the institution a national pariah and threaten funding, you are gone. I think those provisions are wrong because they are usually too broadly worded, (What if you report that a high-level administrator is sexually harassing the staff and it gets out? Isn’t that provision keeping people from reporting wrongdoing?) but they are there anyway.

  5. I saw this when it first came out and I hoped Jack wouldn’t take the bait and give this person the time of day. (Yes it angered me for about 15 seconds, the stupid professor not Jack.)

    My 2 cents mirrors a quote from a police officer.
    “I can’t arrest someone for being an asshole”.

    If you have to evoke freedom of speech then you shouldn’t have said it.

    • I don’t think you understand what ‘free speech’ really means, Scot.

      Free speech is not consequence free (except from certain governmental penalties) and is not a right granted from private people, organizations, or companies. Facebook, for example, can shut conservatives down if they like (and they are) since they are not a government organization. The optics may hurt their bottom line (which is why they hide this fact) but they cannot be sanctioned by the government for doing so, unless and until they become a ‘quasi governmental,’ regulated entity (which means new laws.)

      But your opinion is welcome here!

      (see what I did there?)

    • Free speech is not, among many other things, freedom from criticism, it is the freedom to criticize. And if one shouldn’t say anything that one might invoke free speech as a principle defending their utterance, then one cannot criticize, and life becomes a series of people rushing to say their position first, because that position becomes unassailable. It would devolve further though; If freedom of speech protects speech one might find offensive and you shouldn’t say something that one might invoke free speech as a principle to say, then one ought never speak, because anything worth saying will invariably offend someone.

      I mean…. What you just said offends me. What gives you the right to offend me? Why should you have that right?

  6. “If you have to evoke freedom of speech then you shouldn’t have said it.”

    I don’t see this as being any different from: “You have nothing to fear unless you have something to hide”, and strikes me as a severe misunderstanding of the free speech; both as a concept and as a right.

    • Ryan,
      I respectfully disagree that
      “You have nothing to fear unless you have something to hide”
      is the same as
      “If you have to evoke freedom of speech then you shouldn’t have said it.”.

      The one has to do with privacy and surveillance.

      My point was (maybe poorly presented), people say ignorant things and as their only defense, once the backlash starts, they hide behind “freedom of speech”. Yes, you can say or Tweet in this case, anything you want, but the person saying the ignorant things needs to be responsible for their words which many times doesn’t happen.

  7. Update: I was wrong. She is being protected by ‘First Amendment Rights”. Now the same system, that uses the same rules suspended all their fraternities and sororities because one of them did something ‘racist’. No double standard there.

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