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Warren Community College: A Lesson in Freedom of Expression

When I think how lightly I tread in the classroom and at the university, I’m just blown away by stories like this:

Rebecca Beach, a Warren [Community College in New Jersey] freshman, received a nasty surprise in response to her e-mail to faculty announcing the appearance of decorated Iraq war hero, Lt. Col. Scott Rutter, to speak today.

Professor John Daly e-mailed her back. Read the whole story and the professor’s e-mail in its entirety here.

Referring to Rebecca’s poster advertising the event, the professor wrote…

“Your literature and signs in the entrance lobby look like fascist propaganda and is extremely offensive.”

We discover that the good Mr. Daly included the following in his spewing, vile message:

I am asking my students to boycott your event. I am also going to ask others to boycott it.

and

I will continue to expose your right-wing, anti-people politics until groups like your won’t dare show their face on a college campus.

… and just for good measure

Real freedom will come when soldiers in Iraq turn their guns on their superiors and fight for just causes and for people’s needs…

A real class act, John Daly.

Apparently, a few folks are ticked off. When you try to go to Warren’s home page, you now get a news article about the incident. I find this comment from the College President, Dr. William Austin, well, puzzling:

I personally find Mr. Daly’s e-mail disgraceful and offensive, yet I must maintain that the college be a place for free expression, ideas, and open debate.

I think there must be a typo here. Surely he meant to say “… and I must maintain that the college be a place for free expression…” Because it seems to me like it’s Mr. Daly who is suppressing free expression by using his position as a faculty member to threaten a student and a student organization.

It is interesting to contrast this with the case of poor Jihad Daniel, a student and employee at another NJ school, William Paterson University. Mr. Daniel made the mistake of responding privately to a campus-wide email by a Women’s Studies Professor announcing a lesbian film on campus. He simply noted his belief that lesbianism is a perversion and asked not to receive any more emails on the subject. He was punished for, essentially, making the professor feel “threatened.”

So at one NJ school, a student is punished for stating his beliefs, while at another, a professor’s email threat to crush a political student group is seen as “free expression.” What am I missing?

To be fair, Warren claims to be investigating the whole incident. It will be interesting to watch. It will especially be interesting to note how often the phrases “academic freedom” and “freedom of expression” are used, and in whose defense.

(Hat tip: Junkyard Blog)

18 Responses to “Warren Community College: A Lesson in Freedom of Expression”

  1. Robert Says:

    “Your literature and signs in the entrance lobby look like fascist propaganda and is extremely offensive.?

    Aside from the mind-blowing unprofessionalism that this episode brings up — if you’re going to abuse your position as a professor to try to push a poorly thought-out leftist agenda on a student, you could at least get exercise decent grammar and get your subjects to agree with your verbs.

    And you have to love how the college’s first move is to protect the professor’s “freedom of speech” and blame the student for causing trouble. Sheesh.

  2. albeej Says:

    Did you ever throw fish food into hatchery water and watch it boil from the residents at the bottom surfacing to feed? That is exactly what [the] Beach did with John Daly’s personal email.
    She wasted no time feeding the bottom-feeders, the likes of Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly.It isn’t that these cold-blooded journalistic vertibrates needed this particular brand of food(they manage to eke-out enough conservative crap to pollute a TV slot each night)no, it was her way of gaining notoriety that she knew the email would bring.
    Beach knew that Daly was a member of the anti-war group International A.N.S.W.E.R. To ask him to inform his students about the upcoming visit by retired (Hawk) Lt.Col. Scott Rutter was an absurd request and probably not within the realm of his expected duties.
    Daly’s opinion was for Beach’s benifit, not the worlds.
    And this man better not suffer any loss due to a untrustworthy student and a politically correct college for expressing his right to free speech…especially private free speech.

  3. David Says:

    OK, Albee, so a student sends an email to all faculty and one of the faculty members responds with a threatening email. Personal account or not, I just don’t see how that’s “private free speech.”

    One of FreedomFolks’ commenters made the following point: “.,,if a male, part-time college instructor uses his personal e-mail address to send a female unsolicited invitations to go on a date or perform some sort of “personal” business with him, that would be okay because it didn’t go through his school account???”

    Regarding your statement that “Daly’s opinion was for Beach’s benefit,” another of FreedomFolks’ commenters points out, an opinion is more like, “I’m afraid I cannot accept your invitation, I personally do not share your political views. Thank you for asking.” Vowing to drive a legitimate student group off campus is not an “opinion.”

  4. Robert Says:

    albeej, you’re being awfully selective in how you read this story. Go to the Freedom Folks’ link David posted and read the whole thing. Daly threatened a student and vowed: “I will continue to expose your right-wing, anti-people politics until groups like your won’t dare show their face on a college campus.” Free speech is not an absolute: making threats toward students from the authority position of a professor is way over the line, regardless of whose email he was using at the time.

    If Daly isn’t smart enough to figure out that a college campus is meant to DEBATE ideas rather than to threatened to eliminate them, then he has no business in the profession. And franky, if you can’t figure that out either, then you have no business commenting on it.

  5. albeej Says:

    Two questions: How did the email wind up in Hannity’s hands and why?
    One statement: The moon is made of green cheese.
    David stands a better chance of shooting down the above statement with his arguments than his most recent post.
    He uses freedomfolks commenters (I’ve read them all)as some form of reference text in constructing the body of his rebuttal.
    The problem with that approach is that it is flawed. Most of the comments are based on conjecturable scenarios….pure and simple.

  6. David Says:

    Albee:

    One answer: I don’t really care how it ended up in Hannity’s hands. That’s not where I saw it anyhow, so it’s not clear to me how that’s even relevant. I guess when students are threatened by faculty members, you want them to keep their mouths shut. Now maybe she could have gone to the administration first (I need to be consistent with my criticism of the LA City College bball players), but it hardly excuses what Mr. Daly did.

    As for my sources, I used FreedomFolk’s commenters’ comments because I found them useful in my response to you. That’s hardly a flawed approach. I like to give credit where credit is due.

    One of the comments I quoted had to do with the definition of an opinion — that is not based on a “conjecturable scenario,” it’s based on an understanding of the English language. The other was indeed based on a scenario. There’s nothing wrong with speculating what would happen if the tables were turned.

    Here’s another scenario, just for grins: every year, I get an email from our university’s Women’s Center, advertising yet another performance of The Vagina Monologues. It comes from the director of the Women’s Center, but let’s say that next Spring I get the announcement from a student involved with the production. Let’s also say that I come home that afternoon and fire off an email (from my personal account) telling her that I am extremely offended by the whole concept surrounding the play and that I’ll tell my students they should not attend. And that I will do all that I can to see that this play is never performed again on campus. Now let’s say that she gives my email (sent just for her benefit and not for the world) to Al Franken or (to increase the fun!) NPR. In the ensuing controversy, how likely do you suppose it is that my chancellor would write a letter defending my right to free speech? Maybe you think he should, but I don’t think it would happen (I’m on pretty good terms with our chancellor, but I’m sure he has his limits).

    If you still don’t like “conjecturable scenarios,” then let’s just consider Jihad Daniel (third paragraph from the end of the post). He is a real person, whose letter was not nearly so vitriolic as Mr. Daly’s, and he’s a student. So we have two contrasting examples, both from schools in NJ. Is that more solid for you?

    The moon isn’t made of green cheese! Hah! Next you’ll be telling me there’s no Easter Bunny.

  7. Robert Says:

    Albeej, your comments read as if they were created using the Dilbert mission statement generator. “The problem with that approach is that it is flawed.” Huh?

  8. albeej Says:

    English 101:

    threat (thrµt) n. 1. An expression of an intention to inflict pain, injury, evil, or punishment. 2. An indication of impending danger or harm. 3. One that is regarded as a possible danger; a menace. –threat tr.v. threat·ed, threat·ing, threats. Archaic. To threaten.

    Mr. Daly’s letter does none of the above. He simply told Beach his future actions regarding the matter(privately, I might add)

    As for Grin scenerios…I find no humor in trying to destroy a persons reputation and livelyhood.

  9. David Says:

    Expressing intent to attempt to shut down a student organization = punishment

    Promising to use your power and resources against one in a less powerful position = indication of impending danger

    All of the above = actions of a menace

    What? Does he have to come at her with a knife, or promise to steal her firstborn? Come on, albeej.

    And enough with the “privately” business. That is a red herring. He’s hardly in the clear for having communicated this privately. What if he had sent her a pornographic image privately? (Oops, there’s that scenario business again).

    I find no humor in what this guy did, and I don’t imagine Ms. Beach did, either. Although I’m beginning to find it laughable that this guy was employed as a college educator.

  10. albeej Says:

    I guess a tempest in a teapot could be interpeted as a catagory five hurricane;and a mole hill into a mountain by people with an axe to grind…..yes, I can understand that!

  11. albeej Says:

    I like to acknowledge Jamie Lemelledo, the only student at WCCC with moxie who defended John Daly’s right to free speech. Wish there were more like you in this country.
    As for all you assassin’s in here: You can wipe the poison off your type keys, now. You succeeded again in destroying another persons reputation and Livelyhood.
    I really do understand why Liberals stand at least a ten-foot-pole distance to the left of you people.It is to avoid any contact with your Far-right contagion.

  12. David Says:

    As for all you assassin’s in here

    Wow! Now who’s over-reacting? You’ll note that nobody on this thread called for Daly’s firing. But I will say this — now that Daly has resigned, maybe Warren will hire a replacement who will spend his class time teaching English instead of pushing a political agenda on students.

    As for Daly’s right to free speech, I never said he didn’t have such a right. However, he does not have the right to use his position to try and supress open debate on campus. That should have been the basis for any job action.

    You succeeded again in destroying another persons reputation and Livelyhood..

    Let’s talk about attempts to destroy peoples’ reputation and livelihood: there’s George Fletcher at Columbia, Gar y Hull at Duke, Thomas Klocek at DePaul, and K. C. Johnson at Brooklyn College. I’ll admit that I cherrypicked all of these from FIRE’s website, but the point is to show that the Left is not without guilt in the cause of suppressing free speech on campus.

    I really do understand why Liberals stand at least a ten-foot-pole distance to the left of you people.It is to avoid any contact with your Far-right contagion.

    “Sticks and stones,” and all that. Thanks for such a reasoned debate point.

  13. Rhymes With Right Says:

    Albee

    Suppose this had been an email from the campus chapter of NOW regarding a pro-abortion event.

    Suppose I, as a professor at the school who is pro-life, had written to the head of the group from my private email addy calling the student involved in NOW “whores” and “bitches”, threatened to expose the murderous agenda of the group until “groups like your won’t dare show their face on a college campus”, and suggested that “true respect for innocent human life will come when pro-lifers have blown up every abortion clinic in the nation and executed the abortionists for their crimes against humanity”?

    Would you be defending my free speech then? Or would you be calling me a whack-job who needs to be removed from my teaching position immediately? Would you consider my position to be a legitimate one, or would you be saying that I have mde threats and created a hostile environment for a portion of the student body and need to be reigned in? Would you see me as having abused my position as an instructor, or would that private email address have made my response none of the school’s business? And would you support the head of the the campus chapter of NOW going to the press with my email?

    I think Daly crossed several lines with his email — but i do not think firing was the appropriate response. He deserved to be reprimanded for his unprofessional conduct. And as an adjunct (not tenured) faculty member, I think a decision not to offer him a future contract might be defensible, but I am uncomfortable with that position and could probably be persuaded differently. As it is, though, I am glad that Daly received back in spades the sort of hatred he directed at a student, and that recognized his lack of professionalism necessiated an end to his teaching career at WCCC.

  14. albeej Says:

    The Beach/Daly issue is a dead issue. The damage has been done. For me to continue postmortem rebuttals would be nothing more than superfluous rhetoric.

  15. Darren Says:

    To refer to International A.N.S.W.E.R. as an “anti-war group”, as albeej did in his/her first post, is akin to referring to the Dallas Cowboys as a “cleats-wearing group.” It’s technically accurate but leaves out some significant identifying points.

    Here’s what the New York Times, hardly a bastion of conservative thought, had to say about International A.N.S.W.E.R.:
    ——
    Answer, whose name stands for Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, was formed a few days after Sept. 11, 2001, by activists who had already begun coming together to protest policies of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Some of the group’s chief organizers are active in the Workers World Party, a radical Socialist group with roots in the Stalin-era Soviet Union. The party has taken positions that include defense of the Iraqi and North Korean governments and support for Slobodan Milosevic, the former Yugolav president being tried on war crimes charges.

    The positions of some of Answer’s members have caused rifts in past antiwar movements as well. In January 1991, at the onset of the Persian Gulf war, two coalitions of protesters marched separately, on consecutive weekends, because one refused to align itself with the other, whose members included current Answer officers who would not criticize the Iraqi government or support economic sanctions against it.

    In an interview today, Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, a spokeswoman for Answer, said questions raised about the group’s role were “classic McCarthy-era Red-baiting.”
    ——
    http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/24/national/24PROT.html

  16. albeej Says:

    I know that I’ll be wasting my time with this rebuttal to Darren.It would be like trying to convince a fox who has been raiding a chicken coop most of its life, not to kill anymore chickens…..I won’t even try.
    Nevertheless, If anyone wants to know about the organization A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition Act Now to Stop War & End Racism, I suggest you go to the horses mouth:
    www.answercoalition.org,click on “about us”, rather than
    take the word of a person whose political leanings are as obvious as the next raid on the coop.

  17. Ticklish Ears » Blog Archive » Warren Community College: Now a Lesson in Tolerance? Says:

    […] Professor Daly has now resigned. As you can see in the comments in my previous post on Warren, I won’t be shedding any tears for him. […]

  18. Hube Says:

    RWR is spot-on with his comments. I myself opined that Daly’s letter, not being sent on a school computer, was entirely fine — right up to the point where he clearly intimidated Beach. However, his explanation sounds quite valid (he didn’t know Beach was even a student at the college), and if I were him, I wouldn’t have quit. If I were the dean (or whoever), I’d just have told him to watch how he words things, especially given his position as a college professor. I mean, there is a thing called responsibility to balance that little nugget called “rights.” The Left always seems to overlook that.

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