How to respond if you're asked to fire a professor over speech

Academic freedom is a core tenet of higher education, and faculty should be free to push the bounds of knowledge, and explore ideas that might offend, without fear of retaliation.


    Gather as much information as possible about the accusations against the professor and what led to them.


    Speak with the professor, hear their perspective, and if other members of the campus community would like to voice their views, create an opportunity for them to do so with the appropriate offices or officials.


    Institutions should be careful to avoid any form of discipline or punishment solely for legally protected speech. While private institutions have more leeway in regulating speech, they should still be mindful of academic freedom and set a high bar for punishing expression.


    Reach out to all relevant stakeholders, consult with them, and weigh their input.


    Whether by campus-wide email, press release, or social media, publish a clear statement of the university’s view of the situation. Emphasize its commitment to faculty’s free speech and academic freedom. If a professor’s statements contradict the values of the institution, leaders can say so.


    Make sure to provide opportunities for lawful protest and counter-speech for those with opposing views.


    Calls for professors to be fired for protected speech can impede their self-confidence, well-being, and productivity. Offer support and reassurance.


    Any disciplinary actions taken against professors for their speech should be based on clear evidence that their language fell outside the legal categories of protected speech. If their conduct or speech crossed a line into harassment, discrimination, or other forms of unprotected speech, punishment may be merited. If the speech falls into a gray area that raises questions about the professor’s ability to perform their professional duties, engage the professor directly and consider measures that fall short of formal discipline.

    See Academic Freedom

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