Dr. Stephen Spinelli Jr.
Office of the President
Babson College

We, the undersigned, write to express our concern at the recent firing of Asheen Phansey by Babson College. As a group of writers, academics, and organizations committed to the principle of free expression, we find Phansey’s dismissal in response to a satirical Facebook post deeply disturbing. We call on Babson to immediately reinstate Phansey as both an administrator and adjunct professor.

Professor Phansey’s post was a mocking commentary that suggested that the leader of Iran “tweet a list of 52 sites of beloved American cultural heritage that he would bomb,” suggesting the Mall of America in Minnesota and a Kardashian residence as examples. His attempt at humor was a clear response to President Donald Trump’s threat of retaliatory attacks on Iranian cultural sites. Phansey’s post contained no hint of harassment, incitement to imminent violence, nor any other category of speech outside the safeguards of the First Amendment. His comment had no nexus to his role as a professor or administrator and fell squarely in the category of political speech warranting the highest level of protection. Despite Phansey’s public affirmation that his post was a joke and his fulsome apology for it, Babson officials launched an investigation, also stating that they were cooperating with local, state, and federal authorities on the matter. Babson terminated his employment just one day after announcing the investigation, ostensibly on the grounds that he had made a threat. No reasonable, contextual reading of his remarks could lead to that conclusion.     

As a private college, Babson is not bound by the First Amendment as are public colleges and universities. Nonetheless, the administration’s actions in this case contravene Babson’s own stated commitments to free speech and academic freedom. Against a national backdrop in which punishments for speech are chilling open discourse, this draconian outcome risks compounding the constrictions on our public discourse. As an institution of higher learning, Babson should be on the side of defending free thought, rather than punishing it.

We call on Babson to immediately reverse course and reinstate Phansey to his positions at the college. Any other outcome risks permanently tarnishing the reputation of Babson and jeopardizing the climate for political speech on campuses across the country.


Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)
American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO
ACLU of Massachusetts
National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC)
Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)

Floyd Abrams, Yale University
Ayad Akhtar
Misty G. Anderson, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Kwame Anthony Appiah
Ellen Argyros, Babson College
Paul Auster
Ulrich Baer, New York University
Douglas Bafford, Babson College
Elazar Barkan, Columbia University
Amy Binder, University of California, San Diego
Erik Bleich, Middlebury College
Jennifer Finney Boylan
Kevin Bruyneel, Babson College
Judith Butler, University of California, Berkeley
Rosanne Cash
Ron Chernow
Nicholas Christakis, Yale University
Sandra Cisneros
Dana Cloud, California State University, Long Beach
John Coetzee
Teju Cole
Molly Crabapple
Thomas Cushman, Wellesley College
Jon Dietrick, Babson College
David Dollenmayer, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Roxanne Donovan
Ariel Dorfman
David A. Ebershoff, Sr.
Jennifer Egan
Carlos Eire, Yale University
Will Evans
Jules Feiffer
Abby L. Ferber, University of Colorado Springs
Jonathan Franzen
Jeff Frieden, Harvard University
John M. Ganim, University of California, Riverside
Masha Gessen
Dan Gillmor
Shannon Gilreath, Wake Forest University
Todd Gitlin, Columbia University
Terri Givens
Mary Godwyn, Babson College
Leslie D. Gonzales, Michigan State University
Adam Gopnik
Michelle Graham, Babson College
Sandra Graham, Babson College
George Greenstein, Amherst College
Lev Grossman
Roy S. Gutterman, Syracuse University
Jonathan Haidt, New York University
Daniel Hall, Amherst College
Daniel Handler
Aaron R. Hanlon, Colby College
James Hannaham
Tom Healy
Glenn Hendler, Fordham University
James Hoopes, Babson College
Siri Hustvedt
Neal H. Hutchens, University of Mississippi
David Henry Hwang
Randa Jarrar, California State University, Fresno
Maya Jasanoff, Harvard University
Simran Jeet Singh, Union Theological Seminary
Ashley M. Jones
Spoma Jovanovic, University of North Carolina, Greensboro
Felix Kaputu
Deonna Kelli Sayed
April Kelly-Woessner, Elizabethtown College
Jeffrey L. Kidder, Northern Illinois University
Laura Kipnis, Northwestern University
Eric M. Klinenberg, New York University
Ari Kohen, University of Nebraska, Lincoln
Nicole Krauss
Jennifer L. Lambe, University of Delaware
Talia Lavin
Chang-Rae Lee
Nicholas Lemann, Columbia University
Julie Levinson, Babson College
Jacob T. Levy, McGill University
Mark Lilla, Columbia University
M.G. Lord
Jeff Martin
Kelly Matthews, Framingham State University
Colum McCann
George S. McClellen, University of Mississippi
Jay McInerney
Dinaw Mengestu
Claire Messud
Cynthia Miller-Idriss, American University
Ann Morning, New York University
Donald Moynihan, Georgetown University
Paul B. Muldoon
Andrew Nathan, Columbia University
Johann Neem, Western Washington University
Elizabeth Niehaus, University of Nebraska, Lincoln
Joyce Carol Oates
Orhan Pamuk
Greg Pardlo
Mary Pinard, Babson College
Steven Pinker, Harvard University
Lidija Polutnik, Babson College
Claire Potter, The New School
Riv-Ellen Prell, University of Minnesota
Francine Prose, Bard College
Theresa Rebeck
Victoria Redel
Hank Reichman
Joseph Ricciardi, Babson College
Molly Ringwald
Alix Ritchie
Howard Rodman
Salman Rushdie
Jennifer Ruth, Portland State University
Jeffrey Sachs, Acadia University
Esmeralda Santiago
George Saunders
Stacy Schiff
Lara H. Schwartz, American University
Alice Sebold
Chaitali Sen
Riyad Shahjahan, Michigan State University
Gary Shteyngart
Judith Shulevitz
Jane Smiley
Sanderia Smith
Pamela Sneed
Jeffrey Aaron Snyder, Carleton College
Andrew Solomon
Alec Soth
Art Spiegelman
Tim Staley
Jason Stanley, Yale University
Alina Stefanescu
Jessica Stern, Columbia University
Geoffrey R. Stone, University of Chicago
Nadine Strossen, New York Law School
Sarah S. Stroup, Middlebury College
Rose Styron
Susan Suleiman, Harvard University
Elizabeth Swanson, Babson College
Amy Tan
James M. Thomas, University of Mississippi
Calvin Trillin
Anne Tyler
David L. Ulin, University of Southern California
Virginia Valian, Hunter College
Nella Van Dyke, University of California, Merced
Steven Volk, Oberlin College
Eugene Volokh, University of California, Los Angeles
Ayelet Waldman
Megan Way, Babson College
Keith E. Whittington, Princeton University
Amy Wilentz, University of California, Irvine
Tobias Wolff
KK Wootton
Janice Yellin, Babson College
Jonathan Zimmerman, University of Pennsylvania
Tom Zoellner, Chapman University


We are still accepting signatories to this letter.
If you would like to add your name, please e-mail [email protected].


The following were added to the letter after it was sent to Babson College:

California Scholars for Academic Freedom

Daniel Aaronson
Shashwat Agarwal, Babson College
Musa al-Gharbi, Columbia University
Isabel Elaine Allen, Babson College
David Allyn, The New School
Gina Apostol
Sofya Aptekar, University of Massachusetts, Boston
Mark Armstrong, The New School
Lyell Asher, Lewis and Clark College
Elsa Auerbach, University of Massachusetts, Boston
Ibrahima Bah
Christian Baldini, University of California, Davis
Jane Barnes
Eric Barnes, Southern Methodist University
Mari Brennan Barrera
Cameron Beck
Dara Behjat, Babson College
Joel Beinin, Stanford University
Zvi Ben-Dor Benite, New York University
J. A. Bernstein, University of Southern Mississippi
Steven Biel, Harvard University
Helene Bilis, Wellesley College
Amahl Bishara, Tufts University
R. F. Bogardus, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa
Steven Botticelli, New York University
Colin Gregory Bowers
Tyler Bray, Babson College
Kathleen Brogan, Wellesley College
Rachel Ida Buff, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
Robert Buzzanco, University of Houston
Alex Byrne, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Jim Campen, University of Massachusetts, Boston
Andrés Fabián Henao Castro, University of Massachusetts, Boston
Jessica Cattelino, University of California, Los Angeles
Alicia Cuadrado, Babson College
Maria Chang, Babson College
Heesok Chang, Vassar College
Diane Christopherson
Andrea Ciannavei
Merrill Cole, Western Illinois University
Andrew Crakes, University of Rochester
Jean L. Cummings
Paisley Currah, City University of New York
Janus Daniels
Margaret Davis
Mark Dery
Sreedhari Desai, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Vicente M. Diaz, University of Minnesota
R. H. W. Dillard, Hollins University
Patrick A. Dolan Jr., University of Iowa
Michael Drexler, Bucknell University
Anne Erde, University of Massachusetts, Boston
Phyllis Ewen
Liza Featherstone, Columbia University
Gordon Fellman, Brandeis University
Christopher J. Ferguson, Stetson University
Margaret Ferguson, University of California, Davis
Cynthia Franklin, University of Hawai’i
Kimberly Freeman, University of California, Berkeley
Linda French, Illinois Wesleyan University
Crystal E. Garcia, Auburn University
Molly Gardner, Bowling Green State University
Ocean Gibson, New Jersey Institute of Technology
Terri Ginsberg, The American University in Cairo
Jane Glaubman, Cornell University
Yamile Godoy, Babson College
Alyosha Goldstein, University of New Mexico
Elena Gormley, University of Illinois, Chicago
Sandy Grande, Connecticut College
Elizabeth Graver, Boston College
Jason Grote
Christopher Gulbraa
Robert E Gutsche Jr, Lancaster University
Mary Hague, McGill University
Sondra Hale, University of California, Los Angeles
Scott Harding
Jennie Harrington
Neal Harris, Babson College
John Hess, University of Massachusetts, Boston
Emily Houh, University of Cincinnati
Ivan Huber, Fairleigh Dickinson University
Jean E. Jackson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Analia Colffer Jaquet, Babson College
Kent Jones, Babson College
Louis Kampf, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Gerard Kane
Eric Kaufmann, Birkbeck College, University of London
John Kaye
Jean Kazez, Southern Methodist University
Pagan Kennedy
Arang Keshavarzian, New York University
Assaf Kfoury, Boston University
Sang Hea Kil, San Jose State University
Peter Klein, University of British Columbia
Dennis Kortheuer, California State University, Long Beach
Leonard Kress, Owens Community College
Greg Lakes
Alex Lamb, Montserrat College of Art
Natasha Lamb
Tiffany Langdon
Mary Lannon, Nassau Community College
Judith Lautner
Kristin Lawler, College of Mount Saint Vincent
Jean Condon Lechtenberg
Steven Levine, University of Massachusetts, Boston
David Levine, Harvard University
Erik Linstrum, University of Virginia
David Lloyd, University of California, Riverside
Zachary Lockman, New York University
Arthur MacEwan, University of Massachusetts, Boston
Stephen Markarian
Matthew Mason, Brigham Young University
Michael McClelland
Timothy McGee
Bruce McPherson
Les A. Meade, Purdue University
Jeffrey Melnick, University of Massachusetts, Boston
Susan Meyer, Wellesley College
Alan Meyers, Boston University
Joel Miller, Rutgers University
Jonathan Millman, University of Massachusetts, Boston
Maggie Mitchell, University of West Georgia
Marwa Gad Mohsen
George Morgan
Norma Claire Moruzzi, University of Illinois, Chicago
Alex Mueller, University of Massachusetts, Boston
Ahlam Muhtaseb, California State University, San Bernardino
Daniel M. Mulcare, Salem State University
Nakul Munjal, Babson College
Tyler Murphy, Babson College
Jacqueline Marie Musacchio, Wellesley College
Jamal Nassar, California State University, San Bernardino
Julie K. Norem, Wellesley College
Anne Norton, University of Pennsylvania
Daniel E. O’Sullivan, University of Mississippi
Bernice Olivas, Salt Lake Community College
Tina Opie, Babson College
Alejandra B. Osorio, Wellesley College
Adam Ostaszewski, Babson College
Alicia Ostriker, Rutgers University
Oussama Ouadani, Babson College
Catherine Parnell
Diane B. Paul, University of Massachusetts, Boston
Louise Penner, University of Massachusetts, Boston
Aminah Pilgrim, University of Massachusetts, Boston
John Pincince, Loyola University Chicago
Melissa Rad, Studio School Los Angeles
Bruce Robbins, Columbia University
Susan Roberts, Boston College
Lisa Rofel, University of California, Santa Cruz
Penny Rosenwasser, City College of San Francisco
Alexander Rosemond, Babson College
Ken Ross, Adrian College
Alice Rothchild, Harvard University
Lawrence Rothfield, University of Chicago
Erica Rowell, City University of New York
Rachel Rubin, University of Massachusetts, Boston
Andy Ruina, Cornell University
Markella Rutherford, Wellesley College
Katrina M. Ryan
Mark Saad Saka, Sul Ross State University
Michael Sargent, Bates College
Emilio Sauri, University of Massachusetts, Boston
Ingrid Schorr, Brandeis University
C. Heike Schotten, University of Massachusetts, Boston
Howard S. Schwartz, Oakland University
Brian Seitz, Babson College
Bob Shacochis, Florida State University
Madeline Sherlock
Daniel Skinner, Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine
David Livingstone Smith, University of New England
Josh Staveley-O’Carroll, Babson College
Peter Stohn
Glenn Davis Stone, Washington University
Steve Striffler, University of Massachusetts, Boston
Jed Sturman
Karen L. Suyemoto, University of Massachusetts, Boston
Laura Tanenbaum, City University of New York, LaGuardia Community College
Helga Tawil-Souri, New York University
David Taylor, Johns Hopkins University
Charles Taylor, New York University
Sarah Thayer Love, Wellesley College
Jessica Thevenoz, Babson College
Amy Todd, University of Massachusetts, Boston
Joseph Tompkins, Allegheny College
Franklyn Turbak, Wellesley College
Stan Veuger
Len von Morzé, University of Massachusetts, Boston
Nancy D. Wadsworth, University of Denver
Paul Warren University of California, Los Angeles
Robert Warrior, University of Kansas
Amy Werbel, State University of New York, Fashion Institute of Technology
Karen Werner, Goddard College
Sarah S. Willen, University of Connecticut
Carmen Wiseman
Juliet Wittman, University of Colorado
Sebastian Wogenstein, University of Connecticut
Graham Wood, University of Tasmania
Paul Wright, University of Massachusetts, Boston
Christina W. Yao, University of South Carolina