(New York, NY) – Babson College in Massachusetts has suspended, investigated, and terminated an adjunct professor after he posted a satirical comment on Facebook. PEN America today said that the college grossly overreacted, and that it should immediately move to reinstate the professor.

Asheen Phansey, Babson’s director of sustainability and an adjunct professor, wrote on Facebook earlier this week that Iran should make a list of 52 cultural sites in the U.S. to bomb, offering the Kardashian’s home and the Mall of America in Minnesota as examples. His post was in direct response to a tweet by Donald Trump, in which the president threatened to bomb 52 Iranian cultural sites. Phansey said the post was meant to be satire.

“This is a straightforward case – there is no reason why Babson should have terminated or even suspended Phansey for his Facebook post,” said Jonathan Friedman, PEN America’s campus free speech project director. “Firing a professor over comments with clear satirical intent, and with no whiff of harassment or any other unprotected category of speech, should send shivers of concern throughout the academic community.

“If professors face such extreme consequences for comments that contain sarcasm, humor, exaggeration, or irony on social media, it will perpetuate self-censorship and a culture where honest discourse is paralyzed. College leaders must not rush into formal investigations and decide on severe repercussions in response to speech that contains no nexus to a professor’s role, and no clear indication of violent intent.”

PEN America has previously discussed the importance of free expression, academic freedom and open inquiry on college campuses and has identified key principles in our Campus Free Speech Guide, available online here.


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.