Texas A&M Considering Firing Professor Who Protested Racial Injustice
PEN America says that professor's participation in scholars strike was a defensible act of free expression
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(New York, NY) — Leaders at Texas A&M University are reportedly under pressure to fire a tenured professor, Wendy Leo Moore, for participating in a national scholar strike for racial justice earlier this month. In a memo circulated among deans and faculty, the university system’s chief legal officer warned that any faculty participating in the national strike would be deemed in violation of Texas statutes which prohibit public employees from striking. Moore disagrees that her actions should be subject to the statute, as they were “not part of an organized work stoppage against the university or the state of Texas itself.” At the heart of the incident is that Moore cancelled one of her Tuesday classes and some of her office hours in solidarity with the national strike, offering to make up the hours with students later in the week.
“Due process and academic freedom must be cornerstones in any investigation into faculty conduct,” said Jonathan Friedman, director of PEN America’s campus free speech program. “It is true that there are laws against organized work stoppages by public employees in Texas, but there are also important nuances to this professor’s actions which raise questions about whether those statutes apply in this case. The prevailing norm in higher education is that professors can postpone, cancel, reschedule, and makeup their classes as they deem necessary. And they do it all the time, for illnesses, academic conferences, local events, football games, political rallies, and holidays, among other reasons.”
“That the cancelation of a single class and some office hours is gaining such outsized scrutiny raises serious questions about whether the furor here is about the cancellations or about the issues Moore was protesting,” Friedman said. “This is particularly worrying against the backdrop of other recent government efforts to ban and stifle those speaking out for racial justice. All faculty should be concerned about such an intrusion into their professional practice, but also into their right to engage in political expression and peaceful protest. It behooves the leaders of Texas A&M to stand steadfastly for these core principles of the academy, even in circumstances that may be difficult.”