Commentary: University Presidents and Campus Speech Controversies By Keith Whittington

Keith E. Whittington
The Volokh Conspiracy, Reason Magazine

Excerpt: It is now a familiar pattern. A professor says something controversial, most likely in public on social media. Someone notices and tries to attract attention by attacking the professor—perhaps in good faith disagreement, perhaps not. Petitions are started. Social media posts start trending. Calls are made to university officials. Maybe things get serious and someone important like a donor, trustee, or politician declares that the professor should be terminated.

University presidents have a responsibility in such a situation. It should go without saying, but unfortunately it does not, that they have a responsibility to actually live up to their constitutional and contractual responsibilities and refrain from sanctioning the faculty member for saying something that someone finds controversial. University presidents have a greater responsibility than just that, however, and they even more often fail to meet that greater responsibility. They have a responsibility to push back against the mob.