On Aug. 25, 2017 at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, graduate student and adjunct lecturer Courtney Lawton attended a small protest on the quad of her campus, adjacent to where a student group was recruiting new members. The group, Turning Point USA, publishes the controversial Professor Watchlist, which has been criticized for targeting college professors who espouse liberal viewpoints. After learning that the organization was recruiting members, Lawton and others hastily arranged a counter-protest, where she displayed a sign that read, “Just say No! to Neo-Fascism,” called the conservative student behind the recruitment table — who had her camera rolling — a “neo-fascist,” and flipped her off.
Within days of the incident, TPUSA posted a video of Lawton’s remarks online and, after public outrage mounted, her teaching assignments were cancelled. Weeks later, after three Nebraska state senators wrote an open letter to UNL questioning the university’s ability to “conduct an honest investigation when a conservative student” is targeted by what they describe as “discriminatory actions,” Lawton’s teaching contract was allowed to expire. The university’s senior leaders pledged to government officials that she would never again teach at the university.