Excerpt: Refusing to bend the knee after suffering punishment over their Game of Thrones parody flyers, two professors at Tennessee Technological University are suing their university in federal district court for violating their First Amendment rights. Their Oct. 5 lawsuit represents the latest clash of cavalry between university administrators’ censorship and faculty standing up for their right to criticize public officials and groups.
The flyer earned both professors university discipline for various professional misconduct provisions related to harassment, discrimination, intimidation, and threats. However, the university failed to show the flyers amounted to unprotected harassment, threats, or intimidation — each of which has a narrow legal definition. Administrators produced no evidence of any substantial campus disruption, and Donadio himself conceded that as an elected official, he “can take the heat.” Far from unprotected harassment or true threats, the flyers are the expression of private citizens on matters of public concern, rendering them protected under the First Amendment.