Fresno State Professor and Freedom of Expression
by Max Greenhalgh
Freedom of expression is the main sociopolitical subject of numerous issues and debates in today’s America. Many claim that the single most important amendment on the Bill of Rights (and maybe even the whole Constitution) is under attack, pointing to recent developments at California State University, Fresno as evidence.
Former first lady Barbara Bush passed away on Tuesday, April 17, 2018. This was sad news for many Americans, who not only remembered her as wife to former president George H. W. Bush and mother to George W. Bush, but additionally as an advocate for youth literacy and someone who stood up for her beliefs even when she disagreed with those in power or her own family. However, other Americans did not seem to be all that disturbed by Bush’s passing. Randa Jarrar, a tenured professor at CSU Fresno, said that while Bush was smart and generous, she was also a racist, and that those mourning her passing should “[get the] (expletive) with your nice words.” In another inflammatory tweet, she wrote that “I’m happy the witch is dead,” and stated that she wants the rest of the Bush family to die as well.
In response to these remarks, an interesting split among conservatives and conservative groups has formed. In one camp, more libertarian-minded conservatives believe that a professor should not be fired for making statements that are offensive, as this would violate free speech rights. Individual rights advocacy groups such as the ACLU and FIRE agree with this position, as do most liberals. However, another group of conservatives believes that if conservative professors can be fired for blogging about their beliefs (like former Marquette professor John McAdams, who publicly derided an instructor for not allowing discussion against same sex marriage in class) or not participating in an activity they consider against their individual principles (like former Evergreen College professor Bret Weinstein, who refused to walk out in an event originally intended to emphasize the importance of colored communities), that Jarrar should be fired as well.
The freedom of expression debate will doubtless rage on throughout campuses in America, and this story is yet another example of the discussions it can spark. At the time of publication, an internal investigation is ongoing. The existence of this investigation is causing controversy in and of itself, and the decision will surely bring about even more.