On Campus, Only Some Free Speech
The publicly-funded William Paterson University in
New Jersey www.wnbc.com/education/4756900/detail.html
reprimanded Jihad Daniel for discrimination and
sexual harassment. (Jihad means "struggle" in
Arabic.) The 63-year-old Daniel, who is both an
employee and a student at the University, is now at
the center of a www.thefire.org/index.php/article/6119.html
free speech controversy. He is also a fine example
of the sleight-of-hand being called "due process"
by universities that quash politically incorrect
The facts are uncontested.
On March 7th, Arlene Holpp Scala, chair of the
Women's Studies Department, sent Daniel an
e-mail announcement of an upcoming film event:
"'Ruthie and Connie: Every Room in the House', a
lesbian relationship story." Scala advised those
who wished to respond, "Please do not hit reply,
click here", thus directing messages to her
On March 8th, Daniel clicked to privately
reply, "Do not send me any mail about 'Connie and
Sally' and 'Adam and Steve'. These are perversions.
The absence of God in higher education brings on
confusion. That is why in these classes the Creator
of the heavens and the earth is never mentioned."
[His message is quoted in full. No other
communication with Scala ensued.]
On March 10th, Scala filed a complaint with the
university claiming Daniel's message sounded
"threatening". "I don't want to feel threatened at
my place of work," she explained.
On June 15th, University President Arnold Speert
a letter of reprimand, to be placed in Daniel's
permanent employment file.
The unsavory matter might have ended there but
the stakes were raised by the Foundation for
Individual Rights in Education www.thefire.org
(FIRE) and by Peter C. Harvey, the Attorney General
(AG) of New Jersey.
FIRE's mission is "to defend and sustain
individual rights at America's increasingly
repressive and partisan colleges and universities.
These rights include freedom of speech, legal
equality, due process, religious liberty, and
sanctity of conscience."
Greg Lukianoff of FIRE www.thefire.org/index.php/article/6073.html
reminded Speert that his University, as a public
institution, had a duty to protect the
"constitutional rights of all its faculty, staff,
and that no federal, state,
local, or university rule, policy, or regulation
trumps the exercise" of those rights.
Lukianoff flatly stated, "No one here was
'harassed' or 'threatened' as defined by the law."
Instead, the university "simply strongly disliked a
student's point of view."
the first response to FIRE was not from Speert but
from AG Harvey who replied "on behalf" of the
University. Harvey said the penalty against Daniel
would stand because, as an employee, he had
violated State policies against discrimination,
harassment, and creating a hostile environment in
Several aspects of the entire exchange are
First, the entire weight of the state's legal
authority is being directed at quashing Daniel's
personal response to an unsolicited email -- an
email that invited feedback by instructing
recipients on how best to do so. The University
obviously feels the need to draw a big gun on this
Second, Lukianoff refers to Daniel as a student;
both Speert and Harvey call him an employee. Daniel
is legitimately both but, in the capacity of
student, he undoubtedly has more established
procedural 'rights' against the University. The
Attorney General's office clearly wishes to reduce
the 'rights' it needs to recognize.
But as Lukianoff states, "Even in a workplace,
it is ridiculous to conclude that a one-time e-mail
constitutes unlawful discrimination and harassment.
It is especially ridiculous to apply such a policy
to a working student at an institution of higher
education that has a special responsibility to
ensure academic freedom."
Here the concept of 'due process' emerges in
full. As with freedom of speech, the University's
policies seem to reduce to the formula, "rights for
me but not for thee."
For example, according to Speert's view of free
speech, Scala has the right to send an unsolicited
and unwanted promotion of a pro-lesbian film over
the University's network. Daniel has no right to
respond with his personal opinion and a request for
no contact in the future.
According to Speert's view of due process, if
Scala feels threatened by a moralistic dismissal of
an issue she chose to raise, then the Attorney
General's office should flex its muscle to protect
a frail woman so imperiled. Meanwhile, Daniel has
no right to even examine the evidence brought
against him. He merely has the right to appeal.
In his letter, Lukianoff stressed that 'due
process' was being disregarded in order to chill
dissent. Both Speert and Harvey replied that 'due
process' was clearly in place and pointed to the
administrative procedures to which Daniel could
Making someone jump through bureaucratic hoops
that embody a biased procedure is not due process.
A kangaroo court that includes the right of appeal
to a higher kangaroo authority does not constitute
due process. It is a travesty.
Due process does not reside in bureaucracy. It
is a set of legal principles established through
tradition to protect 'the accused' who is innocent
until proven guilty. Those principles include the
right to face and question your accuser, the right
to examine all evidence against you.
Daniel has been granted neither. And the most
extraordinary aspect of this denial of free speech
and due process is that the Attorney General's
Office felt it necessary to so quickly and heavily
weigh in on a small matter.
Or is it?
* * *
McElroy is the editor of ifeminists.com
and a research fellow for The Independent Institute
in Oakland, Calif. She is the author and editor of
many books and articles, including her latest book,
Liberty for Women: Freedom and Feminism in the
21st Century. She lives with her husband in
Also, see her daily blog at www.zetetics.com/mac
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