Patti (a professor) and her husband (a former professor) both thought I had libeled their daughter (a student) by expressing that opinion in a private email. They were wrong about that. They also thought their daughter?s email (the one that prompted my response) blaming the attacks of 9/11 on the United States was fully protected by the U.S. Constitution. They were right about that.
The second phone call would be to the university attorney. After resisting for weeks, I decided to capitulate to Patti?s demand that I allow the university to examine all of the emails I sent that week in order to search for additional evidence of ?libel? against her daughter. This would involve going into my email account as well as examining the university?s back-up tapes. It would also require reading some of my private email correspondence.
All of this came about because a leftist family thought that anti-American rhetoric was free speech while criticism of anti-American rhetoric was ?libel.? And they were threatening to sue.
But before I got to the phone the next day, it rang and I answered. It was a friend of mine who was active in the local Republican Party. I told him about throwing in the towel despite my previous attempts to stop the forced examination of my email account. Even though the State Attorney General was involved and was resisting the efforts to forcibly read my emails (there were serious concerns over the precedent it would set), I was still worried about the impact a lawsuit might have upon my career. That was why I was ready to capitulate.
But my friend told me I was making a big mistake. He predicted that the case would soon break out in the nation media. He also predicted that the case would blow up in the faces of Patti and her family. And he predicted a black eye for the university if they actually went into the account without my consent.
But that would require standing firm. So I changed my mind again and decided to stand firm.
Eventually, my vocal objections to reading my personal emails were, indeed, vetoed by the university. They decided to go into the account. Then they turned over detailed records of who I had been communicating with ? including the personal email addresses of everyone I talked to via email for an entire week. Those records were given to Patti and her family. And, naturally, no evidence of ?libel? emerged.