“Put simply, Adams' speech was not tied to any more specific or direct employee duty than the general concept that professors will engage in writing, public appearances, and service within their respective fields. For all the reasons discussed above, that thin thread is insufficient to render Adams' speech ‘pursuant to [his] official duties’ … Applying Garcetti to the academic work of a public university faculty member under the facts of this case could place beyond the reach of First Amendment protection many forms of public speech or service a professor engaged in during his employment. That would not appear to be what Garcetti intended, nor is it consistent with our long-standing recognition that no individual loses his ability to speak as a private citizen by virtue of public employment.”
The Fourth Circuit also ruled that the UNCW officials could be held personally liable if I ultimately won the case. In other words, all defendants were stripped of their qualified immunity. It was a resounding victory for academic freedom.
When the case was remanded, the Fourth Circuit asked the district court to determine whether there was evidence that I lost that promotion because of my columns and the views expressed in them. In a decision released last month, the district court answered that question with a resounding “yes.” In another victory for free speech, the court reasoned as follows:
"Here, plaintiff has brought forth evidence from which a reasonable jury could find that his speech was a substantial or motivating factor in the decision to deny [promotion] to plaintiff. The court need not detail the evidence, but plaintiff has produced evidence which . . . shows the following: (1) his internal evaluations declined after he began the speech at issue; (2) faculty attempted to stop or alter his speech; (3) the denial of his application to full professor was in temporal proximity to Adams’ columns openly criticizing the University on certain political and social issues; (4) the written comments of the faculty on the [promotion] decision committee show hostility toward plaintiff’s speech; and, (5) a faculty member who had accused plaintiff of harassment was allowed to participate and vote on the plaintiff’s application for promotion."
I am eager for my day in court and I will keep my readers apprised of any new developments. In the meantime, I hope that many conservatives in academia will reconsider their decision to remain passive in the campus culture wars. Many believe they cannot win. That is certainly true if they refuse to fight.