Author’s Note: The professor who is the subject of this column has argued that when we call someone out by name in an opinion column we invoke the Seahawk Respect Compact and therefore lose the protection of the First Amendment. Hence, I have omitted his name so he will not have me brought before the university respect tribunal.
A Marxist sociologist at my university has made the serious error of writing a letter to the editor of the local newspaper calling on the university to impose “sanctions” upon me for violating the university respect compact in one of my opinion columns. Notably, his letter was written less than three years after the university was ordered to pay over three-quarters of a million dollars in a First Amendment retaliation claim to my lawyers and me. Of course, Marxists are not known for their ability to learn from history. However, it is my hope that the rest of us can learn something from his deeply confused letter. Let me summarize it briefly.
The respectful Marxist first contends that offensive speech is not per se outside the protection of the First Amendment. He gets this one right if only because they were still teaching civics when he was a seventeen-year-old high school student. But let’s give credit where credit is due. Most college professors in the so-called social sciences either do not know this or just pretend not to know it in order to quash debate.
The respectful Marxist next contends that people in certain professions agree to limitations on their speech by virtue of entering the profession. Examples he cites are the lawyer-client privilege and the doctor-patient privilege. He specifically contends that the First Amendment would not protect a doctor who decided to tell the public what medications his patient was taking. Our respectful Marxist got another one right. Of course, even a broken clock is right twice a day.
The respectful Marxist then makes a leap of logic predicated upon what appears to be a willful ignorance of the history of speech codes at our university. Specifically, he contends that professors at my university are formally bound by a professional “code” known as the Seahawk Respect Compact. He has somehow concluded that this compact is enforceable – just like the laws that protect a patient’s medical privacy. This is nothing short of a public display of professional incompetence by the respectful Marxist. Let me explain why.
There was no Seahawk Respect Compact in existence when I took my job at UNC-Wilmington in 1993. It did not appear on our campus until 2008 – shortly after it was devised by a group of government bureaucrats. Eventually, the university copied it, framed it, and posted it on every single classroom and administrative office wall at the university. Unsurprisingly, a few young and constitutionally illiterate professors and part-time instructors eventually came to believe the little piece of paper somehow trumped the United States Constitution. One example was an English instructor who we will call Hannah - because a) that is her name, and b) she has never specifically argued that the Seahawk Respect Compact comes into play when we simply mention someone’s name.
Hannah became emotionally distraught when she saw pro-Trump chalkings on the sidewalk of the university in the fall of 2016. So she ran around campus with water bottles washing away people’s speech and claiming she had a right to do so because the speech violated the Seahawk Respect Compact. Fortunately, she got caught. And she got publicly rebuked.
The public rebuke only happened because I was able to convince UNCW Chancellor Jose Sartarelli that the matter was serious enough to warrant a mass email to the entire university community. It was my contention that the administration needed to tell everyone in no uncertain terms that the compact was only an aspirational document reminding us we should be respectful. In other words, it is not a legally enforceable document creating an exception to the First Amendment for “disrespectful speech.” That kind of exception would never work in an environment dominated by thinned-skinned Marxists who characterize all disagreement with their extremism as “disrespect.”
It is sad that it took a mass email to remind people who teach at universities that you cannot simply hang a certificate on a wall and declare that it negates the United States Constitution. It is sadder still that at least one Marxist sociologist (pardon the redundancy) got the email and still did not understand that.
So how do we make things as simple as we can for the respectful Marxist sociologist? A lawsuit did not work. A mass email did not work. He’s still calling for sanctions so I’m calling for a little creativity. Let’s start by taking a look at the respectful Marxist’s Rate My Professor page. As we will see, he is having a pretty hard time abiding by the Seahawk Respect Compact. Therefore, he is in big trouble if the compact ever becomes an enforceable document:
“Makes students feel small and insignificant.”
“Treats you like you're an idiot.”
“Is incredibly disrespectful.”
“Condescending and rude to his students.”
“Talks down to his students.”
“Very rude and condescending.”
“Talks down to students and ridicules them.”
“Isn’t very friendly.”
“Has no personal concern for his students.”
“NOT a nice man.”
In a nutshell, this tenured Marxist who writes letters to the editor extolling the virtue of respect is perhaps the rudest and most disrespectful professor in the entire sociology department – if not the entire university. And that is the way it has always been with censors. Those calling for hate speech exceptions to free speech are always the most hateful. Should we really expect respectful speech from a tenured Marxist who seeks to compel respect through the threat of government sanctions? Of course we cannot.
But we can expect him to lie about his commitment to respect in an effort to silence his intellectual superiors. And there are many.