Since Hector was a pup, Universities, Colleges, and institutions of higher learning have been heralded as the keepers of the eternal flames of knowledge, reason, and intellectual freedom. In recent years, they’ve also been a fertile breeding ground for “politically correct” speech – that euphemistically enriched dialect that is long on obfuscation and short on logic and reason. Now the same philosophy that made it illegal to think ill thoughts of someone (or at least add to your guilt if you acted upon them) brings you a page right out of 1984  and Brave New World – and right in the heart of academia.

James Miller is a theatre professor at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. (Insert beer joke here.) From time to time, he posts things outside his office door. The poster you see above refers to a short-lived show on Fox, Firefly, which has since gone on to become a cult hit. Apparently the poster was deemed offensive by someone(s) at the school. (For the record, I don’t think anybody has a problem with actor Nathan Fillion, who’s gone on to star in the ABC hit Castle.) Evidently, the text was the problem. Specifically the mention of killing, and the implication that weapons (ie: GUNS) would be used in the crime. If you’re having a little problem with your browser reading the text, here’s what you’re missing:

You don’t know me son, so let me explain this to you once: If I ever kill you, you’ll be awake. You’ll be facing me. And you’ll be armed.

The UW-Stout Police Chief, Lisa Walter took it upon herself to remove the offending poster from the area and emailed the professor on September 16. Here’s what she wrote:

Dr. Miller,

I wanted to notify you that I removed a printed/copy (pictures attached) of a poster from the outside of your office. I don’t know if you posted it or if someone else placed it on your board, but it is unacceptable to have postings such as this that refer to killing.

I knocked on your office door while there, but it appeared as though you were not in your office at the time.  Contact me if you have any questions.

Respectfully,

Chief Walter

The Blue Devil’s instructor of all things thespian was NOT amused. He responded thusly:

Unacceptable to whom?

How dare you act in a fascistic manner and then sign your email “respectfully!” Respect liberty and respect my first amendment rights.

Short, sweet, and to the point. So far, I’m with Miller on this one.

Walter’s reply to Miller’s reply threatened him with disorderly conduct charges. (!)

…the poster can be interpreted as a threat by others and/or could cause those that view it to believe that you are willing/able to carry out actions similar to what is listed…If you choose to repost the article or something similar to it, it will be removed and you could face charges of disorderly conduct.

Miller did not back down. He replied again, but sadly, went a little bit off the reservation, lest you think that he was defending both the First and Second Amendments with his stance:

Don’t threaten me with charges that have no basis in reality–I am a committed pacifist and a devotee of non-violence, and I don’t appreciate card carrying members of the NRA who are wearing side arms and truncheons lecturing me about violence.

Damn. And there I thought we had a brother-in-arms. Apparently Miller is only a fan of the First Amendment. Not the Second. Later on that same day, Miller posted another image on his office door, kicking the dust-up up a notch:

Miller’s response? Predictable.

Dr. Miller,

My office removed another posting from the outside of your office. The posting depicts violence and mentions violence and death. The campuses threat assessment team met yesterday and conferred with UW System Office of General Counsel and made the decision that this posting should be removed. It is believed that this posting also has a reasonable expectation that it will cause a material and/or substantial disruption of school activities and/or be constituted as a threat.

Chief Lisa Walter

UW-Stout Police/Parking

Who knew glorified meter maids had this kind of power on campus?

So how did the school administration react? Did they call off the dogs? (I have no idea what Walter looks like – it’s just a turn of phrase.) Did they allow cooler heads to prevail and remind everybody that a university is supposed to be a bastion of free speech? Not on your tintype, Lizzie. No, College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Interim Dean Raymond Hayes scheduled a little sit-down with Miller about “the concerns raised by the campus threat assessment team.”

Hayes, Raymond
Sent: Tuesday, September 20, 2011 2:03 PM
To: Miller, James
Cc: Walter, Lisa
September 20, 2011

Jim:

As Campus Police have now twice removed images that you have posted outside your door, and given the concerns raised by the campus threat assessment team, I believe that it is essential that you and I meet to discuss this situation.

I see from your teaching schedule that you would have no course conflict at 2:15 p.m. on Monday the 26th.

I am asking you to meet with Chief Lisa Walter and me at that time in my office.

I will see you on Monday.

Wow. So much for all that blather about academic freedom, huh? Walter calls the Campus Threat Assessment Team in for a pow-wow on the dangerous thoughts being expressed over in the theatre wing. Who knew a campus even needed a Threat Assessment Team? What do they do, exactly? Presuming the campus is a gun-free zone, are they now forced to focus on eliminating verbal threats to the peace and idyllic tranquility of the ivory towers of learning?

But just as I learned in my college class in Political Science 101, Miller chose to defend himself by expanding the conflict, calling in a FIRE storm. No really. FIRE is the higher education free-speech group (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) who defends professors and students from nonsensical attacks such as these.

FIRE wrote a letter/fax to the dean expressing their concerns about the matter (and tacitly signaling that any hopes of containing this hullabaloo as an internal matter had flown the proverbial coop). They’ve also encouraged people to write or call in. As of this week, over 2,000 people have contacted the university, expressing concerns that free speech has been trampled by the university cop.

If you think this has nothing to do with you and your guns, think again.

You can think of universities and colleges as either incubators for ideas, or nurseries for nonsense. Take your pick. Either way, the seedlings of incredibly bad ideas are allowed to take root there, and flourish into full-blown trees that bear fruit that represents the antithesis of personal freedom and rights. Stop this kind of thing at the root, and you won’t have to deal with it later, in state legislatures and in the halls of Congress. Do nothing and you’ll look back on the Heller and McDonald rulings as the halcyon days of rights that are little more than a historical footnote.

If you are so moved, you can make comments to the school here:

Chancellor Charles W. Sorensen
University of Wisconsin-Stout
Office of the Chancellor
325 Administration Building
Menomonie, Wisconsin 54751

112 Responses to Freedom of Speech Evidently Has No Place In a University.

  1. Ensnared by his own devise. I can hear him now: “Hey, those rules are for OTHER people, not me! Now gimme back my damn poster!”

      • If you scroll down and click to the next photo which is blurred and only partly shown there is a photo of a fine looking woman Jamie holding a .44 magnum and later there is a photo of another good looking woman Belinda dressed up in historical outfit of sorts with .45 long Colts in her holsters. MSNBC does a poor job of expecting viewers to get how their site works.

  2. From Wikipedia:
    Originally, the First Amendment applied only to laws enacted by the Congress. However, starting with Gitlow v. New York, 268 U.S. 652 (1925), the Supreme Court has held that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment applies the First Amendment to each state, including any local government.

    A technical question, could a completely private school which accepts no government money have rules that otherwise would be contrary to the 1st Amendment?

    • Technically, yes. Realistically, no. I’m no lawyer, but here is the skinny on private school funding. If it is a university, they most likely get government funding. If they have an endowed chair of blah blah blah, they most likely get government funding. If they have a security team or on campus police that are NOT private security teams, they definitely get government funding. And government funding can be withdrawn if the school kicks up a storm about the possibility of denying certain inalienable rights. Also, because most people think that our Rights are protected 100% of the time, people may look at a university or college as the purest manifestation of oppression. But once again, I’m not a lawyer. I’m just a dude in a bathrobe.

      • Withdrawal of funding is not the same as censorship. However, the threat of it is why Hillsdale and Patrick Henry College don’t accept government funding of any kind.

      • You forget the more important feet-in-the-doors:

        1) student loans – made to students but the government has threatened disqualify schools from the student loan program if they don’t fall in line. a few schools (Rokura mentions 2, there are about 1/2 dozen more in the US which don’t do student loans for this reason).

        2)tax status – two ways, first make contributions to the school taxable and second revoke non-profit status and force the school to pay taxes as if it were a for-profit corporation.

        As far as the courts are concerned though, a school can get 99.9999999999999% of its funding directly from the government and as long as it is nominally private it can place whatever restrictions it wants on 1st amendment rights. If a part of the government other than the courts dislikes a school, the courts will bend over backwards to allow them to act against the school even though they refuse government money.

    • “A technical question, could a completely private school which accepts no government money have rules that otherwise would be contrary to the 1st Amendment?”

      Sure, happens all the time (e.g. all religious schools implement policies that would violate the 1st Amendment’s separation of church & state clause. Some schools, like Liberty or BYU, enforce gender segregation that would violate the 1st’s guarantee of associational expression and the 14th’s right to equal protection).

      Only the 13th Amendment, which bans slavery and involuntary servitude in most instances, restricts the rights of private citizens. The 14th Amendment has been interpreted in a way that allows Congress to pass laws that can curb private discrimination in some cases as well. So called non-state actors, like a private university, can enforce whatever insane speech codes they please.

      -Attorney.

      • “all religious schools implement policies that would violate the 1st Amendment’s separation of church & state clause.”

        You had better read that Amendment again. There is no “separation of church & state clause” in the Constitutional Amendments.

        • Wow, decades of government involvement in schools to improve them and schools are still turning out Jeffs by the millions.

          End the FAIL. Time for separation of School and State.

        • There certainly is a separation of church and state clause in the constitution, it’s the “establishment clause”.

    • yes, a private school can have rules that completely contravene the First Amendment. Religious colleges across the nations regularly mandate speech and behaviour that is not tolerated otherwise. Required church attendance, signing religious pledges, required Bible study are just a few of the types of things they can (rightfully) do. They can also forbid behaviour that is otherwise legal, such as dancing or playing cards. They do this with full allowance from the very same First Amendment that provides freedom of worship. And the government still provides the same type of money for scholarships and other things that other schools get. This is why FIRE does not rate or review speech codes at private religious schools unless the school goes out of the way to “prove” to the students that there is complete freedom of speech and behaviour at the school (such as Notre Dame would do.)

    • If you listen to Elizabeth Warren, nothing that happens happens without State support, so censor away. A Leftist, naturally.

  3. What dissapoints me most is that they all know this is just a dance.

    The Chief of Police knows that the professor is not a security risk. If she did, would repeatedly taking down his posters and taking no other actions be effective control of a volatile situation?

    The Chancellor knows the exact same thing. He would not have requested a meeting if he had a true or legitimate concern for the safety risk caused by this faculty member. He had not requested a campus officer be present during the professor’s classes or posted office hours. The faculty member has not been escorted from campus (ala Widener Law School – http://www.mindingthecampus.com/originals/2011/08/the_mess_at_widener_law_school.html ).

    The faculty member did not apologize or play the meek-and-humble apology bit. He did not claim (accurately I think) that the poster meaning was misunderstood by the campus police.

    This is playing out as theatre (ironically the professor’s area of expertise) as if anyone gives a damn what these three do.

    FIRE is a respected organization. Unfortunately, the most effective weapon they use is the first step. They simply point out the law. Universities and colleges retreat. Watch what happens here. The rug will have a new bump.

  4. Apparently free speech has no place in TTAG articles either, thanks again for those ban threats in the 9-11 thread, or a moderator editing my hyper-critical comment in one of Chris Dumm’s RFID article. Because you guys found my posts offensive, just as the university found those posters offensive 😛

    • A blog is not public space. It is owned by its publisher and the First Amendment only applies to him. You or I have no First Amendment rights here. If he doesn’t like what you or say he is within his rights to ban it. It just like you the right to kick somebody out of your house if you don’t like what he says.

      • And the university professor was posting those posters while being employed by the university. You dont have first admendment rights in many contexts while on the job, you boss can fire you for making inappropriate remarks, or other protected speech. In case you missed it, I was pointing out the hypocrisy of the author.

        • and then he would have a claim for retaliation. Since it is a public university, there is a process that must be followed, which includes, at a minimum, some due process that has been spelled out in the university’s charter or directive from the state. Sure they can screw with him, but professors often write objectionable material. You don’t get fired for that – you just don’t get a cushy office or a seat on some BS committee deciding tenure for one of your research assistants, unless you actually do something that calls into question your academic freedom. Like murder, rape, assault. If Miller had a history of violence or had done something that made this perceived “threat” credible, sure, the University would be able to take steps to marginalize and perhaps fire him. But for Christ’s sake, he teaches theater. I can’t believe he is a threat to anyone other than the sugar swizzle sticks at Starbucks.

        • The article makes it sound like the university did have a process which they were following. The contention seems to be that Brad and most other people, myself included, did not agree with the process. If im wrong, please correct me.

        • The “police chief” removing posters is not the process. Having a chat with Prof. Miller is. The issue becomes whether they made a decision, and then persecuted him for challenging that decision without due process.

        • There have been many course cases that support First Amendment rights at Public universities. They are an agent of the state of Wisconsin and therefore restricting his speech is a gross violation of the First Amendment.

        • You are correct that as an employee, the drama instructor may not have rights to freedom of speech. To the extent he might, its because of special concepts we suppose should exist for colleges and universities. To that extent, the author of this blog may be a bit incorrect, but I’m not sure if he is hypocritical.

          One of the problems with the poster is that is not a threat. Even if you don’t know the scene for context; one should be able to comprehend the words. The words suggest that the person poses no threat unless someone else first poses a threat to him. The police chief is an imbecil unable to comprehend simple english. The drama instructor is not so bright either, because the second poster isn’t so clear. Stick figures don’t identify who is the fascist and who isn’t. The caption helps, but the word “Fascism” under the man on the ground confuses the situation. In short, it suggests a threat. Open threats to a police department is problematic. Sticking to his rights related to the original poster is much easier, especially when the instructor doesn’t fully understand fascism anyway. Gun control is just as fascist as speech control.

        • How am I a hypocrite? I didn’t ban your 9/11 posts. That was a decision of the owner of the blog (RF). I did point out that flaming WILL get you banned, and the comments on 9/11 were over the line. There’s a vast difference between censorship in a university (a place ostensibly dedicated the principles of free speech and the free exchange of ideas) and a blog (which, like a magazine, is free to pick and choose what comments they wish to publish.) If you have something to say and find we don’t like here, get your own blog.

        • I never stated that you banned me, I made it clear that you threatened me with a ban.

          A blog is in no way like a magazine, magazines due to their physical nature are incapable of having comments. Your analogy is also invalid because you do not pick and choose what comments to publish, you by default publish all comments, and retaliate after the fact.

          TTAG does not ban people for flaming, if you want to move this to email, i’ll be more than willing to provide you with numerous examples of other peoples flames which have not resulted in threats or bans. Instead you ban people because you were personally offended by their comment.

          Universities are not dedicated to the principles of free speech, otherwise all professors would be tenured. There are plenty of universities in countries which do not have free speech, China for example.

          I considered you to be a hypocrite for writing a article defending offensive behavior of a professor, at the same time, threatening me in a similar manner as the university if I continued that behavior, just as the professor would have been subjected to discipline if he continues his behavior. If I misread the article, please correct me.

        • Oh yeah, another temper tantrum. Why not just hold your breath till you turn blue.

          You have the right to spout nonsense in your own place. The owner of this place has the right to not listen to your nonsense. I think RF is exceedingly lenient on people who stir crap just to stir it.

          I wish I had a way to not have to see your posts so that I didn’t need to listen to any of your nonsense.

          Go get your own blog so that people like you can enjoy your rants and the rest of us can breathe a sigh of relief.

        • Conspiracy believers are always the first to scream “first amendment” when the owner of a popular private space ( like a blog ) boots them out the door for being a nutter.

          They deliberately confuse the first amendment’s restriction on the government with their fantasy “right” to invade private space with their nonsense.

          He doesn’t bother to blog because his only traffic would have been viagra spam and trolls who commented just to taunt him for being a Conspiracy believer ( and he absolutely would have deleted those comments from any blog he ran in a heartbeat ).

        • Have you ever heard of something called letters to the editor? That is the comment section of a magazine. How old are you anyway?

        • Again, nobody’s denying your right to speak your piece. We just pointed out that if you flame here, we’ll deny you the privilege to speak your piece here. There is a vast difference in a professor who’s employed by a university seeing his First Amendment rights trampled and you, being told to put a lid on it. If you’re not able to see the distinction, I’m not sure there’s anything I can say that will change that.

          The Supreme Court famously ruled that they could not come up with a definition for obscenity, but they’d “know it when they saw it.” Same rules apply here. If we apply the standard unevenly, well, hey – we’re human. And it’s our playpen. Don’t like it? Go get your own. It might surprise you, but even I get censored every now and then. RF’s ballpark. RF’s rules. I just feel lucky to get to play in it. You should too. We’ve worked hard to build the site from literally ZERO readers to over 30,000 hits a day. So you can understand when we take it a little personally when someone decides to pee in our pool. So to speak.

        • “You dont have first admendment rights in many contexts while on the job”

          Not at all true. The Connick and Pickering cases make it clear that those employed by state actors / the government are to have their speech shielded by the 1st Amendment as long as it does not materially disrupt the work environment, confuse the public as to the nature of the speaker (cannot speak in a way that would cause a reasonable person to think that the professor was speaking on the university’s behalf), and as long as the speech is otherwise protected.

          The notion here that the speech qualified for disorderly conduct is absurd. First, posting a poster isn’t conduct, so I’m unclear how it even qualifies. Second, the poster is clearly protected speech and cannot in any way be construed to be a true threat. Finally, it’s likely that just by threatening arrest, nevermind removing the poster, the police chief violated this guy’s 1st Amd. Rights and triggered a prior restraint issue. The fact that the police chief has subjective say over what’s okay and what isn’t even kicks off a Forsyth County issue – but that’s for another day.

          In plain English – the school is screwed and is begging for a lawsuit.

      • No, but it’s hypocritical to say that you support such things and then remove / edit posts or ban someone for expressing and idea that you dislike. I have a blog too and I’ve only ever banned one person (and thus removed their posts) and that was because they were nothing but a spammer who had nothing to say that was on topic. All of the posts disagreeing with me and cussing me out and telling me I should be killed? Left posted, because I believe in free speech.

        • Maybe, but neither you nor matt will ever be confused with a college professor. And while you both have interesting and sometimes thought-provoking things to say, there’s more heat coming out of either of you than there is light.

          What’s with you two, anyway?

        • So thinking that all people should be treated like human beings instead of property and thinking that people should actually follow the views they claim to hold is a bad thing? Interesting.

          The problem is that a large number of the readership here are OFWG with serious control issues. I’m well aware that most people on here dislike me for pointing out their blatant hypocrisy.

          We have people (authors and commenters) who talk about how it’s unjust for anyone to track them or tell them what to do in any way, then they turn around and say it’s OK for them to do those same things to others. They also go on about how anyone who’s not American doesn’t have the right to make their own decisions and needs US troops to kill them if they don’t follow what they think is an acceptable lifestyle. Then there’s the whole “I believe in the Constitution and free speech blah blah”, yet wanting to censor people for disagreeing with you.

          If you state that you hold a specific view, grow some balls and actually follow that view. Sometimes you’re going to take some bruises for following it, but that’s what happens if you actually have principles and abide by them. If you claim to value free speech, then practice it and don’t try to silence people for saying something you don’t like. Sure, they might insult you or something you like, but that’s their right and you’re not following your supposed values if you try to censor them for whatever reason. The same goes for privacy – if you claim to value privacy and hate Big Brother tracking everything, don’t turn around and do that exact same behavior to your teenage children – especially since they reasoning of “It’s for their own good” is the EXACT same reasoning that the government uses for wanting to spy on you.

        • I genuinely hope you are a troll.

          You are trying to directly compare someone keeping track of their kids (which ALL parents should do) with the government monitoring people for no better reason than being 100% legal gun owners? Do you not see how impossible your argument is to make?

          As for the blog “censorship” as mentioned about 100 times above me, its a private blog, the owner of the blog is pretty much the only one who has any rights. Not to mention doesn’t it make sense to remove posts that are going to invariable be disruptive?

        • No, I’m comparing two groups of people who want to treat others as sub-human and have absolute control over them just to sate their own inflated egos. There is no difference at all – both groups think they have a divine right to treat other humans as property that they own.

          Try reading what I wrote. It doesn’t matter if it’s a private blog, if the owners of it claim to support things like free speech, then they should practice what they preach and allow it on their blog. I allow it on my blog even when people like you come along to promote things like GPS tracking people for fun.

          I’m sorry that I hurt your feelings by calling out you and your pals, but it’s how you behave. If you have issues with how you behave, that’s something only you can fix.

        • There is no absolute right of free speech within the United States (e.g., yelling “fire” in a crowded movie house). Nor does it exist here. If a commentator repeatedly flames (i.e., launches ad hominen attacks on) the website, its authors or fellow commentators, they will be banned. It’s up to me to decide when a comment is unacceptable. Sometimes, I allow offensive commentes to pass to further the debate. I make no apologies for this policy, nor my parenting (to a non-parent especially). I do the best I can with the best intentions. That is all. When I make a mistake, I admit, learn and move on. Moving on is never easy, but it’s important for personal and commercial growth and development. If you catch my drift.

    • “Because you guys found my posts offensive, just as the university found those posters offensive”

      Thats an apples to orange comparison. A private blog is not a public university.

    • Try finding one that isn’t. The Soviet Union didn’t end, it merely moved, and every sixties burnout with a couple of degrees and an assistant professorship thinks that he’s a god.

      • That reminds me. The concept of “academic freedom” was developed only – I said only – to protect communist professors. It protects nothing else, and was never intended to protect anything else. That’s why it doesn’t protect conservative thinkers.

  5. Surprising that they put down a theater professor in this way. And is it specifically ‘killing’ or more about guns? If they had put up something by Shakespeare like:

    Let’s kill him boldly, but not wrathfully;
    Let’s carve him as a dish fit for the gods,

    Would they be so upset? That’s cold and calculated. Seems more menacing to me- but the deed is done with knives, so it’s probably OK.

    • How about a scene “from Titus Andronicus”…?

      Should it be the one where the first born of the Goth queen is slaughtered, whose “limbs are lopp’d, And entrails feed the sacrificing fire” ? Or the one where the hands and tongue of Titus’ daughter are cut off after her rape? Or the one where the throats of the offending Goth boys are slit and bled out ? Or the one where their minced corpses are fed to their mother who conspired the deed — in pies ?

      http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/6/6b/Laura_Rees_as_Lavinia.jpg

      Good thing the classics have no violence. Ewwww.

      • Not to mention that great “Out, vile jelly!” line when Gloucester has his remaining eye put out in King Lear, which unlike Titus Andronicus, people still read. Or at least I hope so.

        • In the 1960s, the International Paper Company commissioned a series of essays from well-known writers and public figures that ran as ads, designed to spur reading among the general public. The ads ran in national magazines under the headline “Send Me a Man Who Reads.”

          In a doctor’s waiting room, a young lady was thumbing through one of the magazines when she came upon one of these ads. She felt compelled to make an editorial comment in the headline, by making two small changes to the punctuation. Her edit read: “Send Me a Man. Who Reads?”

  6. “. . . run by commies.” clearly, you do not know this institution. It is rather conservative, and it calls itself Wisconsin’s Polytechic University; these are not usually a hotbed of dirty commies.

    Academic Freedom. I work at a university, so this is something that I hold dear. That said, what is the academic point that the professor is making? It is a bad-ass saying, sort of a Samuel Jackson in Pulp Fiction thing, but that does not make it an unpopular academic argument, which is what academic freedom is supposed to protect. Academic freedom is to protect people like Ward Churchill from being fired for saying stupid things about the 9/11 attacks. He did lose his job, but it was for academic or research misconduct, not for comparing the terrorist victims to Nazis.

    Context. I have never heard of this show, and since it was “short-lived,” perhaps others did not know of it either. This is rather important, for I can see where the poster is less than welcoming. Is it actually threatening? I sure do not see it as such, but I would not put it up on my door since I want students to feel welcome and unintimidated. If he had a poster of a Klingon that had the caption “Today is a good day to die,” this would have been seen within a cultural context, and I doubt anyone would have gotten his/her knickers in a bunch.

    PC. This is one of Brad’s pet peeves, and, like anything, is stupid when taken too the extreme. The reason there is such a thing as PC stems from the inherent power in language. Language can easily exclude and diminish, so there became a concerted effort to eliminate some of those problems. Personally, I love that people do not feel comfortable (in most circumstances) using nigger, slant, gook, chink, retard, faggot, and so on, in public. Now, I agree that phrases like “specially abled” to describe a person with a disability obfuscates the reality of the situation, but I will take that over “gimp.” PC is also an issue of using gender neutral phrases now that there are many female professionals: fire fighter, not fireman; police officer, not policeman; chair, not chairman, and so on. These are PC, but they also reflect a changing reality.

    His second poster. This is political speech, and it should be protected in a way the first might not be. And I find this poster to be rather wonderful.

    No offense to the professor, but he seems to be a bit of a prag. Trust me, campus police do not roam through academic buildings looking for ways to bust professors; someone was offended, and that person/persons contacted campus police. His response to her shows his nerve. I am not an NRA member, but I sure do not think NRA is a term of denigration. Perhaps he has pissed off the rest of his department? I have no clue. But I am very sure that the police acted on a complaint, and considering the violence implied in the poster, they had to.

    Campus Threat Assessment Team. A chance to be snarky, I get it, but of course there are threat assessment teams. Universities have to deal with an amazingly wide range of threats, and armed psychopaths are just one of the issues they face.

    • “Language can easily exclude and diminish” – not so much. People may react to language by feeling excluded or diminished – not the same thing. The issue is or should be: how difficult is it for a reasonable person (a legal/social concept of long standing) to choose to not feel significantly excluded or diminished by the language and the context in which it’s presented. I see no reason to diminish 1st-Amendment rights of expression and debate to accomodate unreasonable persons.

      Speaking of context: I’m familiar with Firefly, but not with your phrase “a bit of a prag”. Should I be concerned that this bit of, presumably, slang or jargon may be intended to diminish or exclude aspects of the professor’s personality that may be similar to mine, and thus personalize and take offense at your use of it?

      • Alan, there is also the legal idea that there are, indeed, “fighting words.” The Supreme Court justice Murphy, upheld the idea that words can “inflict injury,” even if heard by a reasonable person. I do not think that using inclusive language is a constitutional issue. I do not want any governmental body legislating our vocabularies, but I do not mind societal change taking us away from using demeaning language.

        Prag? Sort of a dick. You asked about context with that. I guess you could be offended if you also call NRA members inherently violent. His complaints were directed at the campus police, so he ignored the obvious issue that a student or colleague complained about his poster. I thought my following paragraph explained why I thought his actions a bit prickish. Most

    • “That said, what is the academic point that the professor is making? It is a bad-ass saying, sort of a Samuel Jackson in Pulp Fiction thing, but that does not make it an unpopular academic argument, which is what academic freedom is supposed to protect.”

      If nothing else, it has stimulated discussion. It strikes me that this something professors are supposed to be encouraging.

      • Agreed.
        I hate to admit this, but I have never been a Lear fan. I’ll take TA, any day. Much crazier plot, and about an hour shorter.

    • You’re parading your (understandable?) ignorance.

      Firefly, the show the quote is from, was short-lived, you’re right.

      However, that’s like saying Star Trek was short-lived, with the difference being that Star Trek had a huge boom a decade or so after it went off the air; Firefly also had a movie made about it, Serenity, said movie made in part to satisfy the rabid fans who flooded the studio with requests, so it’s also a bit of a phenomenon.
      And the series was written by Joss Whedon, who is well-known as a crafter of great lines, which a theater teacher might find interesting enough to put on his office door. The series has a cult following and is considered a dramatic masterpiece by some. Good reasons to post a great line from it. Reasonable, even.

  7. Universities should be committed to the truth. “Free Speech” is necessary, but not sufficient toward this aim. Generally, in the social sciences, truth is considered optional. Next, an employer may set rules of decorum. Whether the police may do so, is a different question. Lastly, I am always amused when left liberals are caught up within the actions of their own liberal-totalitarian institutions, and then expect sympathy.

  8. The Federal Gov’t can’t “make” a private university do anything. However, if the University receives Federal funding of any kind they can threaten withdrawal of the funding unless the University does what the Feds want. Here’s an example

    “…the OCR makes clear that “the school must use a preponderance of the evidence standard,” as opposed to the “clear and convincing evidence” standard currently used by many schools.”

    http://falserapesociety.blogspot.com/2011/04/most-important-issue-this-blog-has-ever.html

    This is, by the way, the same mechanism by which the Feds order the States around, for example they formerly set a 55 mph speed limit in the entire country and by which they are currently setting 0.08 as a BAC standard for drunk driving.

    “You can do what you want, but if you ever want to see your money again, you’d better do what we say.”

  9. The sad thing is, whoever complained about that poster has a serious comprehension problem. This knee-jerk (or just jerk) person either works in or studies in that university.

    The poster is not a threat – it’s a promise about honor. Unlike the wretched Columbine Darwinists, it’s a statement about the character of the protagonist – he’ll never kill you as you sleep, or shoot you in the back.

    Oh. I see why the complainer was offended. It’s an attack on his/her lifestyle. 😀

    • I agree that the person who complained about this over-reacted. That said, I have no idea how the poster says anything about honor. If the reader of the poster does not know the context, then it just sounds bad-ass.

      What is a Columbine Darwinist?

      • “When one of the assailants, Eric Harris, was autopsied, the medical examiner found that under his black trench coat the boy had on a white t-shirt emblazoned with a peculiar slogan. The slogan was “Natural Selection.” It was later reported but little commented upon that, on his website, Harris had written, among other paeans to the Darwinian mechanism, “Natural SELECTION!!!!!! God damn it’s the best thing that ever happened to the earth. Getting rid of all the stupid and weak organisms…but it’s all natural!!! YES!”

        Something like Hitler’s “scientific” rationale for killing Jews, gypsies, the sick, and clergy. As evolutionist Sir Arthur Keith admitted: “the fuhrer is an evolutionist.”

  10. I kind of liked the first poster too. In it “Mal” is describing his personal rules of engagement, in which honor puts a significant restriction on use of violence.

    Perhaps it was the honorable nature of the restriction on violence that offended the campus cop? Notions of honor are always offensive to those who have none.

  11. wondering how many people protesting on the grounds of the campus have had their posters confiscated because the campus police force deemed it to be violent or threatening.

    numerous people had signs stating “kill the bill” in opposition to the actions of the governor.

    considering the mecca that universities had become during the failed attempt to derail the republican budget plan in wisconsin, i have little doubt that their were equivalently offensive displays, complete with a pic of a campus police person standing next to the ‘offensive material’, doing NOTHING.

    If the chief wants to tear down offensive displays, she was given ample opportunity to do so…

    is there any record of ANY sign being confiscated during the presumed campus protests?

  12. TO: All
    RE: These People….

    ….remind me of the thought police, a.k.a. Nightwatch, from Babylon 5.

    They were not so much concerned with what people did as with what they THOUGHT.

    Regards,

    Chuck(le)
    [Driven from every corner of the earth, Freedom of Thought and The Right of Private Judgment in matters of conscience direct their course to this happy country as their last asylum. — Samuel Adams]

    P.S. If they know what’s good for them, they had best stay away from the University of Wisconsin…..

  13. Isn’t this a case of the proverbial chickens coming home to roost? Perhaps I’m greatly misjudging Prof. Miller (if so, I apologize in advance if he’s offended! LOL), but he seems to be selective about which freedoms and rights he’s willing to defend: the First (Freedom of Speech) he’s definitely in favor of, the Second (Right to Bear Arms), not so much. I guess he supports the freedoms that personally affect him in his exalted position as a college teacher, but not necessarily those that are guaranteed by the Constitution to his fellow Americans. I don’t know whether Prof. Miller is a liberal, perhaps he’s not, but this sort of tunnel vision regarding our Constitutional freedoms is certainly typical of such people. If he is a member of The Others, I say to him, this is the jackbooted behavior one sees from the Liberal Establishment all the time. If you are a Lefty, you own it. Deal with it.

  14. One of the reasons college tuitions have escalated to the point where a year at school costs roughly the equivalent of a middle class annual salary is administrative bloat. Colleges nationwide have inflated their non-teaching headcount by hiring otherwise-unemployable “threat assessment teams” and other PC enforcers. And somebody has to pay for them. When I say “enforcers” I mean it in the same sense that the mob does.

  15. The Professor is opposed to fascism. The reason the state (U of W) condemns his graphic opposition is obvious: the Police Chief and Threat Assessment Team know a threat to their authority when they see one; that is, they are fascists.

  16. Just another reason we who live in Wisconsin are so happy our high taxes go to support this kind of insanity. Frankly, from the sounds of it, this is another case (for me like when the Vikings and Bears play football), where I wish both sides could lose.

  17. Considering the content of the message… it’s unacceptably violent to say that you WON’T shoot someone down in cold blood?

  18. “(C)ard carrying members of the NRA”? sigh There are a couple of lessons here which the professor should have known before he made this gratuitous and insulting remark. They’re about the wisdom of trying to curry or retain favor with the very statists and totalitarians who wish to crush your basic constitutional rights.

    First, it’s a useless act. The trying to stay or get in good with the left while fighting them, that is. Otherwise known as appearing unsure of yourself, reluctant, half-assed. This is the way the national GOP has conducted its political opposition to Obama-ism, and also how the US fought in Vietnam..neither of which turned out well. The liberals will just ignore what look like your craven attempts to show that you’re “one of the good guys”. You just wind up looking weak and ineffectual, which invites aggression by bullies.

    Second, the conservatives/libertarians (CLs) whom you mock in your attempts to ingratiate yourself with the left, are actually constitutionalists, and are the only ones who stand ready to defend you and your rights on principle. Your liberal buddies wouldn’t know a principle if it bit ’em on the ass. But the ones who believe in the primacy of individual liberty and the rule of law are the guys you want with you at The Alamo. But in effect you just told them to get the hell out because you think they don’t bathe often enough for you.

    So all you’ll accomplish is to hurt yourself with the very conservative and libertarian constitutionalists who otherwise would be flocking to your side. Now I suspect is becoming mixed, half-hearted. It’s like with Rick Perry’s incredibly arrogant and insulting “heartless” remark “: before it, I was ready to support him in any way I could, including financially; but now, I suppose I wish him well, but he won’t get a dime…or a vote…from me.

    Maybe I’m wrong, and CLs are still fired up about your case. But I’m guessing I’m not alone in cooling on you and your case. If I were you, and I depended on the goodwill of CLs to alert and arouse the blogosphere to my plight, I think I would do what I could to immediately disabuse them of possibly thinking that I held them in contempt as fools and fascists.

    But that’s just me. Here the lesson endeth.

  19. I don’t think they fully understand the meaning of: “The Pen is Mightier than the Sword.” Here is another phrase they might have heard in an English class, or cartography or similar, but not fully grasped: “the map is not the territory.” They may have also heard this phrase, but I fear they would disagree with it: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

  20. Does Miller know what the chain of command is?

    It’s the chain they go get and beat him with until he understands who’s in ruttin’ command there.

  21. “Damn. And there I thought we had a brother-in-arms. Apparently Miller is only a fan of the First Amendment. Not the Second.”

    I disagree with this. Miller’s email doesn’t take a position one way or the other on the Second Amendment. It just expresses his personal pacifism and notes the incongruity of people who carry firearms accusing him of threatening violence by quoting a TV show. It’s possible to be a pacifist who supports 2nd Amendment rights. I am one.

  22. While I’m a Firefly fan and a 2nd amendment supporter, I think the college was justified in asking the professor to remove the poster from the workplace. The manner in which it was done was highhanded; the professor’s chair should have approached him and quietly asked him to move it. The college is a workplace, not a forum for one’s private views and interests (although many academics fail to understand this until they cross a line, such as using their campus email for political organizing). The poster appeals to people who know about Firefly, but I can see how others might find it annoying and inappropriate, another example of the hip hostility trend that’s inappropriate for professionals to display at work. The professor has to deal with students, the community, and other administrators. What message did he hope to send by hanging this poster? That he’s tough but fair? I don’t think the intended audience understood it.

  23. Frank: Yes. Well, when I see 5 weirdos dressed in togas stabbing a guy in the middle of the park in full view of 100 people, I shoot the bastards. That’s *my* policy.

    Mayor: That was a Shakespeare-In-The-Park production of “Julius Caesar”, you moron! You killed 5 actors! Good ones.

  24. This professor’s students have posted their opinions on ratemyprofessor.com and it’s not pretty once you click past the first page of comments.

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