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Monday, November 25, 2019

Eric Rasmusen, IU, and the First Amendment

For those who missed it, Indiana-Bloomington Provost (and law professor) Lauren Robel issued a public statement excoriating business professor Eric Rasmusen's publicly expressed views about women, racial groups, LGBTQ people, and others, while insisting that the First Amendment prevented the school from firing the tenured professor. The school did prohibit Rasmusen from teaching single-section required courses and imposed special blind-grading obligations. Rasmusen has responded. Many, such as Gregory Magarian (Wash. U.) on the blog Lawyers, Guns, and Money saw this as counter-speech in action. Brian Leiter doubts that a university administrator should comment on a faculty member's speech--he argues Robel should have stopped at "the First Amendment protects this speech, Rasmusen does not speak for IU, and we are monitoring to ensure compliance with anti-discrimination laws. Josh Blackman questions whether there is a First Amendment difference between firing a professor and hampering his teaching by reducing the size of his classes--either is a sanction imposed because of his speech.

On a different note, the Magarian interview is interesting as a wide-ranging discussion of where the First Amendment is trending. Note particular his discussion of Citizens United as not quite the bogeyman everyone says.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 25, 2019 at 10:59 AM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman | Permalink


Another indicator, in case you needed one, that the people who run higher education are (1) mendacious, (2) deceitful, (3) hysterical, and (4) puerile. The trustees could repair this situation, but the professional and business types who sit on boards seem to believe that being mendacious, deceitful, hysterical and puerile is perfectly normal. That's the toxic culture in which we all live.

Posted by: Art Deco | Dec 2, 2019 11:08:37 AM

Restrictions on teaching in response to a professor's out-of-class speech also implicate the First Amendment, as the Second Circuit ruled in Levin v. Harleston (1992). That decision ruled that a university couldn't even create alternative classes for students of a professor in response to his writings denigrating blacks -- much less restrict his teaching directly -- without violating the First Amendment. See 966 F.2d 85 (2d Cir. 1992). Josh Blackman has since modified his blog post to include mention of the Levin case, citing the fact that I brought it to his attention.

I see no evidence that Professor Rasmusen has discriminated against women or minorities in his classes, or in grading. So the Levin v. Harleston case seems highly relevant.

Posted by: Hans Bader | Nov 26, 2019 3:00:21 PM

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