Academic Freedom: Dr. Jonathan Higgins

Yesterday, I wrote about the adjunct prof fired by the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for alleged homophobia. I wrote that we have to pay attention when people with less power are punished for speech, even if their views might be objectionable.

Today, I turn to the case of Dr. Jonathan Higgins, the director of Claremont Colleges’ Queer Resource Center. He was fired for tweeting about white supremacy after a right-wing website latched on to three of his tweets and started campaigning for him to get fired. The college caved.

  1. Colleges need to realize that they cannot appease right-wing media by firing individuals.
  2. Professional staff (I’m about to be one) should be afforded the same rights for “extramural utterances” (i.e. Twitter) as faculty. We want our professional staff engaged in public conversations, not terrified of being fired.
  3. College PR depts should learn to write this statement: “We do not let right-wing media influence our hiring or firing decisions. That will be our only comment on the matter.” 
There is an industry dedicated to finding people in higher education saying liberal things on social media and concentrating attention on them until they lose their jobs. As Tressie McMillan Cottom was quoted in The Chronicle of Higher Education the other day – “If there‚Äôs an organized outrage machine, we need an organized response.”
Part of that response must involve the high profile Free Speech Warriors shifting their attention away from leftwing protests of rightwing speakers, and working collaboratively with us to protect people like Bonesteel and Higgins. 

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