Inside Higher Ed, Protests Spread:
The sustained protests at the University of Missouri, which led to the ouster of a system president and campus chancellor, are inspiring minority students at many campuses. ...
At Vanderbilt, many minority students have in recent days renewed a push for the university to take action against Carol Swain (right), a tenured professor of political science and law, over a column she wrote in January after the terrorist attacks in Paris against the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
In the January column, Swain asked, "What would it take to make us admit we were wrong about Islam? What horrendous attack would finally convince us that Islam is not like other religions in the United States, that it poses an absolute danger to us and our children unless it is monitored better than it has been under the Obama administration?"
Many students and others said that the column stereotyped all Muslims in a way that was profoundly biased, but the university defended Swain's right to free speech.
In the last week, students started a new petition to have her fired, saying that she engages in name-calling, that her use of the word "Professor" on her Facebook page suggests that she speaks for Vanderbilt and that her biases may lead to discrimination against minority students who are not Christian or straight. (Swain is black, but her conservative political views have angered many black people.)
The organizers of the petition then amended their request, calling for Vanderbilt to suspend Swain, not fire her. This change, the petition organizers announced, was "made to more clearly address Swain’s right to free speech."
Vanderbilt's chancellor, Nicholas S. Zeppos, issued a statement Wednesday in which he said that he did not agree with Swain's views, and that he was sorry if any Vanderbilt students felt hurt or unwelcome. Said Zeppos, "Vanderbilt also has a deep and longstanding commitment to freedom of speech and academic freedom, which are the foundations of our university’s scholarly activities. Such freedoms necessarily allow for the expression of unpopular and offensive views. However, speech whose sole purpose or effect is to discriminate, stigmatize, retaliate, offend, foment hatred or violence, or cause harm has no place in this university."
On her Facebook page, Swain pointed readers to an article in National Review that calls the request to suspend her part of the "illiberal idiocy" popular at some campuses. "Swain’s apostasy is that she has made politically incorrect statements about radical Islam and her traditional Christian beliefs, statements that the petitioners deem intolerant and which the university, therefore, must not tolerate -- tolerance, of course, being a one-way street," says the article.