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Do the Right Thing

This type of conduct isn’t acceptable for a Professor at Fresno State.

Apr 17, 2017

We don't normally get involved in issues like the one involving the history professor at Fresno State.  In case you haven't heard about professor Lars Maischak, he made a number of controversial, maybe illegal, statements including “to save American democracy, Trump must hang, the sooner and the higher, the better."  He also appeared to be rooting for someone to do it, saying "has anyone started soliciting money and design drafts for a monument honoring the Trump assassin, yet?"  Not stopping at Trump, the professor also advocated the death of Republicans for their stand on immigration policy with this tweet, "Justice = The execution of two Republicans for each deported immigrant."  And just to cover all the bases he also threw in some religion, "If only Mary had had an abortion!"  Something for everyone.  

There has been a predictable backlash from those who say the professor should be fired and if they don't fire him they will withhold support for the University.  The University hasn't made any comment on how much, if any, financial support they have lost.  We'd like the University to tell us.  

Fresno State initially released a statement on behalf of President Joseph Castro, saying "Statements made on his personal social media accounts are his alone and are not endorsed by nor reflect the position of the University.”  Then President Castro sent a campuswide email with the message, “The university is taking this matter seriously and handling it in accordance with applicable law and policy, as well as our traditions of academic freedom and the requirements of the faculty collective-bargaining unit agreement.”  

Maischak doubled down on Castro with his own statement, "I am appalled that the president of the university is allowing himself to be instrumentalized for a right-wing smear campaign...It constitutes an embrace by the university of the claims made by right-wing propaganda outlets."

The next day, however, upon further reflection, the professor had a change of heart, "I apologize for the tone and content of my statements made on Twitter.  I ask forgiveness of those who felt threatened or offended by them.  It was never my intent to harm anyone, nor to encourage others to harm anyone.  My statements each represent the end point of a dark train of thought triggered by my despair over the actions of the present U.S. government."

For some the question is simply this:  can a professor say things like that and still keep his job?  President Castro hasn't really answered that question.  We do know it's against the law to make "any threat to take the life of, to kidnap, or to inflict bodily harm upon the President of the United States."  Does that mean he might be charged with a crime, but still protected by free speech in the classroom?  We'd like to know.  We can't find any actual policy that deals with this at Fresno State.  The University does say they "have a special obligation not only to allow but also to encourage and support the free expression of ideas, values and opinions, even where they may be unpopular or controversial.”  And according to the Association of University Professors "We don’t believe that (Maischak) should be punished for this – certainly not by the university.  That’s inappropriate, and really, it’s a violation of his academic freedom. We generally believe that professors should have the right to speak on any issue.”  So, no big deal?

For our part we only hope that President Castro will be totally transparent about whatever decision he might come to.  Please answer for our community questions about whether there are limits to what a professor working for Fresno State can say, both in the classroom and on social media.  This was a Twitter account, and not associated with the University according to Maischak.  But, the account had a link to the University.  Does that matter?  President Castro has had a policy of transparency and we hope he will answer any and all questions on this matter, and not leave us in the dark because of personnel issues.  For his part, Castro said "I want folks to know that we will do the right thing.”  Does he know what the right thing is, but just can't do it yet?  Or, do we not know what the right thing is and are still trying to find out?  

This type of conduct isn’t acceptable for a Professor at Fresno State.  Any University that allows this behavior doesn't deserve to be called an Institution of Higher Learning.
As for his apology it would be understandable if he was a 15 year-old who realized he made a mistake, but someone teaching at this level should know better.

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