Fresno State did the right thing by not firing a professor who tweeted awful things about Barbara Bush

  • In the wake of her vile tweets, many conservatives indeed defended Randa Jarrar’s right to speak freely – despite claims to the contrary.
  • Fresno launched an investigation into her words, but ultimately decided that they were protected under the First Amendment.

After Randa Jarrar’s vile tweets about former first lady Barbara Bush went viral, many called on Fresno State, the university at which she teaches, to fire her. The negative attention inspired Joseph I. Castro, the university’s president, to launch an investigation into what Jarrar said and what actions the university might be permitted to take.

As this developed, many conservative pundits – myself included – put pen to paper to defend Jarrar and her admittedly reprehensible tweets.

Also among them was Megan McArdle. She wrote in The Washington Post that “Fresno State is wrong to investigate her private speech,” and that “conservatives who are tempted to support the school should think again.”

She went further: “If we want to advance the sum of human knowledge, people need to be free to speak their minds as often as possible. … That’s especially true in academia, where the explicit mission is expanding that knowledge.”

Ben Shapiro, meanwhile, wrote in the Daily Wire that “if we’re going to call for freedom of expression on public university campuses, Jarrar’s speech is protected.”

And in National Review, David French wrote that “this is a simple matter: the president of the university, Joseph Castrol, should condemn Jarrar’s speech while at the same time unequivocally defending the First Amendment.”

In the end, that’s what happened. Castro released a statement explaining the university’s decision. Jarrar’s conduct, he wrote, was “insensitive, inappropriate, and an embarrassment to the university.”

“I know her comments have angered many in our community and impacted our students,” he said.

But he said Fresno would not fire her.

“After completing this process,” he said, “we have concluded that Professor Jarrar did not violate any CSU or university policies and that she was acting in a private capacity and speaking about a public matter on her personal Twitter account.”

Her comments, “although disgraceful, are protected free speech under the First Amendment of the US Constitution,” Castro said.

Castro also said that “our duty as Americans and as educators is to promote a free exchange of diverse views, even if we disagree with them” and that “at Fresno State, we encourage opinions and ideas to be expressed in a manner than informs, enlightens, and educates without being disparaging of others.”

In the wake of Jarrar’s tweets, and the response to them, Vox’s Anna North wrote a piece entitled, “Conservatives keep sparking ‘free speech’ battles. But when a Muslim professor tweeted about racism, guess what happened?”

What happened was that Fresno State’s leadership followed the solution advocated by thoughtful conservatives.

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