The US Department of Education has warned UCLA it could face fines if it disciplines a political science professor who read the N-word from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”
Lecturer W. Ajax Peris, an Air Force veteran, has been under investigation since early this month. UCLA Political Science Chair Michael Chwe and two others in his department had blasted Peris in an email, agreeing with students’ complaints that he didn’t “pause and reassess [his] teaching pedagogy” after objections to the N-word.
An apology from Peris did little to assuage students and faculty. According to Fox News, Chwe and company alleged Peris’s act of contrition “escalated the situation rather than engaging in […] thoughtful and open discourse.”
The DOE informed UCLA that Peris has been “improperly and abusively targeted.”
The Education Department called UCLA’s disciplinary actions against Peris inconsistent with the school’s “Faculty Code of Conduct,” which claims “to guarantee its faculty the right to free inquiry and exchange of ideas; the right to present controversial material relevant to a course of instruction; and the enjoyment of constitutionally protected freedom and expression.”
The department warned it may impose fines “and other measures” if an internal investigation determines that UCLA had violated its code of conduct.
The department also requested the school to provide specified records, documents, and transcribed interviews within 30 calendar days to comply with the investigation.
The investigation is being conducted by the Department’s Office of the Postsecondary Education, with support from the Office of General Counsel.
As noted by The Fix, Political Science Chair Chwe doesn’t exactly come across as a neutral arbiter. He’s claimed Trump supporters are the “greatest danger to democracy” since possibly the Civil War, and that American democracy “can only survive when white people […] willingly surrender power to ‘multiracial and multi-gender coalitions.’”
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