The Fresno State University adjunct who back in February had tweeted out “To save American democracy, Trump must hang” and “Justice = the execution of two Republicans for each deported immigrant” will not be teaching this fall.
Instead, history professor Lars Maischak will be busy “convert[ing] two courses to an online format” according to an email from Fresno State President Joseph Castro.
According to The Fresno Bee, Castro said this course conversion “meets [Maischak’s] unit requirement per the faculty collective bargaining unit agreement.”
The FBI and Secret Service had been “in frequent contact” with Castro regarding Maischak’s tweets, and the adjunct accused Castro of “allowing himself to be instrumentalized for a right-wing smear campaign.”
Maischak also said his Trump tweet was “only meant to indicate Trump is a threat to democracy.”
Nevertheless, the professor did apologize, stating “I ask forgiveness of those who felt threatened or offended by them,” and “It was never my intent to harm anyone, nor to encourage others to harm anyone.” He also deleted his Twitter account.
Inside Higher Ed reports that Maischak believes the fact that he’s not teaching this fall is a direct consequence of his tweets — which, in his view, violates academic freedom.
Hank Reichman, the American Association of University Professors’ Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, agrees:
“Maischak’s tweet may have been ill considered — and he has apologized for it — but he has not been charged with violating any law and he tweeted as a private citizen, not in his faculty capacity. The right of faculty members to speak or write as citizens, free from institutional censorship or discipline, has long been recognized as a core principle of academic freedom.”
Additionally, Reichman said, Maischak hasn’t been charged with a crime for his tweets, making his academic freedom case stronger.
Would Maischak face the same level of scrutiny by the university — and the same removal from his teaching position — if he was tenured? Do adjunct faculty members have shakier academic freedom safeguards than their peers?
“It’s really easy to fire an adjunct,” said John K. Wilson, an independent scholar of academic freedom and co-editor of the American Association of University Professors’ “Academe” blog. “That makes them more vulnerable to attacks on their academic freedom.” …
Though Maischak will still be employed through the end of his contract, Wilson said he was concerned about how much due process there was in Fresno’s decision.
“That reflects the power of the union, but even in a case like that, being taken out of the classroom for extramural utterance is a violation of academic freedom, even if you’re still being paid, even if you’re doing other work,” Wilson said.
“There are several of these cases of these people expressing violent, negative wishes toward Donald Trump. But I think it’s important to remember this is not a case of a death threat, this is not somebody making some kind of serious act of violence,” he said. “There’s no reason that some offensive tweet means he’s an incompetent teacher of his class. There doesn’t seem to be any indication of why, beyond public opinion, the university is doing this.”
FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, has reached out to Maischak “in order to ensure a complete and accurate understanding of the facts and to evaluate potential courses of action.