The University of Virginia has placed a business professor on leave after comparing the Black Lives Matter movement to the Ku Klux Klan in a post on Facebook.

Heat Street reports:

UVA Prof Put on Leave for Comparing Black Lives Matter to KKK

The University of Virginia announced Friday that a professor has agreed to take leave after posting a Facebook comment that called Black Lives Matter racist and compared it to the Klu Klux Klan.

In a Friday statement to the campus, Provost Tom Katsouleas slammed business professor Douglas Muir’s Facebook post, emphasizing the university’s commitment to fighting racism and social injustice.

Katsouleas seemed to say that Muir’s opinion, in and of itself, threatened free speech on campus.

The university’s commitment to social justice “in no way squelches academic freedom, which welcomes dissent and encourages the voices of others whose perspectives may differ from ours—thereby adding new insights to our own,” Katsouleas wrote. “But statements such as Mr. Muir’s do not foster intellectual exploration, nor do they encourage the voices of others. … We can engage in healthy debate and respectful disagreement without offering insults that suppress the free expression of ideas.”

Muir came under fire last week after a Charlottesville resident saw the Facebook post, took a screenshot of it, and sent it to the university.

UVA’s School of Engineering released the following statement:

A recent comment regarding the Black Lives Matter movement, posted on social media by Doug Muir, a lecturer in our School, has raised serious concerns about UVA Engineering’s commitment to diversity, inclusion and support of populations that are traditionally underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

While free speech and open discussion are fundamental principles of our nation and the University, Mr. Muir’s comment was entirely inappropriate. UVA Engineering does not condone actions that undermine our values, dedication to diversity and educational mission. Our faculty and staff are responsible for upholding our values and demonstrating them to students and the community. Mr. Muir has agreed to take leave and is preparing his own statement to the community.

We believe humanity will not solve its ongoing challenges unless it embraces the ideas and talents of people from diverse backgrounds and perspectives. UVA Engineering is educating the nation’s future leaders, problem-solvers and policy makers. We expect our faculty and staff to create a climate that supports and engages all.

This incident has illuminated the need for further dialogue. UVA Engineering must work together to advance a shared vision for a truly inclusive learning community.

Craig H. Benson, Ph.D., PE, NAE
Dean, School of Engineering & Applied Science

John Fitzgerald Gates, Ph.D.
Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion
School of Engineering & Applied Science

Hans Bader provided a legal perspective on this at Liberty Unyielding:

University of Virginia violated free speech rights of lecturer who criticized Black Lives Matter

Doug Muir’s criticism of BLM is speech protected by the First Amendment, under court rulings such as Dube v. State University of New York, 900 F.2d 587 (2d Cir. 1990), which held that a professor had a First Amendment right to repeatedly argue that Zionism is racism, even though it caused a growing furor. In Levin v. Harleston, 966 F.2d 85 (2d Cir. 1992), a federal appeals court ruled that the First Amendment protected a professor whose published “writings contained a number of denigrating comments concerning the intelligence and social characteristics of blacks.”

Another case also illustrates that speech about such matters of public importance cannot be suppressed because it offends listeners or even co-workers. In that case, the California Department of Corrections attempted to fire John Wallace after he angrily denounced its affirmative action plan to the Hispanic female employee he perceived as benefiting from it. The California Court of Appeal, however, found that his criticisms of the plan were protected by the First Amendment, and barred Wallace’s firing, in California Department of Corrections v. State Personnel Board, 59 Cal.App.4th 131 (1997). And in yet another case, Thompson v. Board of Education (1989), a federal judge ruled that a teacher’s remarks in a news article about problems in the Chicago school system (such as gang activity) was constitutionally protected, even though some community members and teachers perceived the teacher’s comments as racist and inflammatory.

Bonus Question: Would the result have been the same if the professor were black and falsely equated a conservative or mostly white group to the Klan?

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