Free Speech, Law Schools, Military / Military Law

Should Suffolk Fire Michael Avery For His Anti-Military Comments?

Dear Suffolk University Law School Administrators: Your Michael Avery problem is not going away (and not just because he has tenure).

On Veterans Day, we told you about Avery, a Suffolk Law professor with a real bug up his ass when it comes to care packages for troops serving overseas. Not long after our story, Suffolk released a wacky statement in which they tried to seem supportive of everybody and everything.

I told them at the time that wouldn’t work.

Now, an adjunct law professor currently in Kabul has cut ties with Suffolk because of Avery, and Suffolk is now in the uncomfortable position of de facto supporting Avery’s comments against a pissed-off military.

What should the school do now?

Under normal circumstances, having an adjunct law professor “resign” wouldn’t be big news. But these aren’t normal times for a law school that is used to simply disappointing its own students.

Now, if I were in charge of Suffolk Law, I’d have just said that Professor Avery was an old curmudgeon with a long history of being cranky. Don’t escalate it to an “academic freedom” or “First Amendment” issue, where people can get their hackles up about free speech versus those who might be called upon to die to defend it. Just say, “Look, he’s a cranky dude who thinks our flag is too big, surely you don’t take him seriously.”

Well, Robert Roughsedge is serious, and I wouldn’t call him Shirley.

Roughsedge is a U.S. Army Reserve Major and was an adjunct professor at Suffolk. Now his story is on Fox News:

In response to Avery’s email, Roughsedge submitted his letter of resignation on Monday, telling WTXF in a telephone interview that the e-mail is “hate speech.”

“It’s basically like a 5-year-old throwing a temper tantrum,” he told the station. “That is not how we teach our students to rationally look at the issues…. We want rational adult discourse and that is not something I would tolerate in my class and it is not something the school should tolerate from one of its professors.”

Again, I’m still waiting for one of the law professors who was so eager to support Stephanie Grace during her free speech dust-up to come to the defense of Professor Avery here. The guy is getting killed over statements he made to other faculty, and that’s not worthy of defense from the academic freedom crowd?

Meanwhile, Suffolk continues to just fall over itself trying to wrap itself in the red, white, and blue. From a Suffolk tipster:

I think the school is feeling the heat. We’ve recently installed four of these flat-screen TVs on every floor of the building. Starting today, every screen is turned on to this image:

Operation Gratitude? More like “Operation Cover Yo’ Ass.”

The problem here is that Suffolk is resisting just calling Professor Avery an ass. It would really be okay. Just say: “Hey, Professor Avery is an ass. Nobody here really agrees with him on this; he’s totally beyond the pale. Why is anybody even taking what he said seriously? But we’re not gonna fire him because, Jesus, if we fired every asshole up in here, we’d scarcely have a faculty. Plus there’s this thing called tenure.”

Why do we live in a world where “academic freedom” and “freedom of speech” also mean freedom from being called an idiot? I mean, looking like a fool has always been the natural check on people running off at the mouth. If opinions are like assholes (everybody has one), then mockery is the big apex ass-predator that keeps the asshole population in check. But humans have become so afraid of mockery that it has been encroached upon and marginalized. Now everything has to be handled through a teachable freaking moment.

Is Michael Richards racist? Probably! He said ni**er in a crowded theater multiple times. Is Brett Ratner bigoted towards gays? Most likely! The man couldn’t get through an interview without telling us “rehearsal is for fa*s.” Now, I don’t think that means that Brett Ratner should be excommunicated from the Oscars or that Michael Richards should… does anybody know where Michael Richards is?

I think we should just make fun of them and move on. Hey, Stevie Williams, why don’t you get your ass over here and caddy for the black president? Public ridicule is a punishment that has served society well for a long, long time.

And it has the delightful side effect of not impinging on anybody’s free speech. Once you start firing people, or suing people, or whatever, once you prevent a man from making a living, you are truly chilling his right to free speech.

But (and I know some people disagree with me here) you can’t mock someone to death.

Honestly Suffolk, just try it my way and see what happens. Don’t fire the man, don’t cover your entire campus in an American flag, just try coming out and making a little fun of Avery for holding ridiculously extreme viewpoints. The man objected to the size of your flag.

If you can’t find humor in that, there’s no helping you.

Law Professor Quits Job After Colleague Calls Care Packages for U.S. Troops ‘Shameful’ [Fox News]

Earlier: Law Professor Objects to Solicitations to Help Our Troops in Afghanistan
Suffolk Law Supports the Troops, and Free Speech, and the Constitution, and Everything Else!

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