As we mentioned in Morning Docket, there’s an interesting ongoing brouhaha at Nova Southeastern between the school and a professor who claims he was fired after the school misinterpreted some of his jokes. Jokes about shooting people, but jokes nonetheless.
Now it seems to me that any professor who actually decided to teach at Nova Southeastern would eventually contemplate things he could do with a gun. But I imagine even students willing to go to Nova Southeastern would think twice about it if they had to dodge a hail of bullets while sitting in class. So I guess they have to take even jokes about this very seriously.
And, hey, for the rest of us, it’s an opportunity to see exactly what you have to do to get fired after you get tenure….
The National Law Journal is covering the story of Anthony Chase, a former Nova Southeastern law professor who sued the school after he was let go.
According to Chase’s complaint, he began teaching at the school in 1979 and was tenured in 1985, although the school said in its response that he was tenured in 1984. He was placed on administrative leave on Oct. 7, 2010, after several colleagues reported that he had made statements involving a gun and what they took as threats of violence.
The school fired Chase by letter on Dec. 8, 2010, according to the complaint. Administrators cited several e-mails Chase had sent, including one to a fellow law professor complaining of his treatment by the facilities management staff. It read in part, “I have acquired a large Beretta hand gun and I take my ‘how to shoot’ course Tuesday or Thursday of the week,” according to the complaint.
Jesus, who knew that teaching at Nova Southeastern was like being trapped in the closet.
Chase claims that Nova officials view him as mentally deranged enough to go on a shooting rampage. Which is funny to me. But not nearly as funny as what Chase’s attorneys argue in the alternative:
Chase alleges that university officials perceived him to be “mentally deranged enough to engage in a campus shooting rampage.” That perception was not based on his actions, since a search turned up no gun and he lacked a concealed-carry permit, the complaint argues. Still, administrators perceived that Chase had a mental disability and fired him on that basis in violation of the ADA, it reads.
So, for those playing along at home, the argument is that if Nova officials really thought Professor Chase was a crazy person who was about to shoot up the school, then firing him was illegal discrimination under the ADA. Chase is arguing that the ADA would somehow prevent Nova from firing people they believe to be unhinged enough to shoot people on campus.
That, my friends, is crazy-pants.
Is this the kind of law that they teach at Nova Southeastern? That federal anti-discrimination laws must be construed so strictly as preventing institutions from firing people who might shoot up the school?
All that said, I don’t think a law professor should get fired on the “too soon” theory of making jokes about campus gunfire. I mean, the brother has tenure. I don’t think the ADA would prevent Nova from doing anything, but I bet your average tenured professor could actually kneecap a student and just get put on sabbatical for a semester.
Nova Law wins round with professor fired over gun fears [National Law Journal]