Fox News is reporting that Peter Quint, the ASL professor who was fired over a comment he made to one of his students, is suing the University of Oregon. Since being suspended, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has stepped in, writing a letter to President Richard Lariviere demanding that Quint be reinstated for the 2011-12 academic year. (Read their investigation and letter here.)
There are two things going on in this case: the violation of Quint’s right to due process in being hastily suspended and the violation of Quint’s right to academic freedom in being fired for a comment that could have been interpreted widely. In regards to due process, the UO and the Oregon University system seem to believe they’ve got everything under control.
FoxNews.com contacted university officials, who would not comment on the pending litigation. However, the university did release a statement.
“The University of Oregon conducted a thorough investigation into the incident that occurred in Mr. Quint’s classroom prior to taking action,” the statement reads. The Oregon University system also said it has procedures for formal proceedings when dealing with matters such as Quint’s.
“The charges or a notice accompanying the charges shall inform the academic staff member of the right to a formal hearing on the charges and of the academic staff member’s duty to notify the president within 10 days after the charges have been delivered or sent whether such hearing is desired,” read the procedures.
Quint’s lawyer disagrees, and is coming at the free speech debate from another angle: the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Quint declined FoxNews.com requests for comment after consulting with his lawyer, Kevin Tillson. Tillson did tell FoxNews.com that the university terminated Quint mid-term without due process and violated Quint’s free speech and his rights under the Americans With Disability Act for failure to provide reasonable accommodations in the workplace.
As an adjunct professor, Quint is not rewarded the same rights as associate or full tenured professors, which will greatly influence the outcome of the court case. Regardless, it is fantastic that Quint is standing up to UO administrators and fighting for his job. In every instance of a professor, adjunct or otherwise, not being granted the rights he or she deserves, a precedent is set for the next time the UO deals with a professor. And as I mentioned in my previous post, the UO administration already has a tenuous relationship with the first amendment. The time to act is now.
In the words of UO Matters, “Soon professors will need a concealed carry permit just to make a presentation with bullet points.”