Hey, Justice Scalia: Stay Away from Washington State!
October 12, 2005
by Charles Mitchell
For a while, we thought things might be getting better at Washington State. First, administrator Michael Tate asked Chris Lee, the student playwright whose rights were trampled, to write a letter clarifying what the university could do to make things right. Lee sent just such a letter
, repeating his very reasonable request that Washington State publicly state that heckling is not free speech and that he would be free to put on future plays without interference. But Tate inexplicably refused in a September 28 response
. Lee’s next play will be performed next month, despite his own university’s appalling refusal to make sure he is not silenced or threatened again.
Washington State’s Orwellian tendencies became even clearer in a recent story
by intrepid reporter E. Kirsten Peters. The university’s latest letter to FIRE
promised that the College of Education would no longer use its “dispositions” criteria in an unconstitutional manner, but comments to Peters by Judy Mitchell, dean of the College, make clear that that promise means nothing. Here is the relevant part of Peters’ article:
Would conservative Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia pass the [dispositions] evaluation if he were a student at WSU? “I don’t know how to answer that,” Mitchell said. “I haven’t been in on faculty discussions of how the faculty apply the language (of the PDE) to individual students.”
Wait, what? She really had the gall to say that? As FIRE’s David French pointed out in the story, the dean is to be commended for her honesty, but, as he put it:
[T]he answer is alarming because Scalia shouldn’t fail any “character” test because of his beliefs. The only legitimate test is whether Justice Scalia, as a hypothetical education student, knows the subjects he is teaching and whether he is an effective teacher in the classroom during his student-teaching period.
David continued, “The fact that the dean didn’t give that answer is highly revealing of the whole problem.” Indeed.
It is not clear if Jaeger and Maldonado’s departures are related to their roles in the Lee case. But what is clear is that Washington State has on repeated occasions ignored its legal obligation to the First Amendment and its moral responsibility to uphold academic freedom. FIRE will not let up until that changes.