University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Heckler’s Veto Results in Termination of Emeritus Professor’s Network Access

Category: Free Speech
Schools: University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) succumbed to the “heckler’s veto” by revoking Emeritus Professor Elliot Cramer’s network access because of outside complaints about a website link to an organization that advocates for animal welfare. Despite telling the complainant that the dispute was “not a University matter” and that the university did not monitor website content, UNC nevertheless demanded that Cramer remove the link from his website and later canceled his network access. FIRE wrote UNC in protest, and General Counsel Leslie Chambers Strohm replied stating that UNC would not restore Cramer’s network access, redefining Cramer’s reasonable, good-faith efforts to defend himself as part of the problem/ Strohm also claimed that UNC had not acted due to the content of Cramer’s expression, despite the fact that Strohm herself had ordered Cramer to remove content from his website.

  • Annoy UNC to silence its profs

    June 23, 2011

    If you’re wondering how solid UNC’s commitment to free speech is, the verdict is in: Not very. North Carolina’s flagship university will defend your right to speak out — until the higher-ups get tired of doing so. UNC Professor Emeritus Elliot Cramer found this out the hard way when his efforts to promote animal welfare at shelters in North Carolina drew the ire of a New Yorker named Joseph Villarosa. Their dispute remained private until Villarosa began to relentlessly complain to UNC that Cramer had an e-mail address and Web page on UNC’s servers — a privilege UNC extends to […]

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  • Borrowed Gravitas

    June 22, 2011

    As far as using a university e-mail account for non-university purposes, not much, according to Elliot Cramer, an emeritus professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Administrators at Chapel Hill disagree. The university recently canceled Cramer’s UNC e-mail account, dropped his faculty web page, and barred him from using electronic library resources and other network privileges after finding that he had used his UNC e-mail account to “conduct business” for an animal rights organization with no university affiliation. Cramer had also used his university e-mail account during a vicious war of words with another animal […]

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  • Will Threat of Legal Action Spur UNC to Restore Emeritus Professor’s Rights?

    September 20, 2011

    After months of discussion with little to show for it, Professor Emeritus Elliot Cramer plans to file an ethics complaint against University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) General Counsel Leslie C. Strohm, based in part on Strohm’s role in revoking his university email account and website. A lawsuit, Cramer says, is also imminent. This latest development in Cramer’s case comes five months after UNC stripped him of his network credentials due to the agitations of an animal activist. The activist, unaffiliated in any way with UNC, repeatedly demanded that UNC punish Cramer merely because his UNC-provided website posted […]

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  • ‘Chronicle’ Article on Emeritus Faculty Highlights Case of Wronged UNC Professor

    August 15, 2011

    The Chronicle of Higher Education has published an interesting article on the vagaries of emeritus faculty status and what it means at various universities—i.e., whether it comes with perks or is merely symbolic. In part, the article focuses on recent controversial cases in which emeritus status was denied. In one case, law professor Robert Natelson was denied emeritus status by a vote of his fellow faculty at the University of Montana; he believes the cause to be his outspokenly conservative political views. Another case involves Professor William Ayers of the University of Illinois at Chicago (whose right to speak FIRE has […]

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  • ‘Triangle Business Journal’ on UNC’s Revocation of Emeritus Professor’s Network Access

    July 1, 2011

    North Carolina’s Triangle Business Journal is the latest media outlet to report on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s (UNC’s) troubling action against Professor Emeritus Elliot Cramer when UNC succumbed to outside pressure to revoke Cramer’s university network access. The pressure had come from Joseph Villarosa, who has no affiliation with UNC but who drew UNC into his personal dispute with Cramer. FIRE’s Will Creeley commented for the article: “Once the university has established a set of rules, it has set a precedent,” says Will Creeley, director of legal and public advocacy for FIRE. “Professors expect that when they retire, the promise of network access […]

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  • FIRE’s Shibley Raps UNC’s Punishment of Emeritus Professor in ‘Herald-Sun’

    June 24, 2011

    The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s (UNC’s) decision to revoke the network access of Professor Emeritus Elliot Cramer continues to draw headlines, most recently with today’s column in the Chapel Hill newspaper The Herald-Sun by FIRE Senior Vice President Robert Shibley.  For those unfamiliar with the case, Cramer’s network access was revoked by UNC after an external critic, Joseph Villarosa (with whom Cramer had been in an ongoing, non-university related dispute), complained to UNC about a link Cramer posted on his university website. This link carried readers to a site for an animal welfare organization Cramer is affiliated with, through […]

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  • FIRE Corrects the Record on ‘Inside Higher Ed’ Reporting of UNC Case

    June 22, 2011

    Inside Higher Ed runs a story today on the case of Elliot Cramer, Professor Emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), whose UNC network privileges were terminated by the university as a result of Joseph Villarosa’s attempts to draw UNC into a private dispute between him and Cramer. (Villarosa is unaffiliated with UNC.) Inside Higher Ed‘s story is informed by our press release about the case, released yesterday, and we’re grateful for its coverage of the situation. However, Inside Higher Ed‘s article overemphasizes the role of an earlier dispute involving the Friends of Orange County Animal […]

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  • UNC-Chapel Hill Surrenders to ‘Heckler’s Veto,’ Revokes Emeritus Professor’s Network Access

    June 21, 2011

    CHAPEL HILL, N.C., June 21, 2011—The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) has surrendered to the “heckler’s veto” by revoking Professor Emeritus Elliot Cramer’s network access following outside complaints about a link on his website to an organization that advocates for animal welfare. Despite telling the complaining individual that the dispute was “not a University matter” and that the university did not monitor the content of websites maintained by professors, UNC nevertheless demanded that Cramer remove the link from his website and later canceled his network access entirely. Cramer came to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for […]

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