Fox News and ‘Daily Mail’: Wrongly Dismissed Oregon Professor Now Planning to Sue

By on July 18, 2011

Public scrutiny is mounting against the University of Oregon (UO), which suspended American Sign Language (ASL) instructor Peter Quint from teaching and then notified him he would not be reappointed, all because he sarcastically made a reference to shooting students who were breaking the rules during one of his classes. As Fox News and Britain’s Daily Mail are reporting, Quint is preparing to sue the university for violating his rights.

Among UO’s many transgressions in prosecuting his case, as FIRE has explained, is failing to consider Quint’s remark in its proper context. As we originally wrote:

On May 4, Quint opened his ASL 203 class with a personal story meant to emphasize the need to be able to communicate across barriers and show respect in a "foreign" environment such as an ASL classroom. Quint related his experience in Pakistan when his ability to communicate with others in a foreign environment had helped him escape threats against his life. In an email to College of Education Dean Michael Bullis the next day, Quint explained that the story involved

a situation in Pakistan where I had to deal with a threat involving a group of Pashtun tribesmen, one of whom had a gun. It was all in reference to one of the goals of ASL classes; that is to create in students a strength of heart from active practice and involvement in a "foreign" environment.

So, that was the context for what came next. Being deaf himself, Quint had made it clear to his students, both during lectures and in his syllabus, that respectful communication in class required that all communication be visible. Yet, later during that very class, some students again violated this policy. In frustration he expressed, "Do you want me to take a gun out and shoot you in the head so you understand what I am talking about? I had to practice being respectful in Pakistan otherwise I would have been shot. Can you practice the same respect here?"Quint was promptly removed from his classes after his department received a complaint, then informed of the department’s decision not to rehire him, despite never having an opportunity to face his accuser or enjoy any of the due process protections that UO promises its professors. UO didn’t even bother to bring any actual charges against him.

FIRE’s reporting got the attention of FoxNews.com’s Patrick Manning, who reported on the story last Friday. FIRE’s Robert Shibley went into detail about the extent of UO’s due process violations for Manning’s story:

Robert Shibley, senior vice president at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, a non-profit organization that works to uphold free speech on college campuses, said Michael Bullis, dean of the College of Education, notified Quint by e-mail that he had been suspended from teaching. A few days later, Bullis sent Quint another e-mail saying that he would remain on paid leave until June 15 and would not be re-appointed to teach future courses.

Quint was ordered not to "visit the college or contact faculty, staff, or students," said Shibley, who added that he was not aware of any other reported complaints about Quint’s teaching performance.

Robert also told FoxNews.com that "[Quint] got no hearing, he got no preparation for any kind of statement of the facts and no written finding talking about why he should get the suspension and later why he shouldn’t be re-appointed."

UO did not offer comment to FoxNews.com, though the news service does report that UO released a statement saying that "The University of Oregon conducted a thorough investigation into the incident that occurred in Mr. Quint’s classroom prior to taking action." Manning reports that "The Oregon University system also said it has procedures for formal proceedings when dealing with matters such as Quint’s." I wonder if this is news to the University of Oregon, however, given that it failed entirely to respect the due process rights Quint was owed according to state system policies.

News of UO’s mistreatment of Quint has spread beyond our shoresbeing picked up as well in Britain’s Daily Mail. As both FoxNews.com and the Daily Mail’s Paul Bentley report, Quint, represented by attorney Kevin Tillson, has filed a tort claim notice and is planning to sue UO for, among other things, violations of his free speech and due process rights.

FIRE will certainly keep Torch readers abreast of Quint’s case, and we’re glad to have the assistance of these national and international outlets in helping keep UO accountable to the public.

Schools: University of Oregon Cases: University of Oregon: ASL Instructor Dropped Due to Classroom Comment