Kershnar v. SUNY Fredonia: Philosophy Professor Suspended for Philosophizing About Moral Questions Involved In Adult-Adolescent Sex


State University of New York - Fredonia

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Case Overview

Stephen Kershnar is a tenured professor of philosophy at SUNY Fredonia, where he was praised by the university for his pointed, Socratic questions about morality. But in February 2022, SUNY Fredonia’s leadership suspended Kershnar from teaching, banned him from campus, and prohibited him from contacting the “campus community” over what the university called “reprehensible” views shared on two philosophy podcasts about the philosophical and ethical arguments concerning sexual relationships between minors and adults. FIRE’s Faculty Legal Defense Fund retained counsel for Kershnar and, on February 3, FIRE wrote to the university to explain that Kershnar’s speech, however offensive others may find it, is protected by the First Amendment and that the university’s actions effectuate a heckler’s veto.

Despite FLDF counsel’s efforts, SUNY Fredonia has continued Kershnar’s suspension from teaching for sixteen months (and counting). On June 12, 2023, FIRE filed a federal lawsuit against SUNY Fredonia’s President and Executive Vice President alleging they discriminated against Kershnar based on his viewpoint, retaliated against him for protected speech, and created an unconstitutional prior restraint on speech.