Category: Free Speech
On August 23, 2019, Kirkwood Community College administrators told adjunct English professor Jeff Klinzman to resign or be removed from the classroom after news outlets singled out his social media posts criticizing President Donald Trump and evangelical Christians. After Trump tweeted that antifa is “a major Organization of Terror” whose members go around hitting “people over the heads with baseball bats,” Klinzman commented in the Iowa Antifa Facebook group, “Yeah, I know who I’d clock with a bat…” His other “offending” post — from 2012 — was a critical assessment of the anti-gay climate in Minnesota.
On August 22, 2019, a Cedar Rapids television station publicized Klinzman’s Facebook posts in a news segment. When the reporter reached out to Klinzman, he defended his comments and responded: “I affirm that I am antifa.” Kirkwood received complaints about Klinzman’s posts as the story spread among national conservative media outlets. The outcry spurred administrators to ask for his resignation and tell him that he could not teach because of safety concerns. Klinzman resigned to avoid being fired. On August 27, 2019, FIRE wrote to Kirkwood President Lori Sundberg to condemn the college’s actions and call for Klinzman’s reinstatement.
On April 24, Kirkwood and Klinzman finalized a settlement agreement in order to avoid a First Amendment lawsuit by Klinzman. As a part of the settlement, Kirkwood agreed to pay Klinzman $25,000, which is approximately the amount it would have paid Klinzman to continue teaching for over three and a half years, and provide him with a letter of recommendation reflecting his outstanding service to Kirkwood.
Klinzman was represented by FIRE attorneys Greg Harold Greubel and Marieke Tuthill Beck-Coon.