Oakton Community College: Faculty Member Sent Cease-and-Desist Letter for “May Day” Email

Category: Free Speech
Schools: Oakton Community College

On May 7, 2015, a lawyer representing Oakton Community College (OCC) sent a cease-and-desist letter to a member of the college faculty after the faculty member sent a one-sentence email to several colleagues noting that “May Day” is a time “when workers across the world celebrate their struggle for union rights and remember the Haymarket riot in Chicago.” The college argued that lecturer Chester Kulis’s reference to the Haymarket Riot was threatening to the college president because she was a recipient of the email and the famous workers’ rally “resulted in 11 deaths and more than 70 people injured.” OCC’s lawyer warned that failure to refrain from similar communications in the future would result in potential legal action. FIRE wrote to the college on May 22, asking the school to retract its cease-and-desist letter and to respect the right of faculty members to send emails like Kulis’s. FIRE pointed out that far from being a “true threat,” the email was constitutionally protected speech.