Pennsylvania State University: Disciplining of Professor for Pro-War Remarks

Category: Free Speech
Schools: Pennsylvania State University – University Park

At Pennsylvania State University, one professor’s web page advocated vigorous military action as a response to the terrorist attacks of September 11. Penn State’s Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, Robert Secor, informed the professor that the comments were “insensitive and perhaps even intimidating.” In a letter to President Graham Spanier, FIRE noted that such a message, coming from the chief academic officer, chills free speech and academic freedom “especially when, as at Penn State, “intimidating” expression is grounds for dismissal. President Spanier responded with an unequivocal endorsement of free speech and academic freedom at his institution, but he denied that the Vice Provost’s use of the term “intimidating” in any manner chilled the professor’s free speech. Spanier assured FIRE that the matter would not be the subject of any disciplinary action.

  • Letter from Penn State President Graham B. Spanier to FIRE, October 28, 2001

    October 28, 2001

    October 28, 2001 Alan Charles Kors President Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Inc. 437 Chestnut Street, Suite 200 Philadelphia, PA 19106 Dear Mr. Kors: Thank you for writing to express your concerns related to First Amendment rights at Pennsylvania State University. As you well know, as a public university we cherish our role as a marketplace of ideas and have a long-standing tradition of academic freedom and protection of First Amendment rights. I’ve reviewed the email exchange in question, and it did not appear to me that it was an attack on free speech for Vice Provost Secor to […]

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  • FIRE Letter to Penn State University President Graham Spanier, October 24, 2001

    October 24, 2001

    October 24, 2001 Graham B. Spanier President Pennsylvania State University University Park, PA 16802 Re: Professor Stephen G. Simpson Dear President Spanier: As you know, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of liberty, legal equality, freedom of expression, and, in the case of Professor Stephen G. Simpson, free speech and academic freedom on America’s college campuses. Our web page,, will give you a greater sense of our identity and of our activities. We were deeply impressed by […]

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