Plymouth State University: Professors Penalized Over Participation in Criminal Proceeding


Plymouth State University

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Case Overview

FIRE Victory closed

On July 31, 2018, Plymouth State University (PSU) punished two professors for their participation in a criminal proceeding. PSU adjunct professor Nancy Strapko testified as an expert witness for Kristie Torbick, a high school guidance counselor convicted of sexual assault, and professor emeritus Michael Fischler sent a letter to the court during Torbick’s sentencing. After their participation was publicly criticized in the months leading up to Torbick’s sentencing in early July, PSU refused to rehire Strapko and suspended Fischler from teaching until he completes Title IX training. On September 7, FIRE sent a letter to PSU reminding the university that professors’ expression on matters of public concern is protected by the First Amendment, and that citizens should not be disciplined for speaking on behalf of those facing the criminal justice system. On February 15, 2019, PSU settled with Strapko, agreeing to pay her $350,000 to avoid a lawsuit over her firing and agreeing to release a public statement acknowledging the importance of witnesses participating in the criminal justice process.