St. John’s University: Professor Accused of Violating Bias Policy for Asking Students to Debate Global Trade

Category: Free Speech
Schools: St. John’s University

In September 2020, graduate student and adjunct History professor Richard Taylor taught a lesson about the history of the “Columbian Exchange,” the transfer of biodiversity and culture resulting from 15th and 16th century transatlantic trade. After a student filed a bias complaint about Taylor’s slideshow, which provided a discussion prompt (“Do the positives justify the negatives?”), and an activist group mounted a letter-writing campaign, St. John’s investigated Taylor for “ask[ing] students to justify slavery and discuss the positives and negatives of slavery[.]” Taylor was found responsible for violating St. John’s anti-harassment policy on October 5, 2020. FIRE wrote to St. John’s, asking it to end any attempts to punish Taylor for a question that — even if accurately framed by Taylor’s critics and the investigator — would be fully protected by academic freedom. Taylor sued St. John’s in state court; the case is ongoing.