University of Oklahoma: Use of Sexual Harassment Allegations to Suppress Protected Speech


University of Oklahoma

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Case Overview


At the University of Oklahoma David Deming, an associate professor of Geology and Geophysics, criticized an opinion column that stated: "Easy access to a handgun allows everyone in this country . . . to quickly and easily kill as many random people as they want." A citizen who holds protected beliefs about the Second Amendment, Deming responded with a letter that stated: "[Her] easy access to a vagina enables her to quickly and easily have sex with as many random people as she wants . . . and spread venereal diseases." In response, the Dean of the College of Geosciences, John T. Snow, sent a letter to Deming berating him for expressing himself, and for upsetting the president's office by occasioning a large number of phone calls from media and alumni. In an email a few days later, Snow informed Deming that it was "unclear" how the controversy would affect Deming's professional career at the school. While he was never brought up on charges there was definitely backlash, despite his protection under the First Amendment. Deming's colleagues continued to ostracize him, essentially forcing him out of the department for his controversial statements.