Faculty Letter in Support of J. Angelo Corlett, March 10, 2022

Faculty are invited to sign their names to the below letter supporting the academic freedom of Professor J. Angelo Corlett by entering their information in the form at this link. Titles and affiliations are for identification purposes only. Please email facultyoutreach@thefire.org with any questions.

Dear Dr. de la Torre, 

We understand that San Diego State University has removed Professor of Philosophy & Ethics J. Angelo Corlett from teaching and is planning to reassign his courses due to his uncensored mention of racial slurs in pedagogical context during the course of his teaching. Corlett said the racial slurs in the course of a March 1 lesson on the use-mention distinction, a concept in analytic philosophy which holds that it is necessary to distinguish using a phrase from simply mentioning it. Corlett defended his enunciation of racial slurs while illustrating this principle in the face of objections from students. The same day Corlett taught this lesson, SDSU informed him that it was reassigning his teaching duties, alleging “numerous student complaints” and asserting that it was “clear” he was “not effective in the course.” 

As faculty, we are deeply concerned by this apparent violation of Professor Corlett’s academic freedom, which is protected by both SDSU policy and Corlett’s First Amendment rights as a professor at a public university. Furthermore, we worry about the implications of this case for faculty members’ due process rights. Preemptively removing a professor from the classroom is a serious sanction justified only in the most severe circumstances. Such a measure is wholly uncalled for as a response to a professor’s classroom speech demonstrably protected by academic freedom, even if that speech is found offensive or troubling by some listeners. 

The various signers of this letter might have approached Professor Corlett’s material differently, and may have differing personal views and practices when it comes to the treatment of racial and ethnic slurs in the academic context. We’re joined, however, in recognizing that Professor Corlett’s expression is well within the bounds of his academic freedom when viewed in the context of his teaching, which endeavored to illustrate for students, by way of example, when the usage of certain terms is properly considered racist — all during a lecture in a course on critical thinking. Students are free, of course, to register criticisms of Corlett’s pedagogical methods, as Corlett undoubtedly recognizes. But mere offense over a professor’s exercise of academic freedom falls far short of the threshold for disciplinary action.

We urge SDSU to promptly return Professor Corlett to the classroom, and to make a clear statement in support of his academic freedom rights. We worry that failure to do so will have a prolonged chilling effect on faculty expression and send the signal to your faculty that they teach difficult and controversial material at their own risk. We hope that you will agree that this outcome, at an institution bound by the First Amendment and committed to the free expression of ideas, is one that SDSU can ill afford. 

Sincerely, 

  1. Jason Aleksander, Professor of Philosophy and Associate Dean of Faculty Success and Research, College of Humanities and the Arts, San José State University
  2. Anna Alexandrova, Professor of Philosophy of Science, Cambridge University
  3. Adeline Allen, Associate Professor of Law, Trinity Law School
  4. M. D. Allen, Professor of English Emeritus, University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley
  5. Anthony Anadio, Visiting Assistant Professor in History, SUNY Empire State College
  6. Jonathan Auyer, Adjunct Faculty, State University of New York at Geneseo
  7. Howard Baetjer Jr., Lecturer, Towson University
  8. H. Robert Baker, Associate Professor of History, Georgia State University
  9. D. Benjamin Beard, Emeritus Professor of Law, University of Idaho College of Law
  10. J. A. Bernstein, Assistant Professor of English, University of Southern Mississippi
  11. Trent Biggs, San Diego State University
  12. Bernard S. Black, Professor, Northwestern University
  13. Russell Blackford, Conjoint Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, University of Newcastle, NSW
  14. Josh Blander, Associate Professor of Philosophy, The King’s College
  15. Peter Bornschein, Part-Time Lecturer, Department of History & Philosophy, Eastern Michigan University
  16. Andrei A. Buckareff, Professor of Philosophy and Co-Director of the Cognitive Science Program, Marist College
  17. Ben Bradley, Sutton Professor of Philosophy, Syracuse University
  18. Jason Brennan, Robert J. and Elizabeth Flanagan Family Professor, Georgetown University
  19. Dr. Frank Widar Brevik, Savannah College of Art and Design
  20. David Brink, Distinguished Professor, University of California, San Diego
  21. Robert Briscoe, Professor of Philosophy, Ohio University
  22. Kingsley R. Browne, Professor of Law, Wayne State University Law School
  23. Donald Bruckner, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Penn State University, New Kensington
  24. Philip Cafaro, Professor of Philosophy, Colorado State University
  25. Joe Campbell, Professor, Washington State University
  26. Peter Carruthers, Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy, University of Maryland
  27. Spencer Case, University of Colorado Boulder
  28. Lee Cerling, Associate Professor of Clinical Business Communication, University of Southern California
  29. Joseph Cesario, Professor of Psychology, Michigan State University
  30. Eric Chwang, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Rutgers University Camden
  31. Matt Cleary, Associate Professor of Political Science, Syracuse University
  32. Jarod Clemons, San Diego State University
  33. Nevin Climenhaga, Senior Research Fellow, Dianoia Institute of Philosophy, Australian Catholic University
  34. Andrew Jason Cohen, Professor of Philosophy, Georgia State University
  35. Jack Cotrin, Professor of Political Science, University of California Berkeley
  36. David C.K. Curry, Professor of Philosophy, State University of New York at Potsdam
  37. Marc J. Defant, Professor of Geochemistry, University of South Florida
  38. Stephen Gilles, Professor of Law, Quinnipiac University School of Law
  39. Marco Del Giudice, Associate Professor, University of New Mexico
  40. Huzeyfe Demirtas, PhD Candidate & Teaching Associate, Department of Philosophy, Syracuse University
  41. Lara Denis, Professor of Philosophy, Agnes Scott College, Agnes Scott College
  42. Marisa Diaz-Waian, Community Philosopher & Director, Merlin CCC
  43. Pedro Domingos, Professor Emeritus of Computer Science & Engineering, University of Washington
  44. Paul Elbourne, Professor of the Philosophy of Language, University of Oxford
  45. Luc Faucher, Full Professor, Département de Philosophie, Université du Québec à Montréal
  46. Mark Fedyk, Associate Professor, University of California, Davis
  47. Neil Feit, Distinguished Teaching Professor, State University of New York at Fredonia
  48. Ed Ferrier, Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy, University of Richmond
  49. Dr. Richard Ferrier, Tutor, Thomas Aquinas College
  50. Barry Ferst. Ph.D., Professor, Philosophy Department, Carroll College
  51. Graeme Forbes, Professor, University of Colorado Boulder
  52. Jennifer Frey, Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of South Carolina
  53. Linda Frey, Professor Emerita, University of Montana
  54. Marsha Frey, Professor Emerita, Kansas State University
  55. Jonathan Gallant, Professor of Genome Sciences Emeritus, University of Washington
  56. Dmitri Gallow, Senior Research Fellow, Dianoia Institute of Philosophy, Australian Catholic University
  57. Molly Gardner, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, University of Florida
  58. Matthew Garrett, Professor of History and Ethnic Studies, Bakersfield College
  59. Charles Geshekter, Emeritus Professor, California State University, Chico
  60. Jeremy Goodman, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Jeremy Goodman, Associate Professor of Philosophy
  61. Mark A. Graber, Regents Professor, University of Maryland Carey School of Law
  62. Daniel Greco, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Yale University
  63. Darij Grinberg, Drexel University
  64. Shoshana Grossbard, Professor Emeritus, San Diego State University
  65. Thomas Gustafson, Adjunct Professor of Philosophy, San Diego City Collge
  66. David B. Hershenov, Professor of Philosophy & Director of the Romanell Center for Clinical Ethics and the Philosophy of Medicine, University at Buffalo
  67. Raja Halwani, Professor of Philosophy, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
  68. Philip Hamburger, Maurice & Hilda Friedman Professor of Law, Columbia Law School
  69. Nathan Hanna, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Drexel University
  70. Matthew Hanser, Professor of Philosophy, University of California, Santa Barbara
  71. Eugene Heath, Professor of Philosophy, State University of New York at New Paltz
  72. Chris Heathwood, Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Colorado Boulder
  73. Jacob Held, Assistant Provost and Professor of Philosophy, University of Central Arkansas
  74. Robert Hillman, Distinguished Professor of Law Emeritus, University of California, Davis School of Law
  75. Rosemary Hopcroft, Professor of Sociology, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
  76. Frances Howard-Snyder, Professor of Philosophy, Western Washington University
  77. Michael Huemer, Professor of Philosophy, University of Colorado
  78. James Huffman, Professor and Dean Emeritus, Lewis & Clark Law School
  79. James Humber, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, Georgia State University
  80. Stuart Hurlbert, Professor of Biology Emeritus, San Diego State University
  81. William Jacobson, Clinical Professor of Law, Cornell Law School
  82. Andrew Johns, Professor of History, Brigham Young University
  83. Jeff Jordan, Professor of Philosophy, University of Delaware
  84. Justin Kalef, Assistant Teaching Professor, Rutgers University
  85. Zvi Kedem, Professor of Computer Science, New York University
  86. Stephen Kershnar, Distinguished Teaching Professor, State University of New York at Fredonia
  87. Peter D. Klein, Professor Emeritus, Philosophy Department, Rutgers University
  88. Bernard W. Kobes, Faculty of Philosophy, Arizona State University
  89. Vladimir Kontorovich, Professor of Economics, Haverford College
  90. Matthew H. Kramer FBA, Professor of Legal & Political Philosophy, University of Cambridge
  91. Christos Kyriacou, Assistant Professor in Philosophy, University of Cyprus
  92. Andy Lamey, Associate Teaching Professor, University of California, San Diego
  93. Marcy P. Lascano, Professor of Philosophy, University of Kansas
  94. Gary Lawson, Professor, Boston University School of Law
  95. Anne Lawton, Professor of Law Emerita, Michigan State University
  96. Codi Lazar, Associate Professor, Department of Geological Sciences, California State University, San Bernardino
  97. Paul Leitner, Professor, Shippensburg University
  98. Kim Lewis, Professor, Northeastern University
  99. Tony Lima, Emeritus Professor of Economics, California State University, East Bay
  100. Suzanne Lummis, Poetry Writing Teacher, UCLA Extension Writers’ Program
  101. Matt Lutz, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Wuhan University
  102. Edouard Machery, Distinguished Professor, University of Pittsburgh
  103. Eric Mack, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, Tulane University
  104. Ron Mallon, Professor, Washington University in St. Louis
  105. JB Manchak, Professor of Logic and Philosophy of Science, University of California, Irvine
  106. Elinor Mason, University of California at Santa Barbara
  107. Kenneth B. McIntyre, Professor of Political Science, Sam Houston State University
  108. Michael McKenna, Professor, University of Arizona
  109. Jeff McMahan, Sekyra and White’s Professor of Moral Philosophy, University of Oxford
  110. Dale E. Miller, Professor of Philosophy, Old Dominion University
  111. Francesca Minerva, University of Milan
  112. Wes Morriston, Professor Emeritus, University of Colorado Boulder
  113. Jeremy Mumford, Assistant Professor of History, Brown University
  114. Peter Murphy, University of Indianapolis
  115. Carol Muske-Dukes, Retired Professor, University of Southern California
  116. Alastair Norcross, Professor, University of Colorado Boulder
  117. John Oberdiek, Distinguished Professor of Law, Rutgers University
  118. Eric Pacuit, Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Maryland
  119. Jonathan Parry, Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method, London School of Economics and Political Science
  120. Dennis Patterson, Rutgers Law School
  121. Steve Petersen, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Niagara University
  122. Douglas W. Portmore, Professor of Philosophy, Arizona State University
  123. Joel Pust, Professor of Philosophy, University of Delaware
  124. Pradeep Ramanathan, Associate Professor, California State University, East Bay
  125. Dr. Rodney C. Roberts, East Carolina University
  126. John C. Rodrigue, Professor of History, Stonehill College
  127. Mark Rom, Associate Professor of Government and Public Policy, Georgetown University
  128. Shawn A. Ross, Professor, Macquarie University
  129. Jacob Ross, Professor, University of Southern California
  130. Jeffrey Sachs, Acadia University
  131. Isabelle Sacramento-McJilton, San Diego State University
  132. Ruth Sample, Associate Professor, University of New Hampshire
  133. Andrew Sepielli, Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Toronto
  134. George Schedler, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, Southern Illinois University Carbondale
  135. John Schwenkler, Professor of Philosophy, Florida State University
  136. Dustin Sharp, Associate Professor, University of San Diego
  137. Laurie Sheck, MFA Writing Faculty, The New School
  138. Tim Shiell, Director, Menard Center for the Study of Institutions and Innovation, University of Wisconsin-Stout
  139. Peter Singer, Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics, Princeton University
  140. Brian Skinner, Professor, Ohio State University
  141. Barry Smith, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, University at Buffalo
  142. Thomas Smith, Professor of Law, University of San Diego
  143. Andrew Sneddon, Professor of Philosophy, University of Ottawa
  144. Alan Sokal, Professor Emeritus of Physics, New York University & Professor of Mathematics, University College London
  145. Lee Strang, John W. Stoepler Professor of Law & Values, University of Toledo College of Law
  146. David Sullivan, Professor of Philosophy, Metropolitan State University of Denver
  147. Donald W. Swanton, Associate Professor Emeritus of Finance and of Mathematics, Roosevelt University
  148. David Talcott, Associate Professor of Philosophy, The King’s College (NY)
  149. Dr. Martha Taylor, Professor of Classics, Loyola University Maryland
  150. James Taylor, Professor of Philosophy, The College of New Jersey
  151. Michael Trigoboff, PhD, Computer Science Instructor, Portland Community College
  152. Peter Vallentyne, Professor of Philosophy, University of Missouri
  153. Chad Vance, Senior Lecturer, College of William and Mary
  154. Pekka Vayrynen, Professor of Moral Philosophy, University of Leeds
  155. Jean-Paul Vessel, Associate Professor of Philosophy, New Mexico State University
  156. Kevin Walsh, Professor of Law, University of Richmond School of Law
  157. Ted A. Warfield, Professor of Philosophy, University of Notre Dame
  158. Brandon Warmke, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Bowling Green State University
  159. David Weakliem, Professor of Sociology (Emeritus), University of Connecticut
  160. Keith Whittington, Princeton University
  161. Frances Widdowson, Former Independent Researcher, Mount Royal University
  162. Clark Wolf, Director of Bioethics, Professor of Philosophy, Iowa State University
  163. Stephen Woodside, Academy Professor of Philosophy, United States Military Academy, West Point
  164. Scott Yenor, Professor of Political Science, Boise State University

Schools: San Diego State University Cases: San Diego State University: Professor Reassigned for Quoting Epithets, Teaching Use-Mention Distinction