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Anti-gay message sparks WPU debate

July 21, 2005

William Paterson University's reprimand of an employee over an anti-gay e-mail he sent to a professor has sparked a debate over free speech.

Computer systems technologist and part-time student Jihad Daniel said that the e-mail he sent to a professor in March was a simple expression of opinion.

But Arlene Holpp Scala, the professor he sent it to, said the e-mail, which equated homosexuality with "perversion," was threatening.

Now, the Philadelphia-based free-speech advocacy group FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) is claiming that Daniel's rights were violated when he was reprimanded by the university for his e-mail.

"The university cannot punish constitutionally protected speech," said FIRE president David French on Wednesday. "There's no state or college policy that can trump the First Amendment."

The group, which was founded by University of Pennsylvania professor Alan Charles Kors and Boston lawyer Harvey Silverglate in 1999, has sent letters in support of Daniel to William Paterson, and posted notices about the incident on its Web site, thefire.org, asking people to write and call the university...

Schools: William Paterson University Cases: William Paterson University: Punishment on Harassment Charges for Response to Mass E-Mail