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David Ross Asks an Uncomfortable Question
Upon receipt of a FIRE press release, FIRE friend David Ross e-mails the university administrator in question and asks a simple question: Are FIRE’s allegations accurate?
Following FIRE’s latest press release regarding the “tomahawk threat” at Illinois, Prof. Ross wrote to Chancellor Herman:
You, Chancellor Herman, may really think that this silly student actually intended to threaten a tomahawk attack! Certainly that’s what you indicated in your email regarding this matter. Do you really think that the student threatened an actual attack?
If the student really were threatening to attack someone with a tomahawk then taking action against that student would not be a violation of the first amendment—by which UI is bound because it is a government school. The first amendment does not protect threats of physical harm. But in that case, your response is insanely mild! If you think, Chancellor Herman, that one student plans to attack another with an ax, you have to call the cops! How do you suppose parents of UI students will feel when they learn that the administration, upon concluding that an ax attack on a student was imminent, snapped into action and distributed an email about “creating a more welcoming campus environment”?
What an outstanding point. If Chancellor Herman believed there to be a real threat he should have immediately contacted the proper authorities—a telling inaction that strongly indicates he doesn’t believe his own words that the alleged threat was an actual, imminent threat and thus protected speech under the First Amendment.
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