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Lawsuit Alleges Humboldt State Terminated Faculty Member for Her Speech

Jacquelyn Bolman, formerly director of the Indian Natural Resources Science and Engineering Program at Humboldt State University, was fired last fall and is now alleging in a lawsuit that HSU was motivated by her criticism of the university, in violation of her First Amendment rights.

Bolman had been vocal in her opposition to what she viewed as a “racist campaign to undermine and eliminate Native [American] student programs” by former HSU president Rollin Richmond. She had also written a report to the California State University Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation accusing HSU of “not support[ing] minority students, faculty or staff.”

In January, students protested Bolman’s termination and demanded her reinstatement, along with other proposed measures relating to diversity on campus. FIRE has yet to obtain a copy of the complaint, but according to the Eureka Times-Standard, Bolman alleges that HSU administrators told her that this incident was a key factor in her termination.

If that’s true, the HSU community is right to be alarmed. FIRE has written many times before about the importance of faculty members’ freedom of expression, particularly when professors are speaking on matters of public concern or about issues related to the subject they teach. If faculty speech is chilled—as it is sure to be if faculty are punished for being outspoken—it will be harder for students and professors to foster and participate in the “marketplace of ideas” that our public universities must be.

FIRE will watch Bolman’s case closely. Check back to The Torch for updates.

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