At Pennsylvania State University, one professor’s web page advocated vigorous military action as a response to the terrorist attacks of September 11. Penn State’s Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, Robert Secor, informed the professor that the comments were “insensitive and perhaps even intimidating.” In a letter to President Graham Spanier, FIRE noted that such a message, coming from the chief academic officer, chills free speech and academic freedom—especially when, as at Penn State, “intimidating” expression is grounds for dismissal. President Spanier responded with an unequivocal endorsement of free speech and academic freedom at his institution, but he denied that the Vice Provost’s use of the term “intimidating” in any manner chilled the professor’s free speech. Spanier assured FIRE that the matter would not be the subject of any disciplinary action.
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