Professor removed by St. John’s for asking history question files lawsuit

February 8, 2021

Attorneys for professor Richard Taylor filed a petition in a New York trial court on Thursday, asking the court to overturn the decision by St. John’s University to remove him from the classroom for allegedly violating the university’s anti-bias policy.

Taylor, an adjunct professor, was found responsible for violating St. John’s anti-harassment policy and removed from the classroom in October after a student activist group created an online form letter calling for his firing. The letter alleged that Taylor asked students in his history class to “justify slavery.” As FIRE explained previously, what Taylor actually did was typical of what happens in any college history class:

On Sept. 7, Taylor taught the Columbian Exchange to his “Emergence of a Global Society” class. As it has in earlier years, Taylor’s instruction focused on early global trade, including trade in silver and potatoes. As part of the class, he also covered the more pernicious aspects of early trade, such as slavery, the abuse of indigenous populations, and the spreading of disease. On his final slide was a discussion prompt: “Do the positives justify the negatives?”

Taylor is represented by Schlam Stone and Dolan, LLP. The petition argues that St. John’s violated a New York law that prohibits private colleges from making arbitrary decisions — the same law involved in the still-ongoing case involving Fordham University and its Students for Justice in Palestine chapter. 

You can read the petition in full below:

Taylor v. St. John’s, February 4, 2021

Schools:  St. John’s University

Cases:  St. John’s University: Professor Accused of Violating Bias Policy for Asking Students to Debate Global Trade