Table of Contents

Faculty Letter in Support of Samuel Joeckel, June 20, 2023

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Note: FIRE invites additional faculty to add their names to the list of signers in support of Professor Joeckel. Titles are for identification purposes only. Faculty who are interested in joining this letter may email

We are deeply concerned about the state of academic freedom at Palm Beach Atlantic University after PBA fired English professor Samuel Joeckel because material in the racial justice unit of his composition course was deemed to be “indoctrinating students.” 

Joeckel’s racial justice unit used course material that included written works from Black authors and civil rights activists and then asked students to use those materials to discuss racism in America and its effects on the works of those authors. Joeckel’s choice to include this unit in his course was germane to the subject and wholly protected by academic freedom. However, on Feb. 15, PBA alerted Joeckel that his contract renewal would be delayed pending a review of the course material, after a parent accused him of “indoctrinating” students. 

PBA’s own Academic Freedom and Responsibility Policy clearly affirms “the rights of a teacher to teach, investigate, and publish freely” and “the rights of students to . . . learn[.]” 

So the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) wrote a letter to PBA on Feb. 21, explaining that PBA’s promises of academic freedom prohibit it from pursuing such violations of its professors’ pedagogical autonomy. FIRE urged the university to reaffirm its commitment to academic freedom and renew professor Joeckel’s contract. 

PBA never responded to FIRE’s letter. Instead, it did not renew Joeckel’s contract and now Joeckel is suing the school for discrimination. 

While an institution may choose not to renew a professor’s contract for a good reason, a poor reason, or no reason at all, it cannot do so for a retaliatory reason, including for the expression of protected speech. 

PBA made clear that its investigation and subsequent non-renewal of Joeckel’s contract was in retaliation for his speech in the classroom. In taking this course of action, PBA directly violated its promise that its faculty enjoy academic freedom. 

We join FIRE in condemning Palm Beach Atlantic’s choice not to renew Joeckel’s contract, a decision which violated Joeckel’s rights and casts an impermissible chilling effect over other professors who may fear that teaching controversial material could jeopardize their jobs. 

We urge Palm Beach Atlantic to reaffirm its commitment to academic freedom and to pledge that it will refrain from retaliation against professors for their protected expression. 


  1. Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University
  2. Ken Abrams, Professor of Psychology, Carleton College
  3. Dennis Adams, Senior Instructor, Oregon State University
  4. Jason Aleksander, Professor of Philosophy, San Jose State University
  5. Steven Bauer, Emeritus Professor of English, Miami University
  6. Joshua Bernstein, Associate Professor of English, University of Southern Mississippi
  7. Cynthia Burack, Professor, Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies, The Ohio State University
  8. Paul Brodwin, Professor of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
  9. Stanley C. Brubaker, Professor of Political Science, Colgate University
  10. Douglas Brumm, Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering, Michigan Technological University
  11. Christine Cooper, Professor Emerita, Loyola University, Chicago School of Law
  12. J. Angelo Corlett, PhD, Professor of Philosophy & Ethics, San Diego State University
  13. Dr. Terri Daniel, Adjunct Instructor, Marian University
  14. Frank Edler, Ph.D., Retired philosophy professor, Metropolitan Community College
  15. Steve K. D. Eichel, Ph.D., ABPP, Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychology, University of Delaware
  16. Dan Eisenberg, Associate Professor, University of Washington
  17. Chris Ferguson, Professor of Psychology, Stetson University
  18. Gabriel Gardner, Associate Librarian, California State University, Long Beach
  19. John Goss, Professor, Research, Organizational & Leadership Studies, Shenandoah University
  20. Melissa Gwyn, Associate Professor of Art, University of California at Santa Cruz
  21. Dennis Halcoussis, Professor of Economics, California State University, Northridge
  22. Catherine E. Harnois, Professor of Sociology, Wake Forest University
  23. David A. Kareken, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Neurology, Indiana University School of Medicine
  24. Jonathan Katz, Professor of Physics, Washington University
  25. Holger L. Kern, Associate Professor of Political Science, Florida State University
  26. Peter Klein, Professor Emeritus, Philosophy Department, Rutgers University
  27. Dr. Pam Fox Kuhlken, Professor, San Diego State University
  28. David Levene, Professor of Classics, New York University
  29. William London, Professor, California State University, Los Angeles
  30. Steve Macek, Professor of Communication and Media Studies, North Central College
  31. Luana Maroja, Professor of Biology, Williams College
  32. Chris Martin, Lecturer, Oglethorpe University
  33. Mara Mergendahl, Biology Teaching Assistant, Department of Biology, University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point
  34. Louis A. Merlin, Associate Professor, Florida Atlantic University
  35. David Moshman, Professor Emeritus of Educational Psychology, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  36. Jeremy Ravi Mumford, Associate Professor, Department of History, Brown University
  37. Charles Murtaugh, Associate Professor of Human Genetics, University of Utah
  38. Saul Myers, Emeritus Professor, Maryland Institute College of Art
  39. Richard Prystowsky, Retired, Former Professor and Provost
  40. David Rainbow, Associate Instructional Professor, University of Houston
  41. Todd Reeves, Associate Professor, Northern Illinois University
  42. Sean C. Rife, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Murray State University
  43. Lorena Rodriguez, Economics Professor, Collin College
  44. Dr. Laurence Rohrer, Professor of Philosophy, Lincoln University of Missouri
  45. Frank Rosinia, MD MHCM, Professor, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio
  46. Dr. Scott Rubarth, Co-Chair, Dept. of Philosophy and Religion Program in Classical Studies, Rollins College
  47. Peter Schmitt, Senior Lecturer in English, University of Miami
  48. John Shea, Associate Professor, Department of Economics, University of Maryland at College Park
  49. Tim Shiell, Professor Emeritus, University of Wisconsin-Stout
  50. Joshua M. Silverstein, Professor of Law, University of Arkansas at Little Rock
  51. Aaron Slepkov, Chair, Physics & Astronomy, Trent University
  52. Mark Srednicki, Professor of Physics, University of California, Santa Barbara
  53. Philip A. Stauffer Todd, Ph.D., Mass Communications, Oklahoma City University
  54. Patty Stokes, Associate Professor of Teaching, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Ohio University
  55. Scott Stroot, Professor of Theatre (Retired), Western Kentucky University
  56. Ronald Sundstrom, Professor, University of San Francisco
  57. Joel Wainwright, Professor, Ohio State University
  58. Benjamin White, Associate Professor of Religion, Clemson University
  59. Elissa Q. White, Visiting Professor, Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY
  60. Bradley W. Root, Associate Professor of History, St. Mary's University (TX)
  61. Benjamin Perez, Ethnic Studies and History Instructor, Allan Hancock Community College
  62. Andrew Van Horn, Postdoctoral Scholar - Dept. of Physics, Case Western Reserve University
  63. Andy Duncan, Professor of English and Coordinator of Journalism and Public Relations, Frostburg State University
  64. Anne Lawton, Professor of Law Emerita, Michigan State University College of Law
  65. Christopher Shinn, Part-time Assistant Professor, The New School
  66. Jacob L. Mackey, Associate Professor of Classics, Occidental College