The Oklahoma City Oklahoman today published my column on the most recent case at the University of Oklahoma (OU) involving geology professor David Deming. FIRE has been defending Professor Deming for years against OU administrators who seem willing to go to nearly any lengths to get this gadfly out of their hair. Back in 2000, OU tried to punish Prof. Deming for “sexual harassment” for writing a letter to the campus paper in support of gun rights that some people found offensive. FIRE came to Prof. Deming’s defense, and between FIRE’s involvement and the threat of a free speech lawsuit the university backed down.
Yet OU’s crusade against Prof. Deming didn’t end. Deming refused to silence his political views, and when, in 2003, he objected to what he saw as cronyism in his school and department, OU’s administration evidently decided that it was time to get rid of him one way or another. FIRE came to Professor Deming’s defense again, this time with evidence Deming had uncovered of what basically amounted to a plot to marginalize and silence him. OU even moved his office to the basement for a while in an Office Space–like attempt to make his job so unpleasant that he would leave. Since Deming is in the middle of a federal lawsuit against OU, I wrote a column for the Oklahoman in an effort to explain to Oklahomans what is going on at an institution that they support with their tax dollars. FIRE has found that people tend to get irritated when they find out that their hard-earned money is being spent on state-supported political censorship instead of education.