by Bob Unruh
University of North Carolina-Wilmington professor Mike Adams isn’t particularly reticent about his conservative viewpoint.
For example, in his Townhall.com column only a few weeks ago, he poked fun at the idea a university should exclude a Chick-fil-A restaurant from its property because of pro-family views of the company’s owner.
Such exclusion, which Adams described as “queer reasoning,” would make the university more “inclusive,” campaigners apparently believed.
“I’ve been thinking about it, and I’ve decided that our LGBTQIA Office here on my campus makes me feel uncomfortable. In fact, the rainbow is a symbol of hate. So, next week, I plan to introduce a resolution to ban them from campus,” he wrote. “I expect the resolution to be defeated because it is idiotic. I’m just hoping I get a special office as a consolation prize – simply for being a narrow minded bigot.”
It was opinions like that, he said, that prompted officials in his department at Wilmington to deny him promotion to full professor. After fighting for nearly seven years, he’s being given the chance now to argue his case in court.
The Alliance Defending Freedom says the 4th U.S. Court of Appeals has determined that his columns and writings outside of his work environment are protected speech, and he can argue that in court.
“Put simply, Adams’ speech was not tied to any more specific or direct employee duty than the general concept that professors will engage in writing, public appearances, and service within their respective fields. For all the reasons discussed above, that thin thread is insufficient to render Adams’ speech ‘pursuance to [his] official duties’ as intended by [precedents],” the court said.
“Applying [that precedent, Garcetti] to the academic work of a public university faculty member under the facts of this case could place beyond the reach of First Amendment protection many forms of public speech or service a professor engaged in during his employment. That would not appear to be what Garcetti intended, nor is it consistent with our long-standing recognition that no individual loses his ability to speak as a private citizen by virtue of public employment.”
ADF reported it was in 2006 when Adams was denied promotion.
“At the time, he had multiple awards and rave reviews from students for his teaching, he had published more peer-reviewed articles than all but two of his colleagues, and he had a distinguished record of service both on and off campus, culminating in earning UNCW’s highest service award,” ADF explained.
“But to his colleagues and department chair, all of this was inadequate, even though, for most of them, Dr. Adams’ accomplishments surpassed their own. So – in a process replete with procedural irregularities, conflicts of interests, and vitriolic criticism of Dr. Adams’ Townhall.com columns and his conservative and Christian beliefs – they denied him the promotion he so richly deserved.”
His subsequent lawsuit alleged retaliation for expressing his views. In the fall, a North Carolina jury will hear the evidence.
According to William Creeley, writing on the website of the the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, the case raised concerns.
“While the government as employer may reasonably expect a significant amount of control over the public speech of district attorneys, that same amount of control over the scholarly research and teaching of public university faculty members is inappropriate and amounts to an infringement on academic freedom.”
The organization also noted that Senior U.S. District Judge Malcolm J.Howard subsequently rejected UND-Wilmington’s motion to dismiss. The judge ruled Adams “has brought forth evidence from which a reasonable jury could find that his speech was a substantial or motivating factor in the decision to deny tenure to plaintiff.”