Friday, November 22, 2019
Eric Rasmusen is a business professor at Indiana University, Bloomington, who has been a well-known "right-wing nut" (to use the techincal term) on social media for many years. One of his recent tweets (less obnoxious than some of his others, actually) attracted a lot of attention, leading Provost Lauren Robel to issue this statement. (Professor Rasmusen's response is here.) Provost Robel is a lawyer, indeed, the former Dean of the Law School. Her job is not to attack members of her faculty, however stupid or foolish they may be; her job is to uphold the constitutional rights of faculty (which she professes she will do) and insure compliance with anti-discrimination laws, among other tasks. We've seen these kinds of mistakes by administrators before, but it's especially disappointing when a lawyer and law professor make them. For an extended discussion, see this CHE column of mine from a few years ago.
ADDENDUM: What should Provost Robel have said in response to the media outcry? This would have sufficed: "Professor Eric Rasmussen of the Business School speaks only for himself, not for the University. The First Amendment protects his speech, whether or not the University or members of the public agree with it. The University will continue to insure that all faculty comply with anti-discrimination laws in the classroom." It would have taken more courage, and more commitment to the ideal of a university, for Provost Robel to have kept it this brief, but that would have made all the relevant points.