Chronicle reports on recent court decision stating, effectively, that a public employee can’t exercise first amendment speech rights if the credibility of the speaker is based upon the employee’s position (yeah, take that whistleblowers!).
First the context:
As an associate professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, Mr. Renken says he felt obliged to speak out about his belief that administrators there were mishandling a National Science Foundation grant to him and several colleagues. When the university subsequently reduced his pay and returned the grant, he sued, alleging illegal retaliation.
Because he is a tenured faculty member, and he viewed the public university’s use of public funds as a matter of clear public interest, Mr. Renken figured his complaints qualified as legally protected free speech.
Now the punch line:
“In order for a public employee to raise a successful First Amendment claim, he must have spoken in his capacity as a private citizen and not as an employee,” the court said.
The professor, the AAUP, and others see this as a breach in the wall of protection they claim is provided by Academic Freedom. However, referring to the 1915 Declaration of Principles, I do not see a case to be made here, as the utterances were within the confines of the professor’s job. Continue reading