‘I mean, it’s easier to shoot cops when their backs are turned, no?’
(Kaylee McGhee, Liberty Headlines) The University of California–Davis defended its decision not to discipline or fire a professor who advocated for the killing of cops by citing President Donald Trump’s recent executive order, which requires public universities to promote free speech on their campuses.
UC–Davis professor Joshua Clover said in a series of tweets in 2014 that police officers “need to be killed.”
“I am thankful that every living cop will one day be dead, some by their own hand, some by others, too many of old age,” one tweet read, according to the California Aggie.
And another stated: “I mean, it’s easier to shoot cops when their backs are turned, no?”
In a 2015 interview with the SF Weekly, Clover also called for open violence against law enforcement officials. When asked “what’s wrong with society today,” Clover responded: “People think that cops need to be reformed. They need to be killed.”
When Clover’s comments were uncovered in February, UC–Davis officials condemned the professor in a statement, saying his violent tweets do not “reflect our institutional values, and we find it unconscionable that anyone would condone much less appear to advocate murder.”
However, the school refused to take action against Clover.
California state Assemblyman James Gallagher and Citrus Heights Police Chief Ronald Lawrence petitioned the school to discipline or fire Clover, but the school maintained that it was protected speech since the threat wasn’t real.
“Professor Clover’s statements, although offensive and abhorrent, do not meet the legal requirement for ‘true threats’ that might exempt them from First Amendment protection,” UC–Davis Chancellor Gary May wrote in a letter to Gallagher last week, according to Campus Reform.
“UC–Davis places a high value on civility in the academic community, but the desire to promote these values does not outweigh the rights of professors to express themselves on political issues, even if their expression is deeply repellent to members of our community and the public.”
May went on to cite the Trump administration’s recent free speech initiative, which requires universities that receive federal funding to protect free speech on their campuses.
“In addition to existing state and federal constitutional requirements, the university is subject to [Trump’s] executive order directing federal agencies to take steps to ensure that institutions receiving federal research or education grants promote free inquiry in a manner consistent with applicable law, including the First Amendment,” May wrote.
“Failure to protect the First Amendment rights of university faculty could not only lead to legal consequences for violating the Constitution, but also could result in a loss of federal funding which is critical to the university’s research and teaching mission,” May continued. “Accordingly, the university will not proceed with review or investigation of concerns regarding Professor Clover’s public statements.”
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s Adam Steinbaugh said in a statement that the chancellor’s decision is “the correct result” to those advocating for First Amendment rights, even when remarks may be controversial or offensive to some.
“By responding to protected speech it finds offensive by criticizing or condemning the remarks, the university has exercised the option available to it under the First Amendment,” Steinbaugh, director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program, said.
“But the First Amendment forbids UC Davis, a state university, from terminating or disciplining a faculty member for extramural speech on a matter of public concern, and the First Amendment’s protection is not limited to civil, sober, or respectful speech.”