Throughout all of this, my employer exhibited an utterly callous disregard for my safety and well-being, making no effort whatsoever to defend me (either privately or publicly) or to protect my rights more generally. They didn't even respond to an open letter of support that had been written on my behalf despite its having more than 500 signatories from around the world. Instead, the president of the university administration eventually broke her prolonged radio silence by sending me a terse email alleging that I had "violated the university's academic freedom and responsibility policy" and implicitly threatening me with reprisal if I continued to speak out publicly on issues of race and racism.
Sadly this is just the latest instance of a longstanding pattern of behavior on the part of the university administration. In the 12 years I have worked at MSU I have repeatedly been subject to internal and external harassment owing to my political beliefs, to say nothing of my ethno-religious identity. My office door has been vandalized on several occasions--most recently in Fall 2019, when someone drew a swastika on my nameplate. Flyers for courses I offered on feminist philosophy, Africana philosophy, race and racism, etc. have been defaced. (Last year, for example, nearly all of the flyers for my course on Africana philosophy were torn down; on one of them someone had scrawled the n-word and placed it under my office door.) The university's response to these incidents has consistently been tepid at best.
Upon receiving President Shipley's email I immediately contacted the Foundation for Individual Rights for Education (FIRE), which agreed in no uncertain terms that the university was violating my First Amendment rights as a public employee. FIRE sent Shipley a strongly-worded letter (see below) several weeks ago to which no response has been forthcoming. With FIRE's help I was able to solicit an attorney of my own who since has sent Shipley two letters (see below) urging her to "make a public statement that (a) MSU supports the First Amendment rights of its faculty and staff to speak about public issues regardless of viewpoints and (b) MSU denounces any threats of violence in response to speech one finds disagreeable." MSU has not responded to these letters either.
Although I do not intend to back down until MSU withdraws its claim and recognizes my constitutional rights, mounting legal fees are taking a toll on my already beleaguered pocketbook. For this reason, I am asking friends, comrades, and supporters to help me defray these costs. Any amount--no matter how small--will make all the difference in the world. Whether or not you are able to make a donation, please share the link to this fundraiser as widely as possible.
Thank you in advance for your support, solidarity, and generosity.
For more information please see Letter from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and Letter from Attorney JT Morris.
- Michael Truscello
- Christopher Beach
- Caylee Willis
- AK Press
- Andrew Martin
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