AFA Urges Texas Tech to End Suspension of Professor Over Social Media Posts

Mar 8, 2024 | Press Release

AFA Urges Texas Tech to End Suspension of Professor Over Social Media Posts

Professor fired for posting statements critical of Israel and the war in Gaza

PRINCETON, NJ – The Academic Freedom Alliance (AFA) today sent a letter to Texas Tech University regarding its decision to suspend Professor Jairo Funez-Flores over statements posted to social media in which he criticized Israel and the war in Gaza. On March 4, the University announced that Professor Funez-Flores was suspended pending an investigation into whether any of his “antisemitic sentiments” had “found their way into the class environment or work environment and are deemed to be discriminatory harassment.”

“The social media posts of Professor Funez-Flores are constitutionally protected expressions of private political opinions and cannot themselves form the basis of university discipline,” wrote Keith Whittington, founding chair of the AFA’s academic committee. “For the university to explicitly leverage complaints about such social media posts into grounds for a fishing expedition into the professor’s professional conduct on campus is not only inconsistent with the university’s policies and constitutional commitments but has a direct chilling effect on all members of the faculty who might wish to engage in their own constitutionally protected expressive activities on controversial topics.”

As the AFA further explains in the letter, the social media posts are a form of what the American Association of University Professors calls extramural speech. Extramural speech is a protected form of freedom of expression. When professors “speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline.” As the AAUP has emphasized, “The controlling principle is that a faculty member’s expression of opinion as a citizen cannot constitute grounds for dismissal unless it clearly demonstrates the faculty member’s unfitness for the position.” 

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The Academic Freedom Alliance is a diverse alliance of college and university faculty members who are dedicated to upholding the principles of academic freedom and professorial free speech. These principles are central to the mission of our institutions of higher education for the pursuit of truth and knowledge. The AFA is committed to defending universal principles of academic freedom and will come to the assistance of professors regardless of their individual views. As always, the AFA is not concerned with the substance or merits of a professor’s ideas but with the principle that universities should be places that tolerate controversial ideas and allow free inquiry and debate, not public opinion or political pressure, to separate error from truth.

Learn More About the Academic Freedom Alliance

No one, at any academic institution, should fear suppression or retaliation for speaking out publicly in any form. We encourage you to join the movement in supporting the flourishing of intellectual life and the pursuit of knowledge and truth at institutions of higher learning.