Doctor Sues Mayo Clinic Over Academic Freedom Violations

Nov 14, 2023 | Press Release

Doctor Sues Mayo Clinic Over Academic Freedom Violations

Clinic punished Dr. Michael Joyner over expert comments to press

PRINCETON, NJ – The Academic Freedom Alliance (AFA) today announced that Michael Joyner, M.D. is suing the Mayo Clinic College and two of its leaders for violating his academic freedom after they disciplined him over comments he made to press related to his scientific expertise. With financial support from the AFA, Joyner sued the Mayo Clinic College, its president and CEO, and its board chair as part of an ongoing dispute related to comments he made to the New York Times about sex-specific differences in sports performance and to CNN about the use of convalescent plasma in the treatment of COVID-19. The AFA’s funding for this lawsuit follows its earlier support for Joyner’s defense during his disciplinary proceedings. 

“As the complaint clearly states, academic freedom is a key guarantor of scientific integrity,” said Lucas Morel, chair of the AFA’s academic committee. “We believe this lawsuit will set an important precedent about the right of other scientists, doctors, and academics to speak publicly and freely on topics relevant to their expertise. Americans should expect expert commentary to reflect the scientific evidence, not the financial or political interests of the institution. We hope Dr. Joyner is awarded the damages owed to him for violation of his rights.”

Joyner’s lawsuit seeks damages over the punishments imposed by the defendants, which included a one-week unpaid suspension, denial of any salary increase at his next annual review, and the threat of termination for failure to comply with the Mayo Public Affairs Department’s preclearance and oversight of media interviews. These disciplinary actions caused Joyner financial damage and ongoing harm to his professional reputation as well as restricted his ability to communicate his research and conclusions to the public. 

After providing the defendants time to review and respond to the lawsuit, which they declined to do, the lawsuit was filed today with the State of Minnesota’s Third Judicial District. Joyner is represented by Allen Harris Law. 

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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.