Targeted: An Interview with William Moravits Concerning His Ordeal at St. Philip’s

Nov 8, 2023 | Interviews

Targeted: An Interview with William Moravits Concerning His Ordeal at St. Philip’s

Conducted and edited by Howard Muncy

In this series we have interviewed over a dozen professors across a variety of disciplines and institutions. Now that the Academic Freedom Alliance is in its third year as an organization, we also want to highlight some of the issues directly involving AFA assistance where we helped professors take a stand for their academic freedom and made a difference. The AFA has come to the aid of over two dozen scholars (with legal funding) who faced threats and punishments for their protected speech and/or contractual academic freedom rights. Some of these matters are private and some are still unresolved.

This entry explores the case of William Moravits, a former full-time employee at St. Philip’s College in San Antonio, Texas, and current lecturer for Texas State University. Prior to teaching in the collegiate classroom, Moravits was a high school history teacher and cop who earned his master’s in political science at Texas State University and a Ph.D. in public policy from Walden University. Moravits reached out to the AFA on February 13, 2023 to request help with his situation. After nine long months, this matter was finally resolved a few weeks ago. In this conversation, Moravits and I discuss what happened at St. Philip’s, how the AFA made a difference, and his outlook going forward.

Howard Muncy: First, I would like for you to introduce yourself to our readers and to summarize the ordeal that you experienced at St. Philip’s College.

William Moravits: My first negative encounter with St. Philip’s College came in March of 2022 after I had appeared in an interview with Egberto Willies, host of Politics Done Right, to promote my book, The Blue Divide: Policing and Race in America. Mr. Willies also writes for Daily Kos and his article about our interview caught the attention of an employee of St. Philip’s College, who then filed a complaint to the administration. I was called into a meeting with a representative from human resources and Vice President Randall Dawson. They inquired about what I was teaching in my class relating to this issue (I teach Political Science), if I had asked or encouraged my students to purchase my book (I had not), and whether I had shown a segment from the Chris Rock show entitled, “How not to get your ass kicked by the police” (I had). They also took issue with Mr. Willies referring to me as a “professor” since my rank at St. Philip’s was instructor, despite possessing a PhD. I explained to HR and the VP that I was a subject matter expert in policing and race, especially dealing with use of force, and expanded on the topic which was included in the college approved textbook for the course. I am also a former police officer, having graduated Top Cadet from the 77th Basic Training Academy at the University of Texas at Austin, and used my experience to better assist students learning about this important topic. Ultimately, I was informed to not pass myself off as a professor and to make clear in future interviews that my opinions did not represent the college. They also instructed me to be careful discussing the topic as it might “trigger” students, especially showing the Chris Rock video. I received written guidance from the college.

In August of 2022, I attended CPAC in Dallas as a guest of the National Police Association. I worked at their booth and sold copies of my book. I posted several pictures of myself with the national spokesperson of the NPA and other attendees to my Facebook account. A political science colleague who was my former mentor and department chair (and supposed friend), Cindy Pryor, saw the post and later texted the administrative assistant of the Social Sciences department that she was, “stunned to see that Moravits hawked his book at the CPAC convention. CPAC has become a racist organization that promotes ‘racial purity’ and supports authoritarians such as Viktor Orban in Hungary. Moravits seems to be associated with an anti-democratic group. That was surprising to me. He hid that part of his political philosophy quite well until he got the job.” She later added, “Personally, I wish they could push Moravits out. I’m not opposed to open dialogue about competing ideas, but he was somewhat dishonest, and the views of CPAC threaten our democracy. He needs to be vigorously challenged.” The administrative assistant allowed me to photograph these texts. To be clear, I was never asked about my political beliefs during the interview process and I try very hard to give multiple viewpoints on issues when I teach.

In February of 2023, I was called into the Safe Space student advocacy center to meet with HR and VP Dawson. I was immediately placed on paid administrative leave due to a student complaint. I was not told what the complaint was. I was to be escorted by the Sergeant of Alamo Colleges Police Department, to gather my personal belongings and be removed from campus. I asked the Sergeant if it was necessary as I was a former police officer and it was quite embarrassing. He told me that he would follow from a distance. While I was packing up my things, the Sergeant opened the locked door to my office and proceeded to escort me from the building while several employees (and friends) watched in disbelief. I had to turn in my employee badge and all keys.

The next week I was told that a student had complained that I was making bigoted remarks against the LGBTQ+ community that included stating it was riddled with pedophilia, that the P for pansexual actually stood for pedophilia, and that 12-year-old boys were jerking off grown men at pride parades. Additionally, the student also claimed I stated that we “needed police brutality.” On March 27, I was informed that my contract would not be renewed, despite the fact that I still had not been interviewed by HR regarding the allegations, which were false. I was not renewed despite receiving excellent evaluations during every semester of employment with Alamo colleges, dating back to the fall of 2015 (including an evaluation from Cindy Pryor, who also wrote me a glowing letter of recommendation which I still possess.)

In May, I was scheduled to meet with a member of HR to pack up my office. Once I arrived on campus, I met with a friend who also works for the department and we walked upstairs while I waited for someone to let me into my office. When I arrived upstairs, I was met by four police officers who stated I was not allowed on campus. They surrounded me and would not let me gather my things. Instead, I had to meet them at the district office. My belongings were packed by VP Johnson and other faculty.

HM: You reached out to the Academic Freedom Alliance in mid-February of this year. How did you find out about the AFA and what did you expect from the organization?

WM: The day that I was placed on leave, I had an evening class at Texas State University, where I had been teaching since 2018. I told a colleague and he recommended AFA to me. I also reached out to the Alliance Defending Freedom, who rejected my case, and to FIRE, who accepted it after I had already agreed to be represented by the AFA. I didn’t know what to expect other than to have legal representation during my employment dispute.

HM: As the suspension and administrative behavior dragged along into and through the summer months, what were some of the biggest surprises that you encountered along the way? I guess what I am asking is this: were there any unexpected forms of support or disappointing instances where it was absent that caught you off guard?

WM: In addition to the multiple times I was treated like a criminal, I was surprised at how long the process took since I was initially told it would take about two weeks. I was also shocked that I was not renewed before even being interviewed about my side of the story. I finally did get to tell my side after the decision had been made and was later informed that the complaint was dropped on the student side. I’m not sure why. My attorney was able to obtain affidavits from three other students in the class (there were only 7 total students), including one who had been interviewed by the college in late February. All three attested that the complaints were lies. I was also shocked to learn that the college violated their own publicly stated policy regarding investigating complaints. They skipped over three steps and went right to the VP deciding to suspend me. It became clear to me that I was deliberately targeted because my personal views did not align with the college, which routinely pushed CRT, DEI, and similar agendas. For example, the convocation speaker at the January 22nd convocation stated that diversity did not include diversity of thought and that people who hid behind that claim were just too scared to talk about race and to admit their own racism. The school also required a DEI statement in order to get certified as a master teacher, which was a mandatory training, and sponsored an anti-racism book club which I attended three times and each session was an hour of complaining about white people, the police, and how America is racist. The books were rarely mentioned.

HM: Can you describe what the AFA’s assistance meant for you throughout this experience? Are you at
liberty to disclose the resolution?

WM: AFA’s assistance meant the world to me. Having them pay for such an accomplished attorney, Mike Allen, was a huge relief. There was no way I could afford an attorney of his caliber and the support of AFA allowed me to fight this injustice to my satisfaction. I am greatly indebted to the AFA.

I was awarded $185,000 dollars by Alamo Colleges District. They do not admit to any wrongdoing and agreed to give me a neutral reference. I am not allowed to work at any of their five campuses in any capacity ever again. Initially, they tried to ban me from the campus of St. Philip’s for a year, but that clause was removed in the final settlement agreement.

HM: Now that the matter is closed, what were some of the most important takeaways you gained from standing up for your own academic freedom? Any advice that you may want to pass along to our readers?

WM: Academic Freedom is paramount to the college experience. Without it, students are harmed because they do not learn to think critically and will graduate into the world worse off for not being exposed to new ideas and challenges to their perspective. I’ve learned that even the most well-intentioned professors can be targeted and that administrations are closed minded and often afraid of their students at the expense of faculty. I encourage everyone to stand up for free speech and to not allow our freedoms and liberties to be infringed upon.

HM: Finally, I would like to ask about what is next for you. Has this incident influenced, or maybe soured, your view of higher ed enough to walk away or are you hopeful that the negative trends, trends that no doubt affected your free inquiry into ideas in the classroom as a professor, can be reversed with efforts such as yours and organizations like the AFA?

WM: I am hopeful that the tide is turning. I have noticed more resistance to this movement from organizations such as the AFA, FIRE, etc. and among academics of various political persuasions. Books are being written about the issue and the media is paying more attention to it. I think we are still fighting an uphill battle, but I think the war is winnable. There is a biology professor from St. Philip’s that was fired over statements he made about the nature of males and females in class. Students complained he was anti-LGBTQ. His case is still pending and he is being represented by 1st Liberty. My sense is that Alamo Colleges, and perhaps many others, don’t really care because it is taxpayer money that they are using to settle. Most of my settlement came from their insurance company, not from Alamo Colleges. I think the key is to target the administrators and the board of directors. Until those people feel pain for their attacks on free speech and academic freedom, the problem will persist.

I am still hoping to teach full-time in higher ed. I’ve had three colleges interview me knowing of my troubles at St. Philip’s but I did have one interview canceled once the dean found out about my situation. I’m also looking at careers outside of higher ed, but my hope is that I will stay in the classroom. At the moment, I am teaching two classes at Texas State University and am scheduled for two in the spring. I am very thankful for the support that I receive from the Political Science Department at Texas State. Faculty in that department are free to be who they are and that is what all colleges should encourage.

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