The University of Tampa on Aug. 29 fired a visiting professor who tweeted that Texas was experiencing “instant karma” from the destruction of Hurricane Harvey because the state voted for Republicans.
“I don't believe in instant karma but this kinda feels like it for Texas,” Kenneth Storey, an assistant professor of sociology, tweeted. “Hopefully this will help them realize the GOP doesn't care about them.”
We have two serious concerns with the university administration's actions:
- The administration dismissed Storey without having first demonstrated cause in a faculty hearing. This is fundamentally at odds with basic standards of academic due process.
- The reason for the dismissal raises an issue of academic freedom. Faculty members have the right to speak or write as citizens, free from institutional censorship or discipline.
If the administration believes that a professor’s extramural utterances raise grave doubts concerning the professor’s fitness for continuing service, it should file charges against the professor and the case should be considered by an appropriately constituted body. We note that the faculty handbook of the University of Tampa explicitly endorses the AAUP's policies and standards regarding these matters.
We urge the administration to rescind the notice of dismissal issued to Professor Storey immediately and to ensure that any future actions are consistent with the standards referenced above.
"We are particularly concerned that the apparent reason for the dismissal raises a basic issue of academic freedom — that of freedom of extramural utterance," they wrote in a letter to University of Tampa President Dr. Ronald L. Vaughn.
Last week, the university said Storey's remarks did not reflect the “views or values” of the Tampa school.
“We condemn the comments and the sentiment behind them and understand the pain this irresponsible act has caused,” the university said in a statement. “As Floridians, we are well aware of the destruction and suffering associated with tropical weather. Our thoughts and prayers are with all impacted by Hurricane Harvey.”