Home » Stony Brook Professor Under Fire For Denouncing Officers Who Shot Suspect …Who Was Stabbing Them – JONATHAN TURLEY

Stony Brook Professor Under Fire For Denouncing Officers Who Shot Suspect …Who Was Stabbing Them – JONATHAN TURLEY

by John Hensley


A Stony Brook University professor is under fire this week after she called two police officers “murderers” for shooting dead a suspect.  Social Welfare professor Anna Hayward denounced the officers despite the fact that the officers suffered “serious stab wounds” from the suspects before shooting him. I understand the anger of those who have called for Hayward to be fired. The attack on the officers was unwarranted and seems part of long-standing anti-police views. However, as will come as little surprise for many on this blog, I believe that adverse actions would violate core free speech rights.
Hayward was outraged over the shooting and asked on Instagram “Why did a man have to die? What about the man they murdered?”The man stabbed and seriously injured the two officers, one with life-threatening neck wounds. Both officers were taken to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment. A third officer was also transported for minor injuries.Hayward’s comments are reminiscent of bizarre comments of “The View” co-host Joy Behar on how officers should have shot in the air in the case of Ma’Khia Bryant in Columbus, Ohio. Bryant was about to stab another girl when officers fired to stop her from committing murder.

In this case, Hayward asked “This was a wellness check — why didn’t they de-escalate the situation?” The answer may be that it is hard to “de-escalate the situation” when the suspect is stabbing you in the neck.

It sounds like the university will stand by Hayward’s right to speak freely on such subjects, even statements that are highly controversial. In a January 2 statement, Stony Brook correctly stressed that Hayward made her comments from her own, private, account that is “not affiliated with [the] university.”

However, there was good reason for Hayward to expect that she would be protected. There is no massive cancel campaign or protests on campus.

The support enjoyed by faculty on the left is in sharp contrast to the treatment given faculty with moderate, conservative or libertarian views. Anyone who raises such dissenting views is immediately set upon by a mob demanding their investigation or termination. This includes blocking academics from speaking on campuses like a Classics professor due to their political views. Conservatives and libertarians understand that they have no cushion or protection in any controversy, even if it involves a single, later deleted tweet. At the University of North Carolina (Wilmington) one such campaign led to a professor killing himself a few days before his final day as a professor.

I have defended faculty who have made similarly disturbing comments on the left, including “detonating white people,” abolish white peopledenouncing policecalling for Republicans to suffer,  strangling police officerscelebrating the death of conservativescalling for the killing of Trump supporters, supporting the murder of conservative protesters and other outrageous statements. I also defended the free speech rights of University of Rhode Island professor Erik Loomis, who defended the murder of a conservative protester and said that he saw “nothing wrong” with such acts of violence. (Loomis was later made Director of Graduate Studies of History at Rhode Island). At the University of California campus, professors actually rallied around a professor who physically assaulted pro-life advocates and tore down their display.

When these controversies arose, faculty rallied behind the free speech rights of the professors. That support has been far more muted or absent when conservative faculty have found themselves at the center of controversies. The recent suspension of Ilya Shapiro is a good example. Other faculty have had to go to court to defend their free speech rights. One professor was suspended for being seen at a controversial protest.

That will not be the fate of Professor Hayward. She will be correctly afforded the protection of free speech. While this may be an exercise of hope over experience, she may now have greater empathy for the faculty who are targeted by cancel campaign for expressing controversial views. While this may be an exercise of hope over experience, she may now have greater empathy for the faculty who are targeted by cancel campaigns for expressing controversial views.

 

 





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