UPDATE: I sent an email to the Dean, as well as to the President of Purdue. I reproduce both my email and the President’s response below. President Daniels denies there were any threats, but calling a student into an administrative meeting to “explore possible ways to establish a dialogue” seems to me like intimidation. Well, read for yourself.
Me to Andrew Pettee, copied to Purdue’s President and Dean of Students:
Dear Dr. Pettee,
I was distressed to learn that you have called one of your university’s students, Joshua Nash, to your office for a discussion about his “alleged comments on Facebook.” I have read Nash’s comments about the Black Lives Matter movement, and find those comments deplorable, but that’s no reason to call him to account, scare him by holding a meeting whose subject is withheld from him, and especially, as he’s said, to threaten him with expulsion. As you’re surely aware, what Nash says on social media counts as free speech, and should not be dealt with in anyway by your university. (An exception would be if he harasses or threatens other students, which he apparently didn’t).
At the University of Chicago we wouldn’t have any administrative contact with a student about his or her remarks on social media, for our University has an unremitting policy of free speech. Apparently Purdue doesn’t.
I’ve written about this incident on my website, which has over 41,000 followers. I hope Purdue finally learns to do the right thing and stop threatening students for their extracurricular statements.
From President Mitch Daniels to me;
Thank you for your inquiry. Purdue Northwest has never suggested, let alone threatened, the idea of disciplining the student in question for exercising his right to freedom of expression. When, as here, an administrative meeting is called with a student on our Calumet campus, the purpose is to explore possible ways to support or establish a dialogue with that student, not to discipline him or her. The idea is to see if there might be a teachable moment opportunity for the student, not to treat it as a conduct matter. Protecting free speech is of central importance to our university, a commitment recognized by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education when it conferred on Purdue Northwest its highest “green light” rating for its speech policies. Nothing involved in our administrative meeting process represents an abridgement of that stance.
I have mixed feelings about the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. They have eminently justifiable complaints about racism, but, as someone who grew up with the nonviolence and peaceful protests of the civil rights movement of the Sixties, I see some of their tactics as counterproductive. It was unconscionable, I thought, for the BLM to block the Gay Pride parade in Toronto and hold it hostage until their list of demands was met. That’s hardly civil disobedience! Nor do I see criticism of the BLM, a generally positive movement, as equivalent to racism. Back in the day, for instance, one could criticize the Black Panthers while praising the NAACP.
“Black Lives Matter is trash because they do not really care about black lives,” Nash recalled writing on Facebook, according to The College Fix. “They simply care about making money and disrupting events for dead people.” Someone reported the comment to Facebook, which removed it and suspended him for a month.
On Twitter, Nash describes himself as a gay conservative Christian who uses the pronouns “God, Overlord, and #DangerousFaggot,” the latter being a reference to Breitbart tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos. A Purdue administrator told Nash that describing himself in such a manner was “homopohobic,” according to The Fix.
At any rate, Nash’s comments‚—which I deplore—have gotten him in trouble with his University. On his Twi**er page he reproduced a letter he got from the Director of Student Assistance, Leadership, and conduct, asking for an “administrative meeting” regarding “alleged comments [he] made on Facbook:
Now it’s not clear that Nash’s problematic comments refer to the Black Lives Movement, though I suspect they do, but it doesn’t really matter. Whatever Nash says on social media—besides threatening or harassing other students, of which there’s no report—counts as free speech, and should not subject him to sanctions, much less the chilling request for an “administrative meeting” with the Purdue administration.
I can imagine how scared Nash, a biology major, is about this meeting—a meeting about which the University will provide no details, although they’ve apparently threatened him with expulsion.
Since receiving the summons, Nash said he asked the university for more details during a phone call. He alleges that, over the phone, a campus official said his social media comments could result in his expulsion. The College Fix could not immediately reach a campus official Friday to confirm or deny the claim.
Nash said the campus official he spoke to called the “#DangerousFaggot” in his Twitter bio “homophobic” over the phone.
“Those were their words,” according to Nash.
The #DangerousFaggot hashtag was made popular by Yiannopoulos, who toured college campuses nationwide under that moniker.
Nash told The Fix campus officials rejected his request for an email outlining specific details regarding the nature of his summons. He alleges they told him he must wait until he attends the required Administrative Meeting. Nash said he plans to attend the meeting, now slated for early August, with an attorney.
Pettee apparently runs the office of the Dean of Students (though not himself the Dean) at Purdue, and his website is here, along with an email address that you can use (and I will use) to email him.
Defending bigots is not the world’s most pleasant task, but it’s something we have to do for a greater good: preserving the free speech that undergirds all democracy.