(Jacob Bruns, Headline USA) A former professor of mathematics at the University of North Texas received a settlement in a two-year legal battle after he was fired for mocking the department’s messaging on so-called microaggressions, according to a press release from the Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented him in the case.
The school agreed to pay ex-professor Nathaniel Hiers $165,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees for violating his First Amendment rights when it fired Hiers for writing a joke on a chalkboard in the faculty lounge criticizing microaggressions—actions or remarks that are unintentionally racist but interpreted by a member of a marginalized identity class as offensive or traumatic.
“Please don’t leave garbage lying around,” Hiers wrote, after finding that one of his colleagues had posted a flier to educate the faculty about the cruelty of microaggressions.
Within the week, Hiers had been fired by the mathematics department for failing to apologize and refusing to express “honest regret,” Legal Insurrection reported.
ADF Legal Counsel Michael Ross said that the Hiers’ actions fell well within the bounds of the First Amendment.
“The First Amendment guarantees Dr. Hiers—and every other American—the right to express his viewpoint without government punishment,” he said, continuing to note that the precedent will help protect free speech across the nation.
“We’re pleased to see this case settled favorably not only for Dr. Hiers but also to help protect freedom of speech for every student and teacher at public universities across the country.”
ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom, also added that simple political disagreements are not grounds for the loss of a job.
“Public universities can’t fire a professor just because they disagree with the professor’s personal viewpoint,” he said.
Hiers, however, did not ask for his job back. He is now teaching at a high school in Texas.