After reviewing the incident of professors posting flyers targeting a Turning Point USA (TPUSA) advisor and students, Tennessee Tech University (TTU) stated that they will take action. Andrew Smith and Julia Gruber were identified as the professors who posted the flyers on campus.
In the investigation memorandum, the investigator recommended that TTU find the two professors in violation of TTU Policy 600 (Code of Conduct). In accordance with the TTU Policy 650 (Disciplinary Action), TTU will weigh the severity of the infraction to determine disciplinary action. That might include a verbal or written warning, performance improvement plan, suspension with or without pay, demotion, disciplinary probation, or termination. Ultimately, TTU Vice President for Planning and Finance has the final authority on interpretation of this policy for disciplinary action.
However, the investigator classified the professors’ behavior as “threatening” – which may mean that TTU would follow TTU Policy 603 (Workplace Violence Prevention). That would mean the Associate Vice President for Human Resources, or their designee, has the final authority on policy interpretation for disciplinary action.
“The content of the flyer was intended to harass, intimidate, and threaten not only Complainant but other faculty, staff, and students whose views and opinions were contrary to those held by Respondents,” read the investigation memorandum.
Disciplinary action for a violation of that policy is similar to TTU Policy 650 – anything up to termination.
TTU policy stated that the university strictly prohibits retaliation for reporting policy violations.
One of the professors, Smith, claimed in a Facebook post that these flyers were protected speech by the First Amendment and the Tennessee Campus Free Speech Act.
Additionally, Smith posted that he and Gruber would be interviewed Monday on the radio show, The Rude Pundit, and streamed via Smith’s radio page, Teacher On The Radio.
Smith revealed via his radio page that he and Gruber had brought on a lawyer to fight TTU’s investigatory conclusions – Nashville attorney Robb Bigelow. He claimed that Donadio’s decision to go to the police was more threatening.
“Both Gruber and Smith decry such a deceitful characterization, since calling out racism is precisely intended to curtail the culture of harassment and intimidation they believe the far-right White Supremacists have created at Tennessee Tech, through groups like TPUSA and others,” wrote Smith. “To be clear, Smith and Gruber called out a colleague’s documented racism on a flier, a traditional and protected free speech activity. Their accuser went to the police to get Smith and Gruber fired. Which action is in fact more threatening?”
The investigator noted in the memorandum that their findings would be given to TTU Vice President for Planning and Finance for further action.
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Corinne Murdock is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and the Star News Network. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Tennessee Tech University” by Brian Stansberry CC 3.0.