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Today we three Nebraska State Senators, Sen. Steve Erdman, Sen. Tom Brewer, and Sen. Steve Halloran, would like to express our disapproval of the recent anti-gun protests by certain faculty members from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln (UNL). Following the incident last fall regarding UNL’s English Professor Amanda Gailey and English Graduate Teaching Assistant Courtney Lawton, who together harassed sophomore student Kaitlyn Mullen, as she tabled for Turning Point USA, we advised the university’s administration to develop a code of conduct for the faculty. UNL has established a code of conduct for the students, but no such code of conduct exists for the professors and staff. We three have maintained from the beginning that the incident that happened last fall was a conduct issue, not a free speech issue, although free speech continues to be a problem for the University.
The conduct of UNL’s radicalized professors continue to spiral out of control because the administration refuses to deal with the issue. Once again radical professors at UNL have made national headlines because of their inappropriate and illegal behavior, and their unhinged conduct will only continue to grow worse until the administration decides to do something about it.
Earlier this month Amanda Gailey staged an anti-gun protest in front of the private home of Chris Cox, a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association (NRA). Gailey coordinated her protest to coincide with a court date set for Patricia Hill, a UNL Sociology research professor, who had earlier been charged by police in Alexandria, Virginia for using red spray paint to mimic blood as she vandalized the Cox’s home in October 2017 and again in January 2018. Gailey harassed Cox, along with his wife and children, as she demonstrated in front of their home with a sign which read, “NRA Chris Cox profits off dead kids.” Hill is scheduled to appear in court again in Alexandria, Virginia on May 21 to face another Class 1 misdemeanor charge.
Propriety, civility and respect for opposing viewpoints used to be the hallmarks of a good education at UNL. But, progress in civil discourse is more easily undone than achieved. For instance, Charles Henry Oldfather, for whom Oldfather Hall near Memorial Stadium is named, once said: “Truly the history of mankind shows that the steep climb from barbarism is 5000 years up and five minutes back.”
Professors are supposed to be models of right behavior. But, instead of modeling propriety, civility, and respect for opposing viewpoints these UNL professors have pushed the envelope of acceptable conduct out to include illicit behavior. These radicalized professors are incapable of respecting any point of view other than their own, and civility is precisely the value they aim to shatter. For instance, in an attempt to justify her inappropriate protesting in front of Cox’s private residence, Gailey told the Washington Post that “People need to stop treating these predatory, sick people like they’re just a neighbor.”
Whether University President Hank Bounds or Chancellor Ronnie Green will admit it or not does not negate the fact that these radicalized professors now represent the values of the University of Nebraska system. These radical professors have now become the face of the University of Nebraska to the rest of the state, to the rest of the country, and even to the rest of the world. Although Gailey and Hill hardly represent the values shared by the majority of Nebraskans, their inappropriate and illicit behavior now reflects what the University of Nebraska system tolerates as acceptable faculty conduct. For instance, in response to their protests, Leslie Reed, a UNL spokesman, dismissed the behavior of Gailey and Hill by saying, “They did this on their own time and were expressing their own beliefs and it really has nothing to do with the University.” We beg to differ.
Ask yourself this question: “Would my job permit me to engage in this kind of behavior?” If not, then the behavior of Gailey and Hill is undermining what Oldfather once valued as the functionality of a liberal education. By functionality, Oldfather meant that a liberal education should set up university students to succeed on the job. Because the administration refuses to confront the issue of faculty conduct, we believe the University of Nebraska is now setting up students to fail in the real world where conduct matters.