An e-mail written by an outspoken sociology professor at Colorado State University-Pueblo, comparing job cuts at the school to the deadly Ludlow Massacre, has prompted university officials to cut off his access to the school's computer system and accuse him of violating a campus communication policy that prohibit messages intended to "intimidate, threaten, harass other individuals, or to interfere with the activity of others to conduct university business." But the professor's defenders say it's the administration that's interfering with academic freedom and Tim McGettigan's right to speak his mind.
Wrestling with a $3.3 million budget deficit, CSU-Pueblo officials have indicated they may have to slash as many as fifty staff positions. Many students and faculty members have been skeptical of the administration's claims, though, including McGettigan, whose university web page lists a primary research interest in science and technology. However, he has published widely on subjects ranging from gun control to Paula Deen to the presidency of George W. Bush (a book titled Adieu Dubya: A Fond Farewell to the Worst President Ever).
Last Friday, McGettigan fired off an e-mail to the entire campus community, urging people to attend a rally protesting the pending layoffs. The subject line was "The Children of Ludlow," and the e-mail went on to invoke the 1914 attack on striking miners in southern Colorado by state militia that killed two dozen people, including two women and eleven children -- many of whom were asphyxiated when a fire broke out in the miners' tent colony.
Referring to "the hitmen" who coldbloodedly attacked the colony, McGettigan wrote, "CSU Chancellor Michael Martin has assembled a hit list.... In his own way, Michael Martin is putting a gun to the head of those fifty hardworking people while he also throws a burning match on the hopes and dreams of their hopeless, defenseless families."
The e-mail prompted a swift response from CSU attorney Johnna Doyle, who informed McGettigan that his computer account was being deactivated -- an action that might be reconsidered on further review. McGettigan protested that he needed computer access to deal with his classes, and the American Association of University Professors has defended his e-mail as protected speech.
McGettigan is a tenured professor and not subject to the layoffs, which so far have claimed 22 non-tenured positions, not fifty. But his supporters view his ejection from the computer system as retaliation for questioning the necessity of the cuts.
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