The professor who gained national attention for suggesting U.S. soldiers in Iraq kill their superior officers has resigned his teaching post at a New Jersey college, moments before school officials were slated to decide his fate.
The pre-emptive action by adjunct English professor John Daly was taken late yesterday, shortly before an emergency meeting of the board of trustees at Warren County Community College.
“The board was informed of Mr. Daly’s decision to resign his adjunct position at WCCC effective immediately,” said college president Dr. William Austin.
“I firmly believe that the most precious freedom all Americans share is the First Amendment right of freedom of speech. I am committed to working unceasingly to see that it is preserved for all WCCC students, faculty and staff,” he added. “At the same time, there are existing state laws – as well as college policies and procedures – that must be followed to ensure that all members of our college are free and encouraged to exercise their right to free speech without fear of intimidation or retaliation. I am dedicated to protecting and preserving that freedom.”
Austin concluded by noting the college would “rededicate ourselves to a review of our current policies and procedures to make certain that we continue to foster an open and collegial learning environment at our institution. I personally pledge to see that tolerance training is included in our next faculty and staff in-service, and to consider a broad range of student input in its development.”
The board’s meeting last night had been called to discuss how to handle the controversy surrounding an e-mail sent by Daly to one of his students.
As WorldNetDaily reported, the e-mail was a reply to freshman Rebecca Beach for her announcement of a campus program last Thursday featuring decorated Iraq war hero Lt. Col. Scott Rutter.
Daly wrote: “Real freedom will come when soldiers in Iraq turn their guns on their superiors.”
His remarks were reminiscent of anti-war protesters in San Francisco who displayed a sign in March 2003 which stated: “We support our troops when they shoot their officers.”
Daly said Sunday he was worried he would be fired, and already had been told not to show up for the three classes he was scheduled to teach yesterday, according to Inside Higher Ed, an online news source.
The instructor said he stood by the e-mail message, but it was being taken out of context. His comment about soldiers turning their guns on superiors was meant “in the most metaphoric sense,” he explained.
Daly also said that because Beach was never one of his students, he thought she was a “Young America’s Foundation organizer and sent the message with that in mind.
He would have used a different tone if he had known she was a freshman, he said, although the content wouldn’t have changed.
In his e-mail, Daly said he would ask his students to boycott the event and also vowed “to expose [her] right-wing, anti-people politics until groups like [Rebecca’s] won’t dare show their face on a college campus.”
Young America’s Foundation, which came to Beach’s aid, said that besides organizing the event, Beach’s offense was hanging up fliers contrasting the number of people killed under communism to those liberated under President Reagan.
Beach responded to Daly’s written tirade with a demand that Warren President William Austin institute seminars on free speech and sensitivity to teach intolerant faculty members to be respectful of differing opinion.
Before the resignation, the college issued three statements since the controversy began, with support for Daly apparently declining with each one, Inside Higher Ed said.
On Thursday, the college posted a statement on its website saying:
The viewpoints of this professor in no way depict the views of Warren County Community College, its administration, or the Board of Trustees. The College does however support the constitution, the first amendment, and the right to free speech.
Additionally, Mr. Daly’s message was sent as a one-to-one message, via e-mail, to one person, and not to the college community. Finally, the College is viewing this message as a personnel issue and will be addressing it according to the policies and procedures of the College.
Austin attended the lecture Thursday night, and the next day, the college’s statement, noting the speech went well, added criticism of Daly, quoting Austin as saying the e-mail was “disgraceful and offensive.”
Saturday, the college announced the board had scheduled the emergency meeting, noting Tuesday was the first day such a meeting could be held legally.
“The Board of Trustees intends to consider the welfare and rights of its students, the college community, and the public in lieu [sic] of recent events. The board will also consider personnel issues,” the statement said.
In the interview Monday night, according to Inside Higher Ed, Daly said it was entirely appropriate for him to criticize “a pro-war rally.”
People should be outraged that military recruiters are able to attract the college’s students to enlist because they can’t afford tuition and find good jobs when they graduate.
“The YAF is trying to turn back affirmative action and to promote the war, and I have a right to speak out,” said Daly, who noted he’s been teaching at Warren for about a year.
He also teaches at another school but declined to give the name because of the current controversy.
Referring to the threat of being fired, Daly said his situation reflects a trend for non-tenured instructors.
“As more and more professors are teaching part time, this is a direct attack on our academic freedom,” he said.
Daly’s e-mail also claimed that “capitalism has killed many more” people than communism and that “poor and working class people” are recruited to “fight and die for EXXON and other corporations.”