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and it outrages me, too:

Indrek Wichman, 55, a tenured professor of mechanical engineering, . . . sent the message to the Muslim Students' Association of Michigan State University while it handed out free cocoa during a public awareness event about controversial cartoons that depicted Islam's founder as a terrorist. . . .

"I am offended not by cartoons, but by more mundane things like beheadings of civilians, cowardly attacks on public buildings, suicide murders," Wichman wrote.

He went on to say: "I counsul you dissatisfied, agressive, brutal, and uncivilized slave-trading Moslems to be very aware of this as you proceed with your infantile 'protests.' "

Oh, come now — what fraction of the MSA are slave-traders, what fraction endorse the slave trade, and for that matter what fraction deserves any of the other pejoratives? What fraction even endorse that? As I've pointed out before, there are very troubling strands in modern Islam, ones that can't be dismissed as a mere lunatic fringe. But that's no reason to insult MSA members, many of whom may be quite peaceful. Such insults are unfair and rude in any circumstances, but they are especially rude and unprofessional when the insulted people are students at your own institution.

The article reports that, "Reached at home Monday evening, Wichman said he had regrets. 'I used strong language in a private communication that I would certainly not have used if this communication would have gone public,' he said." I'm glad he has regrets; but I hope that he would have such regrets even about a message that had stayed private — unfair private insults are also unprofessional and wrong.

At the same time, academic freedom protects unfair and excessive criticisms of activist groups and not just polite and proper criticisms; there may be some exceptions (for instance, for in-class speech, which I think the university may properly control somewhat more), but they don't seem applicable here. The remedy for offensive speech by academics is condemnation, some of which I'm trying to offer here. Apparently the MSA and other student groups had asked only for "a letter of reprimand," and that would probably be permissible, if it was couched as an expression of the university's own views rather than as a formal punishment that would have more concrete employment implications. But any real discipline for such speech would, I think, be improper.

The university was thus right to say that "there's little that can be done to punish Indrek Wichman, 55, a tenured professor of mechanical engineering, because his comments essentially constitute free speech." But I'm troubled that they would also "caution[ the professor] that any additional commentary ... could constitute the creation of a hostile environment, and that could ... form the basis of a complaint" under the policy, Denbow said. It seems to me that Prof. Wichman should be free to criticize Islam and Islamic activist groups — even to criticize them intemperately and using vast overgeneralizations — though we should in turn be free to criticize him for it.

Thanks to Michelle Malkin and reader Charles Chapman for the pointer.

Steve:
My alma mater is not necessarily the most racially sensitive place. The cafeteria once served fried chicken and watermelon for Martin Luther King Day.

I think Prof. Volokh has the right take on this, although I search in vain for some sort of intellectual consistency from the usual suspects. Instead, Ms. Malkin thinks the only important point is that there are, in fact, violent Muslims in the world.
4.25.2006 9:22pm
Humble Law Student:
I just wish he had left out the last part that you reference, when he made his attack personal against the MSU students. His prior comment is perfect though.
4.25.2006 9:26pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I don't know what the guy was thinking.
But perhaps he was trying to see if the MSA could be gotten to say, "We condemn that, too." Unambiguously.

When I studied subSaharan Africa--at MSU--we learned that Arab slave traders, starting earlier, had taken three to five times as many blacks from Africa as went west to the Americas. That was bad enough, but even more troubling is the lack of anyplace on the Indian Ocean littoral resembling Haiti, Jamaica, or even Mississippi.
Something awful happened.
It would be somewhat reassuring if the MSA were to act as guilty about that as we non-slaveholders in the USA are required to act about our non-participation in the Peculiar Institution.
While I don't think the MSA contains many or any active people in the issues the good professor mentioned, modern Islamic folks' complete indifference to their coreligionists' involvement in such things is disturbing.
It makes it seem as if respect and tolerance are only supposed to go one way.
More people than the prof get upset by that.
4.25.2006 9:27pm
Hans Gruber (www):
Of course it's hyperbole and of course it's unfair to actually accuse the MSU Muslims of being slave-traders or or brutal agressors.

But do you really think he meant this to be taken literally? I take it to be a rude and hyperbolic way of saying: Listen, Islam needs to get its house in order before you start with this silly crap, if you're going to protest something, then protest the terrorists who call themselves Muslims or one of the many human rights atrocities occurring right now in Muslim countries the world over. Here's the entire email:


Dear Moslem Association: As a professor of Mechanical Engineering here at MSU I intened to protest your protest.

I am offended not by cartoons, but by more mundane things like beheadings of civilians, cowardly attacks on public buildings, suicide murders, murders of Catholic priests (the latest in Turkey!), burnings of Christian chirches, the continued persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt, the imposition of Sharia law on non-Muslims, the rapes of Scandinavain girls and women (called "whores" in your culture), the murder of film directors in Holland, and the rioting and looting in Paris France.

This is what offends me, a soft-spoken person and academic, and many, many, many of my colleagues. I counsul you dissatisfied, agressive, brutal, and uncivilized slave-trading Moslems to be very aware of this as you proceed with your infantile "protests."

If you do not like the values of the West -- see the 1st Ammendment -- you are free to leave. I hope for God's sake that most of you choose that option. Please return to your ancestral homelands and build them up yourselves instead of troubling Americans.

Cordially, I. S. Wichman, Professor of Mechanical Engineering
4.25.2006 9:27pm
Steve:
This is what I mean about a lack of intellectual consistency. If someone made a similar statement to a Jewish group based on whatever alleged atrocities the Israelis committed in the territories last month, would it be dismissed as "not to be taken literally"?

I counsul you dissatisfied, agressive, brutal, and uncivilized slave-trading Moslems to be very aware of this as you proceed with your infantile "protests."

Yes, a little hyperbolic, indeed.
4.25.2006 9:32pm
John (mail):
While I do think the professor went over the top, I am almost as troubled by Eugene's "As I've pointed out before, there are very troubling strands in modern Islam, ones that can't be dismissed as a mere lunatic fringe."

"Strands"? What surveys of world Muslim opinion show only such modest support for these lunatics?
4.25.2006 9:36pm
Gil Milbauer (mail) (www):
Maybe he wasn't counsuling all Moslems; just the "dissatisfied, agressive, brutal, and uncivilized slave-trading" ones.

I sympathize with the intent of the message: to add perspective to the protest. But, it could certainly have been presented much more tactfully.
4.25.2006 9:37pm
ajftoo (mail):

Oh, come now — what fraction of the MSA are slave-traders, what fraction endorse the slave trade, and for that matter what fraction deserves any of the other pejoratives? What fraction even endorse that?

3/4 to 7/8 judging by their silence on those issues compared to the outrage re cartoons. Perhaps a review of 1400 years of history of the cult of islam is in order professor, the M.O. has not changed.
4.25.2006 9:44pm
Shangui (mail):
What's missing here is any info about what the "information session" about the cartoons involved. There are many different ways to protest these cartoons. If Muslims find them offensive, as it seems many do, they are certainly within their rights to protest against the papers for printing them, call for the boycott of the papers, say they are offensive and should not have been printed, etc. Once they cross the line into saying that it should be illegal to publish the cartoons, that's a different story. Because of the extreme and absolutely unacceptable demands of many about the cartoons, we seem to have lost sight of the fact that that Muslims should be free to object to the cartoons (which were clearly aimed at pissing them off). Just because Israel does some unpleasant things on occasion, doesn't mean that Jews shouldn't protest anti-Semitism. Just because many followers of Islam do bad things doesn't mean that Muslims should be free to object to unflattering portrayals of them. Should Christian groups apologize for abortion clinic bombings (of the Magdalene Houses in Ireland, etc.) every time they have a protest about what they perceive as anti-Christian bias in the media? Of course not. The professor was within his rights to say what he said, but it also seems like he was going overboard and trying to be intentionally insulting towards people that did nothing to deserve his ire.

But before anybody starts to attack me for things I didn't say, I personally think it's pretty ridiculous to be upset by the cartoons in the first place and think the reaction in much of the Muslim world (to say nothing of the cowardly counter reaction of self-censorship in the West), is obscene.
4.25.2006 9:52pm
Robert Lutton:
So, Let me see if I understand you correctly, professor. Let us suppose the hypothetical case that your (possibly hypothetical) kid is demonstrating (possibly) in support of Israel. He gets a letter from one of his professor saying that as a Christ killing money grubbing Jew bastard, he has a lot of nerve voicing an opinion here in Christian America. In that case, you would feel that the teacher should not be sanctioned in any way....but he is open to criticism? Does that about sum it up?

Most people would feel that the relationship of teacher to student does not allow this particular form of free speech.
4.25.2006 9:57pm
TomHynes (mail):
I am also troubled by the University reaction. Aren't they saying "We will let you off with a warning this time"? If he says essentially the same thing again, isn't it still rude, offensive, and protected by the 1st Amendment?
4.25.2006 10:01pm
gerry (mail):
Each of us, to some extent, is in fact responsible for the excesses of those whom we identify with, and, to a sad and lesser extent for the excesses of those who are identified in extraordinary circumstances, with each of us. Since I identify with lawyers and law professors, I'm depressed by my hero JV failing to recognize that some CULTURES behead their captives, and some do not, and that that is a civilized distinction. That an engineering professor might embarrass the innocents who are culturally identifiable with a society supporting mindless blood curdling maniacal madmen whose idea of justice is to behead its captives reminds me that many of us who were indoctrinated from childhood with orthodoxies voted with our feet. I think that what the professor cried out for was courageous responsibility, a notion almost irretrievably remote to academia,.... even to EV?.
4.25.2006 10:02pm
gerry (mail):
Each of us, to some extent, is in fact responsible for the excesses of those whom we identify with, and, to a sad and lesser extent for the excesses of those who are identified in extraordinary circumstances, with each of us. Since I identify with lawyers and law professors, I'm depressed by my hero JV failing to recognize that some CULTURES behead their captives, and some do not, and that that is a civilized distinction. That an engineering professor might embarrass the innocents who are culturally identifiable with a society supporting mindless blood curdling maniacal madmen whose idea of justice is to behead its captives reminds me that many of us who were indoctrinated from childhood with orthodoxies voted with our feet. I think that what the professor cried out for was courageous responsibility, a notion almost irretrievably remote to academia,.... even to EV?.
4.25.2006 10:02pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
I have to throw the Bullshit flag on the watermelon on MLK day....its in January...besides, everyone knows you eat chitlins to honor MLK,,,with a side plate of niggertoes.
4.25.2006 10:16pm
Steve:
Charming comment. The watermelon story is quite true, by the way, from firsthand knowledge.
4.25.2006 10:19pm
Another Soviet Refugee (mail):
As much as I agree with the MSU professor's criticism of the foreign moslem reaction to the cartoons and other various infractions against civilization, he has wrongly chosen to accuse students at the public university where he teaches of behaving like those barbarians. In fact, the MSU society is just exercising their 1st amendment rights to protest some speech with more free speech. It is the professor who should be ashamed to make blanket statements and not so "soft-spoken" derogatory comments about the students.
4.25.2006 10:25pm
anonymous coward:
Eugene: "But that's no reason to insult MSA members, many of whom may be quite peaceful."

The cautious phrasing is extremely amusing in this context. Yes, it's entirely possible that a significant number of the Muslim Students' Association's members aren't, personally, crazed suicide bombers.
4.25.2006 10:32pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
To scold a non-Muslim for intemperate language about Muslims is to stand the pyramid on its tip.
4.25.2006 10:36pm
frankcross (mail):
The willingness of people to stereotype is amazing, and a little frightening.

There are a lot of Muslims living in America. Most of them voted for Bush the first time around against Gore. I doubt any of them have engaged in slave-trading. Strong language may be suitable for describing Iran or other MidEast Muslims, its use applied to a group of Muslims in America is both ignorant and a brand of anti-Semitism. This is the thinking that rounded up and interned Japanese Americans in WWII.
4.25.2006 10:45pm
Shangui (mail):
This is the thinking that rounded up and interned Japanese Americans in WWII.

From EV: "Thanks to Michelle Malkin for the pointer."

Interesting.
4.25.2006 10:54pm
Ace (mail):
Hoe can a Muslim student possibly consider taking a class with this professor now? He should be punished because he has closed off his classes to a a group of students. Clearly he hates Muslims, not just the students who are protesting the cartoons.
4.25.2006 11:09pm
Stephen Macklin (mail) (www):
Could the uncomfortable truth merely be that the professor has given pen to the thoughts many of us often share?

While the email was insensitive and hyperbolic I found myself applauding its author.

At least it gives the MSA something more real than a few satirical cartoons to be angry about.
4.25.2006 11:11pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Think he did go over the top with the one sentence. On the other hand, he's an engineer, not a word-smith. In any event, this is something to be dealt with via even more exercise of freedom of speech.
4.25.2006 11:14pm
frankcross (mail):
There's apparently a little more than mentioned by Malkin. FreeRepublic has this clip from the email



MSU engineering professor Indrek Wichman used his faculty e- mail account to send a "Dear Moslem Association" message to the university's Muslim Students' Association (MSA) containing a long list of charges, including a claim that Muslims rape "Scandinavain (sic) girls and women (called 'whores' in your culture)."

The February 28, 2006, e-mail also stated: "I counsul (sic) you dissatisfied, agressive (sic), brutal, and uncivilized slave- trading Moslems to be very aware of this as you proceed with your infantile 'protests.' If you do not like the values of the West -- see the 1st Ammendment (sic) -- you are free to leave. I hope for God's sake that most of you choose that option.
4.25.2006 11:53pm
Greg D (mail):
If someone made a similar statement to a Jewish group based on whatever alleged atrocities the Israelis committed in the territories last month, would it be dismissed as "not to be taken literally"?

No, it would be intended to be taken litterally, and the person would be aplauded for saying it. Especially at a US University.

How muchy time has the MSA spent deploring the behavior of the muslims in Darfur? The Taliban? Al Qaeda? Hamas?

They haven't? Yet they claim the right to speak for "muslims"? Then it's entirely reasonable to hit them with some "guilt by association" for those muslim actions that they choose not to condem.
4.25.2006 11:57pm
TruthInAdvertising:
Did anyone catch that Malkin appears to applaud the professor's e-mail and attacked his critics for their calls that he be sanctioned. When the shoe was on other foot and a liberal community college teacher sent a blistering e-mail to the head of a conservative group which he too thought was "private", Malkin supported calls for the teacher to be fired and the teacher did end up resigning. Sounds like Ms. Malkin has a serious double-standard.
4.26.2006 12:12am
Steve:
No, it would be intended to be taken litterally, and the person would be aplauded for saying it. Especially at a US University.

Oh, right. How well I remember the Jew-hatred that pervaded my four years at Michigan State.
4.26.2006 12:13am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Well, Steve. We didn't go to an "elite" university. Hardly any hate at all in East Lansing.
That's probably one reason we didn't get to be "elite".
4.26.2006 12:18am
Another Soviet Refugee (mail):
Again, as much as I deplore the behavior of the fanatical muslims in Darfur, Gaza, Indonesia, Nigeria, etc..., the MSA of MSU is under no ethical duty to denounce such behaviour any more than does anyone else in our society. How often do we hear the criticism of that activity as activity perpetrated by religious fundamentalists of the Islamic variety in the general media? If, the MSA choses to speak for "muslims", then they do so in the capacity of positive role models for their religion, and until they do something that shows their actions to be negative, we should not judge them. Furthermore, "guilt by association" only works when a group is linked by a hierchical structure where orders are given and taken, ie. military, Catholic Church. So, the peodophile priests were roundly condemned by the Catholic superiors, but the same may not be said about a de-centralized relion like Islam, where every action by a sect of Muslims must be denounced by another sect.
4.26.2006 12:18am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
The MSA is under no ethical duty to denounce anything. And they have to take the consequences, which is that it looks as if they don't really care. Or don't see the problem. Or don't think it's as bad as the Motoons.
What is a positive role model for Islam? Let's not use a definition we would like to see. What would Islam think of as a positive role model?
"their actions" include their speech and what they choose to speak about, or not. From that, we can judge.
Christians are frequently "required" to denounce Robertson or Falwell or some clinic bomber, even though there is no hierarchical relationship. Not that black-white.
4.26.2006 12:26am
Eugene Volokh (www):
Ace: I take it that a Muslim student can take this professor's class the same way that a Republican student can take the class of a professor who has said contemptuous things about Republicans as a group. Or the same way that a deeply religious student can take the class of a professor who says that religion is folly and religious people are fools. Or the same way that a gay student can take the class of a professor who publicly belongs to a religion (e.g., many strands of Islam, as well many strands of Christianity, and Orthodox Judaism) that condemns homosexuality as an abomination. The student would, I take it, assume that mechanical engineering professors grade students based on knowledge of mechanical engineering, not on whether they voted for Bush, whether they go to church, or whom they sleep with. (Note, incidentally, that discriminating against a student based on the student's political affiliation is generally unconstitutional at a public university, as is discriminating against a student based on the student's religion or race.)

Or would you suggest that all these professors should be punished for revealing that they are hostile to various political affiliations, religions, or sexual orientation (whether through direct statements or through statements that they belong to certain groups taht share these views)?
4.26.2006 12:28am
Another Soviet Refugee (mail):
Richard

Point taken, but I'm not sure that most people take the calls for denouncing looneys like Robertson and Falwell seriously. Most reasoned individuals do not need to renounce those who are obviously on the fringe and do not speak for the resounding peaceful majority. Again, I agree that there are plenty of Muslims that may support the terrorists like Bin Laden, but until we can show that this MSA has spoken out in support of such terrorists then we should not pain them with the broad brush of "guilt by association", since no association exists here. They may both praise Allah, but one group does so while actively aspousing tolerance and understanding, while the others are mad killers.
4.26.2006 12:33am
anonymous coward:
Do we actually know that the MSA hasn't denounced violence? Or are we just, you know, making stuff up?

(If they have, but in terms less strong than Prof Wichman, I expect no one will care!)
4.26.2006 12:39am
Pooh (www):
Ah yes, professor, through sheer good work and dedication, the plucky Muslim student will show the professor the error of his ways, and he will of course grade with an open mind free from bias...

Oh, sorry was watching the Hallmark channel there for a moment. Back here on planet earth, I'm not sure how a student named Mohammed would ever feel like he could get a fair shake from this guy going forward.

And the always tasteful equivalence between disdain for political practices with baseless accusations of slave-trading. It's all the same really.
4.26.2006 12:43am
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Pooh, taking your point to its logical end, why don't we just say that professors should not communicate with students in such a way as to knowingly convey a worldview contrary to the student's, lest the student be denied an educational opportunity for fear of bias?
4.26.2006 12:49am
anonymous coward:
I don't think one could reasonably expect a Republican to take a class by a professor who used similarly insane language to condemn Republicans--at least if your political affiliation were somehow clearly marked (e.g., a Bush/Cheney 2000 tattoo). After all, it is often possible to guess whether someone is Muslim by their appearance and attire.

I guess I could find the expectation that I would rape other students in the class mildly disconcerting.
4.26.2006 12:58am
Robert Schwartz (mail):
I thought that you defended free speech. Or is that only when it is PC.

I am with ajftoo, the monkey is on the muslim's backs. They have to get it off.
4.26.2006 1:29am
Shangui (mail):
why don't we just say that professors should not communicate with students in such a way as to knowingly convey a worldview contrary to the student's, lest the student be denied an educational opportunity for fear of bias?

I'm not in favor of the professor being punished here, but just barely. I do think that sending someone an email that contains the following:
"I counsul (sic) you dissatisfied, agressive (sic), brutal, and uncivilized slave- trading Moslems to be very aware of this as you proceed with your infantile 'protests.' If you do not like the values of the West -- see the 1st Ammendment (sic) -- you are free to leave. I hope for God's sake that most of you choose that option..."
does come close to harrassment. This seems to me to go beyond "knowingly convey a worldview contrary to the student's" in that it's intentionally insulting and demeaning to the students based not on their worldview but on the practices of other people that share some of their religious beliefs that have nothing to do with "slavery" "raping Scandanavian women" etc. Were I a Catholic who was protesting a showing of The Last Temptation of Christ (I know, a bit out of date) on campus and I got an email from a Chemistry professor calling me "you depraved, little-boy buggering, Papists" I'd be pretty disinclined to take the prof's classes. Not because he disagreed with my worldview, but because he was obviously unbalanced and aggressively and insulting me for things that didn't necessarily have anything to do with me.

Or imagine someone is pro-life and has a protest on campus. If a professor sends an email to the person that says, "I think your views on abortion are immoral, unscientific, and will do great harm to women in this country," then I think that's completely acceptable. If a professor sends and email that says, "You disgusting Christians with your pathetic impotent God. How many witches do you have to torture before you're happy? Don't like it here, then get your backward asses to Ireland," then that's another story.
4.26.2006 1:43am
Harry Eagar (mail):
I have heard plenty of calls for Christians to denounce the likes of Robertson, and a fair number of Christians who do denounce him. Furthermore, Robertson, despite his run for president, was never more than a marginal figure in American politics. Nobody answered his call to bump off Chavez, or even imagined anybody would.

Now, replace all those statements with Muslim congeners.

Do we begin to see a qualitative (and quantitative) difference? Why is Borders afraid to sell a magazine like Free Inquiry if the issue might (might? what conduct does not offend Muslims?) offend Muslims, but not afraid to sell all the other issues, which are at least as disdainful of Christians as the April/May issue was of Muslims.

I grew up in the South, pre Civil Rights era. I do not recall that as a white Southerner, it was assumed that just because I had not been seen personally burning a cross in front of Martin Luther King's house, everybody took me for a tolerant person.

That was why I marched in the protests.

I do assume, under the circumstances, that all Muslims who have not spoken out firmly against the daily atrocities done in the name of their religion are OK with it. If not, they don't have my opinion to worry about. Try explaining that to Allah.
4.26.2006 1:44am
Gene Vilensky (mail) (www):
Frank Cross--

While I largely agree with you re Muslims in America, and hope that this is true, there has been some evidence to the contrary. A Queens Muslim group recently protested here in NYC at the Israeli consulate chanting that Islam will soon take over Israel, that the Holocaust never happened, and that Infidels should die (they also had a picture of the White House with the American flag replaced by an Islamic half-moon and star). I know people who teach in largely Muslim communities here in NYC. Some of the things that are said by the students (esp. re Jews and 9/11) is really shocking (where do you think they get that stuff from?). While I tend to generally agree with you, there are groups of Muslims here in the US who engage in troubling behavior.
4.26.2006 1:47am
Steve:
Do we actually know that the MSA hasn't denounced violence? Or are we just, you know, making stuff up?

An astute comment that, for understandable reasons, no one has seen fit to address.

I'd imagine many of these commentors would fall back, in any event, on the old standby that "oh, if you're one of those reasonable Muslims, then I wasn't referring to you!"
4.26.2006 1:58am
David Matthews (mail):
"I guess I could find the expectation that I would rape other students in the class mildly disconcerting."

Back when I was a student, I had professors, that, if I were to believe their hyperbolic rantings, expected me to shoot Asians, rape African-American women, lynch African-American men, put children to work in sweat shops, feed old people Alpo, and quarantine gays in concentration camps. All while grilling up snail darters (this was pre-spotted owl days) for breakfast. (It doesn't usually take a tatoo; all I had to do was wear a t-shirt from my summer church camp.)

But rather than worry about potential preconceptions, I made EV's assumption that the professors, despite their vitriolic hyperbole, were professionals, and would treat me and my views in a professional manner. And, guess what? They did. Although all of the professors were very aware of my views, they all gave me the respect that one would expect from a professional (although one did take me aside and say "you know that your denomination is the one that believes that homosexuality is a sin, don't you?" To which I responded, "yes, Dr. X, but then again so is drunkenness, profanity, sloth, gluttony, covetousness and bigotry....")

Anyway, given their very public pronouncements, both in print and in front of the classes, I had every right to feel oppressed and intimidated by the polemics of many of my professors. I, instead, chose to ignore the rhetoric and the "hostile atmosphere" and simply concentrate on my work. And, 100% of the time, it paid out. I found that I was judged on the quality of my work (whether good or less than) and not the congruence of my views with theirs. And I don't think it's just lefties that can be fair and overlook personal biases. I'm guessing this blowhard (not sure exactly what direction, left-right-wise, one should give to his anti-Islamicism) is quite likely equally capable of professionalism in his discipline.
4.26.2006 2:02am
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Shangui,

Point taken. It was really something of a straw argument directed at the preceding poster becauase I didn't like his tone, not because I think the prof here should be free to do what he did. To be sure, there needs to be a limit to the hostility that a professor can exhibit toward prospective students, and I think it was crossed here. Contrast this case with the situation where a professor tried to debate some Palestinian students about terrorism and then got in trouble - I forgot what college it was. The difference is not the fact of the disagreement, but the degree of aggression exhibited by the professor.
4.26.2006 2:02am
NYU 1L:
I may be missing something, but doesn't this move from the realm of free speech to violations of his duties of employment when he uses his school e-mail to personally attack students? Obviously no criminal consequences, but I'm not seeing why the school couldn't discipline him as far as even firing him. Obviously if a professor called one of his students a slave-trading torturing supporter of murder without any sort of provocation, he could be fired. The only real difference here is that the professor sent the e-mail to a group of students rather than one or two.
4.26.2006 2:38am
The Real Bill (mail):
Personally, I'm offended by the existence of the MSA. I'm also offended by all other student groups with religious, ethnic, or racial affiliations. They're nothing but a bunch of university-sanctioned bigots. In the student union of the university I attended, there was a hall that housed many of these groups; I called it the Hall of Racism. If you choose to belong to such an organization, IMO, you deserve all the scorn that can be heaped upon you.

(I have an uncle that is half Swedish and I'm one quarter Swedish. He wanted me to join the Young Scandinavians Club with him. I refused. I live what I preach. That club was full of hot blondes. Too bad for me I guess. Sometimes having principles is difficult.)
4.26.2006 3:18am
David M. Nieporent (www):

I'm not in favor of the professor being punished here, but just barely. I do think that sending someone an email that contains the following:
"I counsul (sic) you dissatisfied, agressive (sic), brutal, and uncivilized slave- trading Moslems to be very aware of this as you proceed with your infantile 'protests.' If you do not like the values of the West -- see the 1st Ammendment (sic) -- you are free to leave. I hope for God's sake that most of you choose that option..." does come close to harrassment.
To the extent the above quote, as well as the other sections quoted above, are accurate, I think we should all be able to agree to the appropriateness of the viewpoint-neutral response of firing the professor for being a functional illiterate.

This guy is a professor? At a university? I don't care what the topic was; I would be embarrassed to send out an email with that many grammar and spelling mistakes. I would proofread more carefully if I were writing graffiti on a bathroom wall.
4.26.2006 5:31am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Yeah, but David, he's an engineer.

I found the Infantry more literate than Air Defense, the latter being full of engineers, the former being full of people for whom the civilian world provided no analogue--social science folks and humanities folks, and normal people.

The MSA nationally has said some troubling things. Whether the MSU chapter buys into those or not is unknown but that's the way to bet.

If you had a German-American club on campus in, say, 1947, wouldn't you expect them to go the extra mile?

But whether the MSA should, in some cosmic sense, go the extra mile, the consequences of their not doing so are inevitable.

Especially in light of the context. They were bitching about CARTOONS! Some of which had been ginned up by their own side and not published at all. Which they probably knew. And we're concerned about imposed shari'a, beheadings, bombings, rapes of non-Muslims. On the concern side, we win bigtime.
4.26.2006 9:09am
stranger from a strange land far away (mail):
"would proofread more carefully if I were writing graffiti on a bathroom wall."

From what I gather by reading about a dozen emails per day people tend to become sloppy ever more in their grammar and spelling, in English as well as in German and Dutch (and for what I know it's quite the same with French, Italian, and Spanish). It's still worse with sms (text messaging) by cell-phone which very often border to the unintelligiblity. It's far better with attachments (html &word) though, so perhaps it's the urge to get out the message rather quickly that leads to spelling errors in emails.
4.26.2006 9:39am
Erasmus Folly (mail):
Lest we all be 'guilty by association' or accused of hipocrisy, I guess we should then all also condemn every single atrocity every time we protest against this or that. To name a few:

1) Genocide of First nations in the Americas;
2) Devastation of natural resources for the sake of middle-class lives;
3) Closure of plants for the sake of moving them somewhere even more exploitable;
4) Death of homeless people by starvation and cold in the world's richest country;
5) Interference in several countries' democratic processes over the past century, under the guise (paternalism) of 'exporting democracy', but really in the economic interests of big business (further devastation of natural resources).
6) Hollywood

Etc., etc.

1) It is easy to point out others' hypocrisy. The accusation of 'guilt by association' cuts many ways.

2) By extension, to demand that because they are Muslim they should also condemn specifically MUSLIM perpetrations, falls into the play of identity politics, which ultimately fractures any hope for universal ethics. (Although I can understand this demand as fingering hypocrisy.)

3) And, as we ridicule them for their protests over cartoons, we should also remember that, in recent history (late 1960s), Penguin burnt a printrun of Sine's 'Massacre', a book of cartoons (!) because it was considered blasphemous to Christianity. Or the banning of Jens Jorgen Thorsen making his 'The Many Faces of Jesus' in Britain. Or the editing of Monty Python's 'Life of Brian' for approval. (This all from Richard Webster's 'A Brief History of Blasphemy', Orwell Press, 1990). Or, good Lord! the same Danish newspaper refusing cartoons of Jesus a few years earlier on the grounds that, among other things, the cartoons might cause offence (Guardian, 2006).

I don't carry a brief for people who believe in god/s, but the champions of free speech themselves should be consistent; so too the censors.

3) If the concerned professor truly cared, why didn't he counter-protest by publicly holding a placard?

Erasmus Folly
Cape Town
4.26.2006 9:45am
David in DC:
Reading through the comments, I'm kind of amazed that anyone would defend what this guy said.

And while I can't talk to the specific protest, I don't see that there's anything wrong with protesting those cartoons. It's certainly not 'infantile', like the prof says. To a lot of Muslims, those cartoons are quite offensive. The fact that their purpose was to make a statement about free speech or that many reacted in ways there were truly infantile doesn't alter this basic truism.
4.26.2006 10:45am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
While the professor seemed to say the MSA is guilty, not by association but in reality, nobody would actually believe that.
Erasmus forgets that the white establishment in this country gets hammered for all that stuff all the time, anyway, and has a dedicated group whose fulltime job is to be permanently apologetic for such offenses which we didn't commit.

The MSA's problem is that this stuff is still going on, not a matter of historical fact. Historical meaning over and done.

The MSA is made up of Muslims who, as a group, have demonstrated a huge double standard. There were riots and deaths over the damn' Motoons, and over Newsweek's fake Koran-desecration story, but when it comes to the desecration of the Church of The Nativity during the start of the Intifada, the apparent view was, what's the problem. It happened to infidels. That's the way it's supposed to go.

The MSA is operating in a context which includes such things. If they don't want to acknowledge them, that's their right. If others want to draw conclusions, that, too, is a right, and likely to be at some point, more right than wrong.
4.26.2006 10:50am
JosephSlater (mail):
NYU1L is quite right. Public employers have rights to discipline their employees for speech that interferes with the ability of the employer to perform the employer's mission. While public employees have some free speech protections, they are significantly more limited than the protections folks get when declaiming in a public square. See the Connick and Pickering cases. If I were a betting man, I would bet that if MSU (just down the road from where I grew up) could discipline this professor and win any First Am. challenge to that discipline.
4.26.2006 11:02am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Unfortunately, I am not protected by tenure. But yesterday, we had an article in the Denver Post about the recently completed tenure review at the University of Colorado. Not surprisingly, it came up with a bunch of cosmetic changes, and may add some more monitoring of the system to try to prevent the sort of thing that got Ward Churchill expediated tenure based on fraudulent research and credentials (and no doctorate degree).

But what was obvious from the article is that this sort of thing being talked about in the article is clearly not enough to get faculty at most universities fired, or, really disciplined. About all that can be expected is what he will probably get - a letter in his file.

Remember, Ward Churchill is not being investigated for his thoughts on 9/11, or even assaulting real native-Americans, but rather for plagarism, etc. If he loses his tenured job, which at this point I think unlikely, it will because of professional misconduct in his research, not free speech.
4.26.2006 11:40am
Ace (mail):
Professor Volokh,

I think there is a key distinction between belonging to organization that espouses views on a wide variety of subjects (religions, political parties etc.) and the writing of a letter with the classification of all members of the MSA (or all Muslims generally) as "agressive, brutal, and uncivilized slave-trading Moslems."

Education requires tolerance of others' views. Here there is no tolerance for the reasonable view that there exists a group of Muslims who are not barbaric murderers. His words are so threatening I am actually surprised he has not refused to teach Muslims on the grounds that they may use their engineering knowledge for evil purposes.

I think it is a little naive to believe that a Muslim student to sit in his class ask for help, meet with him during office hours, and pretend that this episode has never occurred.
4.26.2006 11:45am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I think that one reason that engineering differs signficantly here from the softer disciplines is that it is graded much more objectively. Answers are either right or wrong. If a Moslem gets the same answer on his test as a Jew does, they are going to get them graded the same, right or wrong, as appropriate. There is very little room for the professor to inadvertently or intentionally bias grades based on his personal feelings about specific students.

I should add that one of the most striking thing about the engineering classes that I took in the early 1990s was that they were often 90% Asian. Yes, more East Asians than west, and a lot of Indians, but still a surprisingly high number of SW Asians, most of whom were probably Muslim. The class where it was most pronounced was in a mechanical engineering class for non-mechanical engineers, where I was the only non-Asian in the class (including the professor).

Because of the fact that a lot of the (esp. male) SW Asian students here in college are taking engineering classes, I am not really surprised that some "White" engineering profs feel a little beleaguered by them, esp. in view of 9/11 and the WoT. Not an excuse for this prof, just maybe an explanation.
4.26.2006 11:53am
T-Web:
I can understand where he was coming from. I'm a (lowly) staff member at a large public university. A group of muslim students held a protest on campus against the cartoons. There was nothing going on at the university to prompt this--no public display of the cartoons, they weren't published in the student newspaper, etc.

They of course had the right to protest, but I couldn't help but wonder how many had protested or at least signed their names to petitions against the daily attrocities committed in the name of their religion.

This, I imagine, is what drove the professor. Even among the relatively assimilated muslem population in the U.S., people find a dozen silly cartoons more offensive than mass murder committed in the name of their god.
4.26.2006 1:59pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
Because of the fact that a lot of the (esp. male) SW Asian students here in college are taking engineering classes, I am not really surprised that some "White" engineering profs feel a little beleaguered by them, esp. in view of 9/11 and the WoT. Not an excuse for this prof, just maybe an explanation.

So, he doesn't like ragheads because there are too many in his classes. Boo hoo! What a sorry excuse! He needs to get a life. Besides, if he is as culturally ignorant and insensitive as you appear to be (the majority religion in India is Hindu, not Islam), then he shouldn't be teaching anywhere.
4.26.2006 2:26pm
EricK:
Oh, come now — what fraction of the MSA are slave-traders, what fraction endorse the slave trade, and for that matter what fraction deserves any of the other pejoratives? What fraction even endorse that?



The anwser is main stream Islam supports and endorses all of the above, not just factions within Islam.
4.26.2006 2:32pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Ace, how do I identify the Muslims who are not barbaric murderers from the ones who are (or, more to the point, who approve and support those who act out)?

One way would be if they spoke out firmly against daily events that outrage me. They wouldn't have to be outraged themselves. I'd be fine if they were just irritated.

Reminds me of the time a friend of mine was driving through Boston. It had started to rain so he picked up a hitchhiker, which in better weather he probably wouldn't have done.

The hitchhiker and a big German shepherd piled into my friend's VW Beetle and they headed south. When they got past Philadelphia, the hitchhiker said, 'You can let me out here' and got out. The dog stayed.

My friend said, 'Hey, mister. What about your dog?'

'That's not my dog.'
4.26.2006 9:12pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
I think the professor's exposing himself as a hateful p---k should be applauded, and copies of his e-mail handed out to students entering his classroom.
4.27.2006 11:43am
Greg D (mail):
I'm curious. What would you all think of a "Southern Student's Association" at Harvard during the 60s, that never said anything about Jim Crow, the KKK, lynchings, etc., but hat held seminars of outrage over "anti-Southern" political cartoons?

Why should we consider a "Muslim Student Association" that worries about cartoons, but not about genocide by its co-religionists?
4.27.2006 4:12pm
TruthInAdvertising:
Greg,

Are you a student or faculty at MSU that gives you the personal knowledge to make such sweeping generalizations about the Muslim Student Association? Or are you just projecting your own biases?
4.29.2006 12:17am
Roland Hall (www):

I'm curious. What would you all think of a "Southern Student's Association" at Harvard during the 60s, that never said anything about Jim Crow, the KKK, lynchings, etc., but hat held seminars of outrage over "anti-Southern" political cartoons?


In the 60s, the Southern Student's Association wouldn't have had to say anything. Anyone denouncing them then would have had a cross burning in their yard that night, right next to the tree with a new rope so I guess your point is not relative.
4.29.2006 5:54pm
Roland Hall (www):
It appears there are quite a few who have not read any Islamic texts but are rather basing their views on rhetoric voiced by others.

When children are not free to choose, but are forced to become participants of the religion chosen for them, and are told, from day 1, Allah is god, Mohammad was the last prophet, to kill any non-Muslim is good if they cannot be converted or submit to Islam, to use any means necessary including lies and deception, that Muslims who do not follow Islamic law are infidels and thus worse than the Zionists and crusaders, and should be beheaded, and they will be rewarded with 72 virgins... blah blah blah... How can anyone argue a defense for any practicing Muslim? If that person is not trying to deceive or kill you, then they are not a true Muslim, instead of the wrongly coined label of a "radical Islamists." Radical Islam is redundant.

The professor's words were harsh but I'd shake his hand if we were to meet. There are a lot of Americans who feel the same way but are silent. We have already seen what can be accomplished by working together against a common foe. Why we are silent now is unknown.

If you want to know the truth about what Islamists believe, in their own words, chronically organized according to Mohammad's life, then look here.
4.29.2006 6:07pm
J. Edward Tremlett (mail) (www):
If the professor had just written them and said he'd like to protest the following, given the laundry list of atrocities, and signed his name, that would have been fine. Hell, that's a question we really should have been asking various Muslim groups while the cartoon protests were on - "where are your priorities, folks?"

It was the part where he called the MSA of MSU 'dissatisfied, agressive, brutal, and uncivilized slave-trading Moslems,' told them to leave America, and said he spoke for 'many, many, many' of his colleagues where he screwed up, and big-time at that. Can any Muslim student really take a course with this guy, now? And how will they feel around the department of Mechanical Engineering?

I think Wichman should be publicly reprimanded. It's the least the university could do.

J
4.30.2006 10:45am