University Investigations Show Words Hurt More Than Physical Altercations

In this new world where words hurt more than actions, two universities take very different approaches to holding professors accountable for their actions.

Oliver Baker, a professor at Pennsylvania State University who tussled with a student protesting COVID-19 mandates, has been exonerated. The professor admitted to stopping Avi Rachlin’s movement, scuffled with him, and grabbed the student’s sign. After, two others fought Rachlin before he “emerged from the incident with a bloody nose.”

PSU initiated an AC70 termination proceeding that didn’t actually go through. The termination proceeding quoted “grave misconduct” for his provocation.

Then, ten months later, President Neeli Bendapudi, who was only one month into her job, told the faculty that there wasn’t “clear and competing evidence” that Baker engaged in “grave” misconduct. However, it was “clearly misconduct.”

Meanwhile, at Georgetown University, Ilya Shapiro was on the verge of being fired for making a remark on Twitter about President Joe Biden’s promise to appoint a Black female to the United States Supreme Court.

In a deleted tweet, Shapiro said, “Objectively best pick for Biden is Sri Srinivasan, who is solid [progressive] and [very] smart. Even has identity politics benefit of being the first Asian (Indian) American. But alas doesn’t fit into the intersectionality hierarchy so we’ll get lesser black woman. Thank heaven for small favors?”

Shapiro has since apologized and said he didn’t mean to offend anyone with the tweet, but he’s quit to avoid a “slow-motion firing.”

In a resignation letter, Shapiro wrote, “The freedom to speak unless someone finds what you say offensive or infringing on the nebulous conception of equality is not freedom at all” and “apparently it’s free speech for thee, not for me.”

Georgetown disputed Shapiro’s view when they told NBC it “urges members of our community to engage in robust and respectful dialogue,” and its policy does “not prohibit speech based on the person presenting ideas or the content of those ideas, even when those ideas may be difficult, controversial or objectionable.”

If that were the case, then Shapiro wouldn’t have even gotten in trouble. Shapiro was referencing the fact that Biden’s SCOTUS pick was “lesser” as in not as qualified and it’s clear that there was no context to suggest the SCOTUS pick would be lesser of a human being.

On the other side, Baker physically attacked a student because he was exercising his first amendment right to protest and other students followed in Baker’s footsteps. The altercation resulted in assault and Baker got away with it.