The important thing to note about the past few days since Suffolk Law professor Michael Avery’s comments criticized U.S. troops and the Suffolk GOP care package drive is that this came from a citizen of the United States expressing his First Amendment right of freedom of speech. Between Avery’s comments and the subsequent demands of those outraged by the comments, the Journal is wholeheartedly disgusted on all levels.
Avery, a constitutional law professor, has stirred up a slight ruckus at the university, not a “firestorm” as Fox News Channel has so politely pointed out on their front page. As much as the Journal believes that Avery’s remarks were out of line, he still has his First Amendment right to express his views, no matter how upsetting they may be.
He has since been harassed because of an action the Constitution protects. Some opposition is even going as far as to launch a Facebook campaign lashing out against Suffolk’s lack of action against the professor, to which we ask, what action is there to take? He did nothing illegal.
In an attempt to get Avery in trouble with the university, some students have urged other students via Facebook to fill out a “bias form,” which a student can find on the Suffolk website. We would hardly call a difference of opinion, no matter how incendiary it may be, a bias toward students, especially since it was expressed in an email, not in a classroom.
In writing the email, Avery opened himself to criticism, and those critics enjoy the same First Amendment rights. But trying to get him fired is extreme.
Fox News, which carries the slogan, “Fair and Balanced,” used the term “campus firestorm” in the first sentence of their online front-page article. Then, other blogs and media outlets used this phrase in their articles. Where is this campus firestorm? Most of the students at the university heard about Avery’s comments after Fox posted their article.
One of Fox’s viewers took to Twitter, messaging the Journal for Avery’s email address, to which we replied no because it is not our policy to give out personal contact information even if we had it. Nevertheless, the user told us to get our facts straight, and that “campus firestorm” was never mentioned by Fox News. Look it up. We have the screen capture.
The News Corp-owned cable channel quoted Veterans of Foreign Wars ex-“Commander-in-Chief” Paul Spera, who said, “The shameful thing is that he is teaching our young people.” Obviously Spera, whose interests lie with the military, would come out against Avery’s remarks, and Fox knew that when tapping him for the interview.
Spera talks about college students as if they don’t have minds of their own. In higher education, it’s totally appropriate for a professor to offer his or her opinions.
Finally, we at the Journal would just like to thank Acting President and Provost Barry Brown for standing behind free speech despite the pressure he must have felt to do otherwise.
To put it simply, Avery’s comments were inappropriate and sad, but he has every right to say them. Free speech is the first and foremost right in our country, and as members of the media and citizens of America, we must do everything we can to protect it. We are a melting pot of views and backgrounds, and there are bound to be those with radical views that most disapprove of. Let them say what they will and we’ll say what we will too.