[Marxism] Hudson v Craven et al 9th Circuit Decision

Stuart Lawrence stuartlawrence at earthlink.net
Wed Apr 13 18:55:14 MDT 2005

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Louis Proyect" <lnp3 at panix.com>

> if this decision represents the law, I shudder to think of all the City
> University professors or public school teachers I know who could be fired 
> for
> discussing upcoming demonstrations in class and then "associating with a
> handful of students" at the demonstration.
> Stuart Lawrence
> Jim C: This is not what the case is about. I suggest that you read the whole 
> decision (and also understand that there were other issues alluded to but 
> not directly discussed in the decision). She was not fired for discussing 
> the upcoming demonstration, she was not fired even for attending the 
> demonstration with students who chose to go (she was offered paid time off 
> and a replacement teacher for her to go to the demonstration--I also 
> attended the Seattle demonstrations but did not turn them into class 
> projects). She was simply told not to take the whole class to the 
> demonstration as a class project (which would ostracize or marginalize those 
> not inclined to go for political and/or religious reasons and not to use 
> anything from the demonstrations on her exams (thus penalizing those who 
> chose not to attend). She violated direct orders from the Vice-President of 
> Instruction--known as insubordination--and thus she was not asked back to 
> teach.

I read the entire decision quite carefully. I made an effort to try to 
understand it from the point of view of the defendants, whose positions I 
expected would be represented here, as well as from the perspective of future 
litigants encountering discipline or termination as a result of political 
activity. I wonder how much thought the defendants (or at least those who 
believe that state-employed academics have First Amendment rights) gave to the 
wider effect that a decision in their favor would have.  This is just the 
latest in a number of cases sharply limiting the political freedom of 
academics who are employed at state institutions.

Whether or not there were "there were other issues alluded to but not directly 
discussed in the decision" is irrelevant to the significance of the Ninth 
Circuit's holding as a matter of precedent. The court didn't say it was OK to 
fire Hudson because of her "insubordination." The court reached its conclusion 
despite the undisputed fact she did not require her students to attend the WTO 
demo, and did not organize it as a class trip or under official college 
auspices. What the court did uphold was a college administrator's decision 
that "it was fine if Hudson went or if individuals who happened to be students 
at the College went to the WTO rally," but not OK for them to go together, and 
the subsequent decision to fire Hudson for defying this restriction on what 
she thought was her constitutionally-protected political activity.

This is what we can expect Hudson v. Craven to be cited for in the coming 
years, as attacks on academic and political freedom mount:

    (1) the proposition that even if it's at the students' own suggestion, and 
even if the teacher states "this is not a class trip, and I don't require 
anyone attend," a state-employed teacher's organizing of any student 
participation in a political protest event involves the school's "de facto 
auspices," so as to implicate a "balancing" of the interests of the state (as 
assessed by the school administration) with the First Amendment rights of the 

    (2) the proposition that state-run colleges can bar professors from 
jointly attending with students any political demonstration around which the 
specter of violence has been publicly raised, whether or not any violence 
occurs involving students, because of the administration's safety concerns, 
and fire them if they defy this ban;

    (3) the proposition that the "marginal benefit" to students of attending a 
demonstration along with a state-employed teacher, as assessed by the school 
administration, can properly be weighed against the teacher's rights of 
expression and association;

    (4) the proposition that students who freely choose not to attend a 
political demonstration that other classmates attend along with a 
state-employeed teacher are unfairly being denied access to their teacher for 
"networking" and "schmoozing," and may _perceive_ that they are disadvantaged 
relative to other students, so it's OK to ban such off-campus student-faculty 
political association.

I find it deeply troubling that the implications of this case are lost on 
someone whose name will forever be attached to it. And I cannot stop thinking 
about the jeopardy that decisions like this pose to people I know and respect.

Stuart Lawrence

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