On social media, I don’t deny having the temperament of a Dave Chappelle or Bill Maher, who intentionally provoke listeners with uncomfortable commentary. No one is forced to read my writings, but many do because they agree or enjoy engaging in similarly biting retort. I can dish it and take it, and usually both sides of Twitter battles leave better off for them. Yet here, instead of addressing the substance of my statements, critics have responded with conclusory labels and personal attacks. While I’ve been called every nasty name in the book, and had my integrity impugned, I have not crossed the line into attacking individuals.
My colleagues have the free speech right to vigorously disagree with me on the merits, but rather than doing that, they have chosen instead to suggest that my views are not merely offensive to them, but actually dangerous. I have supposedly “invoked violence” for expressing concerns about my and my family’s own safety and encouraging lawful means of self-defense and I have allegedly “attack[ed] … vulnerable communities” for factually pointing out voting and abortion data that is unrefuted. My critics’ argument that words are violence is a path to censorship, and it is one we must assiduously avoid. I welcome debate on the substance of the things I have said, but the suggestion that I have done anything other than share my absolutely protected opinion, and that I should be punished for having done so, is unacceptable.
If you disagreed with anything I’ve said, you may ask yourself why you didn’t bother to point out contrary facts or arguments. If you took offense or reacted emotionally, maybe you should look internally first and ask why because “life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” I personally give people the benefit of the doubt and react to arguments I don’t like with counter-arguments and counter-facts. I do this because it’s how I want to be treated.
None of this has anything to do with my job. I leave my microphone at home and come to campus solely to help all my students develop the skills they need to change the world for the better. No one has denied I excel at this task. I don’t need to defend my performance because the record speaks for itself.
The Faculty Manual also speaks for itself; things said by faculty in their private life shall have no bearing on their continued employment. But not for me, a conservative. Instead, I’ve been pushed out, told I will no longer have a job if I don’t retract my statements and apologize (which I won’t do) because some students, faculty, administrators and alums don’t like what I’ve said on social media. Congrats to the warriors of cancel culture that infect higher education today.
To the students who have supported me through this episode, I thank you.
Daniel Ravicher is a lecturer at the University of Miami School of Law.