UC Davis rejects calls to fire prof who advocated for cop killing, cites Trump exec order

California professor Joshua Clover has made anti-cop comments such as "they need to be killed."

After receiving petitions demanding his termination, the UC Davis chancellor has declined to discipline Clover.

He cites Trump's executive order as a reason.

The University of California-Davis has rejected calls to fire a professor over statements in which he advocated for violence against police.

UC-Davis English professor Joshua Clover made comments claiming, “People think that cops need to be reformed. They need to be killed,” “I am thankful that every living cop will one day be dead, some by their own hand, some by others, too many of old age # letsnotmakemore,” and “I mean, it’s easier to shoot cops when their backs are turned, no?” 

Many individuals petitioned the school to fire Clover, including California State AssemblymanJames Gallagher and local police chief Ron Lawrence.

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In a letter to Gallagher on Thursday, UC-Davis Chancellor Gary May expressly rejected these calls to terminate the professor. 

“Professor Clover’s statements, although offensive and abhorrent, do not meet the legal requirement for ‘true threats’ that might exempt them from First Amendment protection,” May said. “UC Davis places a high value on civility in the academic community, but the desire to promote these values does not outweigh the rights of professors to express themselves on political issues, even if their expression is deeply repellent to members of our community and the public."

“The university has carefully considered the matter and consulted with legal counsel for a formal opinion as to whether the statements made by Professor Clover may be subject to discipline or whether the statements are protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 2, of the California Constitution,” the chancellor explained to Gallagher. “Both the US and California constitutions protect the speech of public university employees if the speech addresses matters of public concern and the university’s interests as an employer do not outweigh the employees’ interest in speaking.”

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The chancellor also referenced President Donald Trump’s recent executive order, threatening schools that do not promote free speech with the loss of federal research dollars. May noted that the university must ensure that it promotes all “free inquiry in a manner consistent with applicable law, including the First Amendment.” 

“Failure to protect the First Amendment rights of university faculty could not only lead to legal consequences for violating the Constitution, but also could result in a loss of federal funding which is critical to the university’s research and teaching mission,” May added. “Accordingly, the university will not proceed with review or investigation of concerns regarding Professor Clover’s public statements.”

In a Friday statement, Adam Steinbaugh of the free speech nonprofit Foundation for Individual Rights in Education called the chancellor’s decision “the correct result.”

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“By responding to protected speech it finds offensive by criticizing or condemning the remarks, the university has exercised the option available to it under the First Amendment,” Steinbaugh, who serves as director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program, said. “But the First Amendment forbids UC Davis, a state university, from terminating or disciplining a faculty member for extramural speech on a matter of public concern, and the First Amendment’s protection is not limited to civil, sober, or respectful speech.”

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