Academic Freedom Suit OK’d by Federal Court
Fresno, CA – A professor’s free speech lawsuit against officials at Fresno City College was given the go-ahead this week by a federal judge. The court’s ruling signals a potential showdown in the coming months over the scope of academic freedom held by college and university instructors.
Dr. Brad Lopez has taught a variety of health and science classes at FCC for about 35 years. In 2010, Dr. Lopez was reprimanded and reassigned to teach less desirable classes following complaints about comments he made during lectures referencing religion and sexual orientation. The complaints were initiated and chiefly pursued by a student who did not take any of Dr. Lopez’s classes but claimed that friends in the class were offended. Despite the second-hand source, the ACLU also chimed in against Dr. Lopez, who denies that he ever said most of the allegedly “homophobic” statements attributed to him. He also points out that administrators ignored the many students who came to his defense during the process.
The federal suit, filed by Dr. Lopez last year, cleared a key hurdle this week, as a federal judge allowed the central claims in the case to go forward and rejected arguments by the college’s attorneys that the entire suit be dismissed. The court’s thorough, 20-page ruling signals the importance of the case for the future of academic freedom. Dr. Lopez is represented by Fresno attorney Charles Magill, who is an affiliate of Pacific Justice Institute and has been working with PJI staff attorneys on the case.
Brad Dacus, the president of Pacific Justice Institute, commented, “We are very pleased that the court recognized the importance of this case and has given a green light to the main claims. Well-respected professors like Dr. Lopez have the right to teach without fear of reprimand or censorship based on hearsay and hypersensitivity. This is a constitutional lesson Fresno City College clearly has yet to learn.”