By Christopher Tremoglie
The suppression of dissenting speech is a tool used by the worst totalitarians and most wicked throughout the course of human civilization.
Conversely, the right to free speech is at the core of American exceptionalism and idealism – so important and so cherished that our Founding Fathers insisted on its inclusion in the Bill of Rights. Yet, when it comes to speaking freely, the administrators at Saint Joseph’s University seem to embrace a more tyrannical approach. So, when it was discovered that Greg Manco, a math professor of 17 years at the Main Line university, had tweets that went against leftwing political orthodoxy, the tyrants came for him. Manco was placed on paid leave and is under investigation.
“Two weeks ago [Feb. 19], I received an anonymous email from a student, sympathetic to me, alerting me that screenshots of tweets of mine were being circulated along with encouragement to contact the school to get me fired,” Manco told PW.
“Within four hours, I was placed on paid leave.”
Manco’s infraction? Tweets from an anonymous Twitter account challenging the logic of President Joe Biden’s push to study reparations. Now Manco awaits his fate while an investigation plays out.
“The reason is, my tweets have been determined to be biased and/or discriminatory, according to the email that I received on the day this all broke. The same email said that the university was ‘concerned about the impact on students in the classroom,’” Manco said.
“It takes about two minutes to read those tweets and know that they are not biased or discriminatory. It takes another 30 seconds to know that I don’t need to be removed from the classroom while this is figured out.”
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), located in Philadelphia, issued a warning to Saint Joseph’s University to “end its suspension investigation into Professor Gregory Manco for his tweets criticizing reparations and the perception of racism in the United States.
There’s no indication that he was a threat to safety or has engaged in any discriminatory conduct, so there’s no basis to have removed him from the classroom at all.– Adam Steinbaugh
“SJU has not attempted to explain or defend its rationale in putting Manco on leave. They’ve claimed that they need to keep him out of the classroom for the sake of continuity,” Adam Steinbaugh, the director of the Individual Rights Defense Program for FIRE, told PW.
“But there’s no indication that he was a threat to safety or has engaged in any discriminatory conduct, so there’s no basis to have removed him from the classroom at all.”
Numerous attempts were made to contact St. Joe’s Center for Inclusion and Diversity, Black Student Union, and other diversity-related faculty to seek their comments regarding the situation involving Manco. No calls or emails were returned at press time.
While the idea of dissenting speech is as American as apple pie, the phenomenon to aggressively silence ring-wing opinions has its roots in the early 20th century with the Russian Revolution. Channeling their inner Bolshevik, St. Joe’s took aggressive and unwarranted action against a professor who refused to bend the knee to prevailing contemporary leftwing orthodoxy.
Furthermore, Manco claims the actions taken by St. Joe’s are allegedly in violation of his contract.
“It takes another two minutes to read the academic freedom policy in our faculty handbook to know that I am entitled to my opinions as a citizen,” Manco said.
“This is completely unjust and they are violating my contract even by putting me on paid leave, not to mention the permanent damage this has done to my reputation.”
St. Joe’s academic freedom clause states, in part:
“University faculty are citizens, members of learned professions, and officers of an educational institution. When they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline…”
“Faculty members’ expression outside of the university context is strongly protected at institutions, like SJU, that purport to be committed to expressive rights,” Steinbaugh said.
“That’s what protects the rights of faculty members to speak as citizens without concern that their personal views will disqualify them from employment at a university.”
“My opinions on reparations don’t affect my ability to teach. My opinions in general don’t affect my ability to teach,” Manco said.
“I’ve taught at Saint Joe’s for 17 years. It’s safe to say that nobody really knew my politics. But now I have been ‘outed’ as an anti-leftist.”
Moreover, Manco took precautions to separate his personal opinions on Twitter from his affiliation with the university.
“I don’t have a Twitter account with my name on it. In fact, I never used Twitter until I started utilizing the one for my baseball team which folded some years ago,” he said.
“I figured this was a way that I could share my opinions semi-anonymously and no one can accuse me of speaking on behalf of the university.”
When this author reached out to Saint Joseph’s University to inquire about why they placed Manco on leave and if they agreed with his assertion that he violated the academic freedom policy in the faculty handbook, and, in turn, his contract, a spokesperson replied with the following:
“Saint Joseph’s University received reports of alleged bias, harassment and/or discrimination and is following its policies and procedures for responding to such complaints. Consistent with its Jesuit, Catholic mission and identity, the University strives to be an inclusive and diverse community of individuals, beliefs, and perspectives. The process for reviewing and investigating complaints does not imply or presume any particular outcome or conclusion.”
In addition to subverting the school’s own policies on academic freedom, Manco hinted there may be agenda-driven bias and inconsistencies in the actions taken by the university. As an example, he cited an incident where a professor’s controversial comments brought attention to the school and noted the difference in the reception by the university at the time.
“Four years ago, after the election, we had a faculty member gain national notoriety for speaking actual racially charged comments at a forum,” Manco said.
He emphasized the difference in “how the university rallied behind that professor defending his academic freedom.”
“None of this should’ve happened. I share the university’s mission of opposing and working to eradicate racism. I have even written an op-Ed about it last summer. I just differ with respect to policy, in other words – how we get there. Can I not disagree with policy?…
One thing is for sure. I stand behind everything I wrote. I keep my Twitter account public so anyone interested can see what I’m all about, what I believe in, and why the attack is completely unfounded– Greg Manco
“For the university to do what [it] did, it can only mean that supporting reparations and believing that bias training is effective is a condition for continued employment – or at best, if you don’t, you have to keep your mouth shut. But that contradicts our academic freedom policy and it is a clear double standard regarding how they treated my leftist colleague years ago.
“One thing is for sure. I stand behind everything I wrote. I keep my Twitter account public so anyone interested can see what I’m all about, what I believe in, and why the attack is completely unfounded,” Manco said.
“The only proper way to deal with the cancel culture bullies is to stand up to them.”
Steinbaugh said the university’s policies guaranteeing that its faculty members will not be sanctioned or censured for their expressive rights as citizens creates a contractual obligation on the part of the university.
“SJU should keep the promises it makes,” Steinbaugh said.
“[The school] should worry about its reputation and the chilling effect that will be cast by its actions. Suspending a professor for his personal views, far removed from the classroom context, is a stark departure from any commitment to expressive rights. If SJU is willing to abandon its commitment to its faculty members this quickly, what good is its administration’s word on any other issue?”
By all available accounts, Manco seems to have an exemplary history as a professor.
“My employment record and student evaluations in general support the fact that I have been very good at my job,” he said.
He claims his only sin was trying to express rightwing opinions in leftwing academia. If we needed any more evidence of the intolerance demonstrated by those preaching diversity and inclusion, academia’s latest purge of Manco is it. Perhaps instead of a hawk as their mascot, St. Joe’s should switch to a sickle and hammer.