To Melanie and Jimmy, With Love

TO: Dean Melanie Wilson, University of Tennessee College of Law

CC: Jimmy Cheek, Chancellor, University of Tennessee

Dean Wilson:

I read this week with some concern of your proposed “investigation” into a tweet made by Professor Glenn Reynolds regarding the riots in Charlotte. That tweet is below.

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Professor Reynolds never advocated murder. He certainly didn’t condone aiming for people blocking the roads on I-277 and pulling innocent bystanders out of cars. If anyone were to take the situation into context, it was an advocation for self defense from a man who remembers Reginald Denny, a truck driver, dragged from his vehicle during the Rodney King riots in LA and horrendously beaten. Professor Reynolds has since acknowledged he could’ve worded one of his tweets better, and offered examples that would have provided a better grasp of his message.

This tweet and subsequent clarification wasn’t enough for those who believe in the current ideology that words can hurt and harm. Twitter suspended Professor Reynolds’ “@instapundit” account until he deleted the above tweet.  USA Today suspended his biweekly column for a month.  Worst of all, you decided to “investigate” him with the support of Chancellor Jimmy Cheek, a member of UT’s staff with his own set of special problems.  An excerpt of your statement is below.

“I am aware of the remarks made last night on Twitter by Professor Glenn Reynolds …Professor Reynolds’s comments do not reflect my views and opinions, nor do they reflect the values of the college and university.

University administrators, college faculty, and I are investigating this matter.

My colleagues and I in the university’s leadership support…all forms of free speech, but we do not support violence or language that encourages violence.

Professor Reynolds has built a significant platform to discuss his viewpoints, but his remarks on Twitter are an irresponsible use of his platform.” (my emphasis)

Yes, Professor Reynolds has built a significant platform through his Instapundit blog and Twitter account to discuss his viewpoints.  It is also his own, and not one endorsed by the University of Tennessee College of Law, paid for by the College of Law, or even given attention by the College of Law until recently, when the Professor said three words that hurt someone’s feelings enough to get his Twitter account briefly suspended.  Since his acts of contrition weren’t enough for you and the rest of the university, you decided to “investigate” him.

I’ve attempted to contact you personally to determine the nature of this “investigation.”  Your assistant informs me you’ve received a tremendous amount of contact from concerned parties interested in what course of action you plan to pursue.  She also tells me that you’re personally responding to each and every party who calls, and as of yesterday you were “overwhelmed” with the amount of contact.

You should be “overwhelmed.”  You should also be ashamed of yourself for casting your lot with the outrage mob calling for Professor Reynolds’ head.  It’s an irresponsible act unbecoming a dean of a law school, an institution ostensibly designed to bring competent attorneys into the world instead of shielding them from nasty bad words that make them feel “unsafe.”  This should be the biggest black mark on your career as Dean of the College of Law, as you’ve now shown only those who toe the leftist, regressive viewpoints are tolerated as educators at your institution.

Dean Wilson, you’re dangerously close to embarrassing yourself and the University with your witch hunt against Professor Reynolds.  Smarter folk than I entertain thoughts this could open the College of Law up for litigation.  The University’s already spent quite a sum settling a spurious Title IX lawsuit with former students, and I doubt very seriously those holding the purse strings want to settle another, especially one regarding a nationally respected, tenured professor.

The game is up.  You’re done.  You have one option, and one option only.  Cease any and all “investigation” into Professor Reynolds for his tweet and blogging outside the University of Tennessee College of Law, and apologize to him publicly. If you do not, statistics prove the results will be disastrous for Rocky Top’s vaunted law school.

Consider the case of the University of Missouri, or “Mizzou,” who chose to side with protesters and silence dissenting viewpoints.  Enrollment and donations plummeted so quickly the college had to close one of its dorms.  If that’s not enough, think of the backlash at DePaul University, where the chancellor resigned and the school’s Facebook rating plummeted to one star after silencing conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopolous’s scheduled campus talk.  Those are two examples of many where academics attempted to stifle someone or ruin a life over a tweet or blog post.

The same could happen to the University of Tennessee College of Law.  I’m not saying I personally plan to wage war with the school.  I have better things to do with my time than go after an institution encouraging courses on animal husbandry law instead of teaching students the subjects necessary to pass the Bar Exam.  Just don’t be surprised when the backlash hits. Consider this a warning of what’s to come.

Best Regards,

–CLS