Academic free speech is in serious jeopardy. And censorship doesn’t only hurt students—it also silences the professors who oversee and guide the flow of dialogue in the classroom. A former professor at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota found that out the hard way.
David Hillman, a drama instructor, helped out with school plays before he was fired from Saint Mary’s University. The reason for his termination? Hillman translated the script for Medea: A Virgin’s Love, a Greek tragedy based on the works of Roman dramatist Seneca. His job was to make the rendition of Roman culture as authentic as possible, so the final script included the use of phallic-shaped props—an ancient practice used for “confronting viewers with their lavish and corrupt lifestyles.”
But soon thereafter, Hillman was let go by the university on sexual harassment charges—even though he was specifically told to “maintain the historical integrity of the play.” When Hillman protested the allegations, university officials accused him of “creating an intimidating, hostile and offensive learning environment.” This is just another episode in a now consistent trend of speech policing that affects everyone on campus, from students to faculty.
In the video below, George Mason University Professor Catherine Sevchenko highlights the need for academic freedom at Saint Mary’s University and other institutions. As she says, school administrators need to “let rough-and-tumble intellectual debate take place without restriction”—not fire those for phallic reenactments.