Blog Briefing Room

College professor will not be fired for 'racist, sexist and homophobic' social media posts

Indiana University will not fire one of its professors for what it called "homophobic, sexist and racist" statements, citing protections under the First Amendment.

Eric Rasmusen, a professor at the school's Kelley School of Business, drew public criticism after the Twitter account @SheRatesDogs retweeted one of his posts in which he shared a quote from an article titled, "Are Women Destroying Academia? Probably."

" 'geniuses are overwhelmingly male because they combine outlier high IQ with moderately low Agreeableness and moderately low Conscientiousness'," Rasmusen quoted in the tweet.

The account also shared one of Rasumsen's own tweets, in which he wrote: "I just realized--- Women's Studies and Home Ec are the same thing. They are both meant to teach a woman how to live her life. It's just that only one of them keeps its promise." 

School officials criticized Rasmusen's comments in multiple statements.

Indiana University Executive Vice President and Provost Lauren Robel sent a statement to the business school community calling the professor's comments sexist, homophobic and racist.

"He has posted, among many other things, the following pernicious and false stereotypes: That he believes that women do not belong in the workplace, particularly not in academia, and that he believes most women would prefer to have a boss than be one; he has used slurs in his posts about women; that gay men should not be permitted in academia either, because he believes they are promiscuous and unable to avoid abusing students; that he believes that black students are generally unqualified for attendance at elite institutions, and are generally inferior academically to white students," the statement said.  

Robel called for the school community to "confront exactly what we are dealing with in Professor Rasmusen's posts." 

"His expressed views are stunningly ignorant, more consistent with someone who lived in the 18th century than the 21st," she wrote.

"Sometimes Professor Rasmusen explains his views as animated by his Christian faith, although Christ was neither a bigot nor did he use slurs; indeed, he counseled avoiding judgments," she continued. "Rhetorically speaking, Professor Rasmusen has demonstrated no difficulty in casting the first, or the lethal, stone."

But she held that the university will not fire Rasmusen over his comments "because the First Amendment of the United States Constitution forbids us to do so. That is not a close call."

She explained that if Rasmusen acted on his views to judge his students or colleagues unfairly, such as in grading or tenure decision, that would be illegal and the university would investigate. No students will be forced to take a course from the professor, and all assignments in his classes will use double-blind grading "to protect our students or colleagues from bigoted actions."

"The First Amendment is strong medicine, and works both ways. All of us are free to condemn views that we find reprehensible, and to do so as vehemently and publicly as Professor Rasmusen expresses his views," Robel wrote. "We are free to avoid his classes, and demand that the university ensure that he does not, or has not, acted on those views in ways that violate either the federal and state civil rights laws or IU's nondiscrimination policies."

Rasmusen responded to individual lines of Robel's statement on his website. For example, when Robel outlined Rasmusen's previous racist statements, he wrote: "That is, we don't want to debate things like affirmative action, because once you start talking about them in the open, it's clear how corrupt they are."

Idie Kesner, dean of the Kelley School, sent an email to students, faculty and staff echoing the school's stance on the First Amendment.

"While his stated opinions are at odds with our individual values and beliefs and those of our institution, we cannot prohibit his freedom of expression in his private social media accounts," the email reads.