The professor, a terrorist?

Contribution to a controversial blog by a professor is not grounds for dismissal.

Last Tuesday, the Drudge Report, an international news Web site, posted a blog entry by Mike Adams, a criminology professor at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, accusing Kent State University Professor Julio Pino of authoring an extremist, anti-American Web site. Adams alleges Pino runs the site Global War, which calls itself “a jihadist news service” and contains postings supporting al-Qaida, the Taliban and militant Palestinians. Regarding the allegations, Pino has denied owning the Web site and has fired back at Adams. Since the incident, Pino and Kent State have been subject to massive amounts of hate mail and threats, and, once again, as a society we are confronted with the boundaries of free speech.

Pino, it is important to note, is no stranger to controversy. Faculty and students were outraged in 2002 when he wrote a column in the student paper that eulogized an 18-year-old Palestinian suicide bomber. In response to the heavy criticism, Pino said he was trying to explain why suicide bombings occurred in Israel. Petitions were sent around campus urging then-KSU President Carol Cartwright to fire Pino. Cartwright refused, saying the University supported free speech.

In the present predicament, it is undeniable that Pino exercised poor judgment in choosing to contribute to such a hateful site. Given his status as a professor, one cannot help but question Pino’s decision to associate with a Web site clearly characterized by hate and violence. However, holding Pino in contempt for his personal choices and removing him from the University are two different issues. Although Pino made some unsavory decisions, Pino was not the creator of the site, and the article he published was criticism of American foreign policy, not hate speech.

Even though Pino is more than worthy of scorn, we should tread cautiously. In this case, the contents of the Web site are not the issue, freedom of speech is. Pino has a right to his beliefs, and as long as these beliefs are not endorsed in the classroom through his teachings then his contribution to the controversial blog should not be grounds for his dismissal.