[image-1][This post was updated on January 29 to reflect further developments.]
Does the University of Chicago’s proud stance as a champion and protector of free speech extend only as far as its faculty?
That’s what Samantha Eyler-Driscoll says she discovered when she asked the university’s human resources department about her decision not to participate in job-related work that would facilitate Steve Bannon’s upcoming U. of C. appearance.
She says human resources told her it could be construed as insubordination and could cost her her job.
Today I have resigned from the @ProMarket_org editorial board after violation of my recusal from the event with Steve Bannon and @zingales at @ChicagoBooth. Please circulate my statement: https://t.co/MrlzJux1em
— Samantha Eyler (@SamEyler) January 26, 2018
As Senior Editor at the Stigler Center and its publication ProMarket, and one of six members of the ProMarket editorial board, I have opposed since its inception the proposal by my colleague Luigi Zingales to provide a platform to Steve Bannon at the Stigler Center, as well as the use of ProMarket to promote the provision of that platform, on grounds that it normalizes white nationalism and implicates us in the concrete violence wrought on American lives every day by that ideology.
When my objections were overruled, I requested on grounds of ethics to recuse myself from any involvement with the Bannon event. Although Zingales accepted my recusal on its face, within hours he began to instruct me to promote his event-related statements on ProMarket and to provide him with research in advance of the Bannon event. I immediately sought advice from Chicago Booth Human Resources to determine the level of protection the University provides to its staff in such cases, and was informed that, while Bannon and Zingales themselves are protected under the University’s stated principles of freedom of expression, University of Chicago staff are not, and perceived insubordination could be grounds for termination of my employment.
With this information established, it is clear that I can no longer continue to sit on the ProMarket editorial board alongside tenured faculty whose speech is more protected than my own. This fact transparently makes it impossible to debate on equal terms with my board colleagues such urgent matters as our responsibilities as editors in facing the growing threat of white nationalism in America.
For this reason I hereby resign from my post on the ProMarket editorial board and as acting editor-in-chief responsible for content development at ProMarket. I will carry on as the Stigler Center’s senior editor, reporting to Zingales, and as executive editor of ProMarket, reporting to the remaining members of the editorial board. But I am no longer able to undertake content development functions for which lateral equality between editorial board members is a necessary precondition.
I invite the ProMarket board to use this occasion as an opportunity to clarify in a more formal way whether ProMarket is editorially independent of the Stigler Center. And I invite all members of the University of Chicago community to critically assess the merits of a free speech absolutism that has justified the provision of a platform to a famed white nationalist while failing to protect UChicago’s own staff seeking to exercise our right to protest the fact that such a platform has been provided. My situation is only the latest example of the ubiquitous reality in this country whereby the de jure notion of an absolute right to freedom of expression conceals a de facto reality in which the right to free expression of the powerful is enforced at the expense of that of their subordinates.
Update: On the evening of January 26, Eyler-Driscoll released a joint statement with University of Chicago Booth School of Business professor and Stigler Center director Luigi Zingales:
The senior editor of the blog, Samantha Eyler-Driscoll, dissented with the decision of Luigi Zingales, the academic director of the Stigler Center, to invite Steve Bannon on campus. Samantha asked to be recused to avoid having any hand in promoting or defending this event. Luigi recognized her stated conscientious objection and instantly agreed to grant the request. Samantha voluntarily decided to step down from the board of the ProMarket blog and to assume the position of Managing Editor instead of Senior Editor. Luigi accepted this resignation. Samantha will remain working at the ProMarket blog with otherwise unchanged responsibilities (and salary), she will just recuse herself when Bannon related events are concerned. We look forward to a continuous and productive collaboration. Both Samantha and Luigi reiterate their belief that it is important to protect the right of free expression of university staff.
Samantha Eyler-Driscoll and Luigi Zingales