Texas A&M sociology professor Wendy Leo Moore was suspended for two days without pay for participating in a “Scholar Strike for Social Justice” on September 8-9, 2020, in which professors around the country agreed to stop their classes and focus instead on racial justice-related activities.
Professor Moore, who has taught courses on racial and ethnic relations, and whose research interests include critical race theory and race, class and gender, indicated that she planned to join the Scholar Strike. Prior to the event, the university system’s chief legal officer reportedly announced that participation would be deemed a violation of Texas state law prohibiting strikes by public employees. In response to Professor Moore’s announcement that she planned to participate in the event, her dean reported her to the university’s provost, leading to concerns that she could be terminated. She was ultimately suspended for two days without pay.
While Texas law does prohibit public employees from striking or participating in “an organized work stoppage against the state or a political subdivision of the state,” it is not clear that participating in a two-day work stoppage aimed not “against the state”, but rather at increasing awareness of racial justice and related issues — issues within Professor Moore’s academic expertise — falls under the ambit of the Texas law. Professor Moore’s supporters have also noted that, as a matter of practice, professors are permitted to cancel, postpone, and reschedule classes for a variety of reasons, including because of illness, to attend academic conferences, or for sporting events.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about professional retaliation against a professor based on her nonviolent, expressive, on-campus activity, and her decision-making regarding class scheduling and participation in an event related to her academic expertise. University authorities have an obligation to protect and foster academic freedom on campus, and to refrain from measures which retaliate arbitrarily against individual scholars based on the content of academic expression.