Investigation

Tennessee Tech Professors Suing After University Punishes Them for ‘Threatening, Harassing, Intimidating’ Turning Point USA Advisor

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Two Tennessee Tech University (TTU) professors are suing TTU after the university punished them for “threatening, harassing, and intimidating” a Turning Point USA (TPUSA) advisor and students. TTU found the two professors, Dr. Julia Gruber and Andrew Smith, at fault for posting flyers that singled out TTU’s TPUSA advisor, a fellow TTU professor named Andrew (A.J.) Donadio, and accused him and TPUSA of racism and hate group activity.

As punishment, TTU barred Gruber and Smith from serving as faculty advisors to any student organization, participating in study abroad or faculty-led trips, receiving non-instructional faculty assignments or awards, accepting salary increases for one year. Additionally, the two were ordered to meet with the dean before and after the semester, attend behavioral meetings, and have their classes observed. TTU warned the professors they would be fired for any further violations.

Gruber and Smith filed suit Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee. Judge Waverly Crenshaw, Jr., will preside over the case. Gruber and Smith asked the court to declare that TTU had denied them their constitutional right to free speech and to reverse TTU’s disciplinary action.

The pair made national headlines over their flyer earlier this year, which stated:

This racist college professor thought it would be a great idea to help start a Tennessee Tech chapter for this national hate group, where racist students can unite to harass, threaten, intimidate, and terrorize persons of color, feminists, liberals, and the like, especially their teachers.

Their organization created a national ‘Professor Watchlist’ to harass and intimidate progressive educators, including many women, African-American, and Muslim professors.

Professor Donadio and Turning Point USA. You are on our list. Your hate and hypocrisy are not welcome at Tennessee Tech. No unity with racists. Hate speech is not free speech.

Gruber, an associate German professor, and Smith, a senior English instructor, claimed that the flyers were protected speech under the First Amendment. The professors claimed the flyers addressed a public concern, not a personal grievance, and were a commentary on the perception that TTU was tolerating racism.

They also disagreed with TTU’s characterization of the flyers as “threatening, intimidating, and harassing.” Instead, they argued the flyers actually promoted TTU’s goals of diversity and fair treatment by calling out racism, hatred, and bigotry.

Smith created the flyers in early February after Gruber told him she’d witnessed Donadio clap in support of a local school board’s decision to keep its Native American-themed mascot, the Redskins. Gruber and Smith both thought the mascot was racially insensitive; Gruber had even created a GoFundMe to launch a campaign for replacing the mascot. It only raised $400 of its $5,000 goal. Gruber’s associated petition received over 4,000 signatures.

Even as TTU was investigating Gruber and Smith for the flyers, the two professors doubled down on their decision to target Donadio and TPUSA. The pair appeared on The Rude Pundit, a left-leaning podcast, to defend their actions in April. They claimed that they would be open to debating TPUSA over their differences, despite the flyer’s assertion that TPUSA’s speech was intolerable hate speech. Their main argument was that the flyer was a protected form of free speech.

Both Gruber and Smith are now listed on TPUSA’s “Professor Watchlist,” a database of professors who “discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.”

TTU didn’t respond to The Daily Wire’s request for comment by press time.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for The Daily Wire and AZ Free News. Have something you think the mainstream media won’t cover? Send tips to corinnejournalist@gmail.com.

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