Above: A clearly relevant threat to 21st century higher education administrators.
Oakton Community College (OCC) is insisting that a one-sentence “May Day” email referencing the Haymarket Riot sent by a faculty member to several colleagues constituted a “true threat” to the college president.
Lawyers for the Chicago-area college argue that the email, which noted that May Day (May 1) is a traditional time for workers to remember the riot, threatened violence. Last month, OCC demanded that the now former faculty member “cease and desist” from similar communications in the future or face potential legal action.
May Day is celebrated every year on May 1 by the international labor movement to commemorate the fight for workers’ rights. The celebration is historically associated with the 1886 Haymarket Riot in Chicago.
“Merely noting to one’s colleagues that May Day is a time when workers ‘remember’ the Haymarket Riot does not constitute a ‘true threat,’” said Ari Cohn, a Senior Program Officer and lawyer with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). “The United States Department of the Interior has designated the Haymarket Martyrs’ Monument a National Historic Landmark. If remembering the Haymarket Riot is a ‘true threat,’ the monument itself would be illegal.”
On May 1, Chester Kulis sent an email to OCC colleagues that read, “Have a happy MAY DAY when workers across the world celebrate their struggle for union rights and remember the Haymarket riot in Chicago.” The email, titled “May Day – The Antidote to the Peg Lee Gala,” was written in response to a reception hosted by OCC in celebration of the retirement of college president Margaret B. Lee.
This makes right-wing claims that I was calling for Wayne LaPierre’s assassination seem relatively cogent. How a mention of a labor action over a century ago is an actual call for violence against a person today is completely unknowable because it’s not. If he had said, “I would like to bomb the administration building like the anarchists threw that bomb at the police in 1886 and kill them all” I guess you’d have a case. This is just stupidity. Actually, it’s more than that. It’s part of the larger academic crackdown on left-leaning professors protesting the corporate university. University presidents and boards of trustees see themselves as corporate heads and want the ability to dispose of any employee for any reason, including talking back to power.