Cypress College silenced an adjunct instructor after a student broke policy to upload a three-minute Zoom recording of a heated controversial debate that took place between the instructor and student in the class.
A communications instructor engaged in a debate with 19-year-old student Braden Ellis after he claimed that cops were heroes in a class presentation. The instructor questioned Ellis on whether all police should be considered heroes during a follow up question-and-answer session.
The instructor said in a written statement that they expected students to prepare a speech and “maintain control of the floor against critics during question-and-answer sessions” at the end. She further explained that Ellis had “made a series of seemingly unrelated claims that lacked proper support and evidence.”
North Orange County Community College District allows all college professors academic freedom in the classroom, where they may “raise difficult and meaningful questions” to challenge their students’ way of thinking.
Article 17 from the NOCCCD and Adjunct Faculty United agreement expresses that adjunct faculty have the right to “study, investigate and present controversial issues” that are relevant to their courses, with “the freedom to consider all issues relevant to their assigned curriculum.”
The only limit of academic freedom found within this article was a prohibition of unlawful discrimination, as well as any profane, vulgar or obscene speech.
The adjunct professor was put on a leave of absence for the remainder of the semester after the video was posted. The college president, Dr. JoAnna Schilling, advised the instructor not to speak up until “after the storm passes,” according to her written statement.
Cypress College claimed in a released statement that the instructor was put on leave to “protect her safety, maintain her confidentiality, and mitigate attacks.”
The college had not incited any disciplinary action on a student who broke Education Code 78907 when they distributed the video. The student, who has not been verified, distributed the video without the instructor’s permission. The code states that any student who “willfully violates this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.”
Board Policy 5500 Standards of Student Conduct and Discipline lists prohibited use of the District’s electronic communication systems and services by Administrative Procedure 3720 as student misconduct and liable for disciplinary action.
“A student who violates the standards of student conduct shall be subject to disciplinary action including, but not limited to, the removal, suspension or expulsion of the student,” reads Board Policy 5500 in Chapter 5 Student Services by the NOCCCD.
Cypress College said in a released statement, “Cypress College has supported and will continue to support the academic freedoms we know are essential in an institution of higher learning. Equally important is our mission to serve our students in a safe learning environment.”
This article originally stated that Ellis uploaded the video to the internet when that has not been verified. The article has been edited as of May 21, 2021 at 3:35 pm to reflect that.