Las Vegas Sun

July 31, 2014

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Exoneration sought for UNLV professor

UNLV has completely dropped its prosecution of economics professor Hans-Hermann Hoppe for comments about gays he made in a lecture, but ACLU of Nevada officials say they are still not satisfied.

State American Civil Liberties Union officials said they are happy that university President Carol Harter has agreed to drop the discrimination complaint against Hoppe, but they were disappointed that her letter to Hoppe and to the university community did not "clearly exonerate him and unequivocally affirm the basic principles of academic freedom," executive director Gary Peck and attorney Allen Lichtenstein said.

In short, they are afraid that UNLV will do it again.

"What Hans said in class, whether you agree with it or not, was obviously covered by academic freedom and the First Amendment," Peck said.

Harter's letter does not apologize to Hoppe but it does reverse an earlier university decision to issue Hoppe a "nondisciplinary letter of instruction" telling him to "cease mischaracterizing opinion as objective fact in the educational environment."

That letter, written by executive vice president and Provost Ray Alden, told Hoppe that his comments about the time preferences of gays created a hostile environment, and that his right to academic freedom must bow to academic responsibility.

But in a letter issued Friday, Harter reversed that decision and told Hoppe that while academic freedom must be balanced with academic responsibility, "academic freedom, must, in the end, be foremost."

She does affirm the rights of professors to "teach theories and to espouse opinions that are out of the mainstream or are controversial."

Harter writes in the letter that she had removed Alden's letter of instruction and all related materials from Hoppe's personnel file as requested by the ACLU co-attorney Albert Marquis.

Harter's decision came after nearly two weeks of negative publicity and after private meetings with Interim Chancellor Jim Rogers and Vice Chancellor of Legal Affairs Dan Klaich.

As an attorney himself and as owner of Sunbelt Communications Inc., the parent company of KVBC-TV Channel 3, Rogers said he has "very strong feelings about any attempts to thwart free speech."

"I think what we have here is the First Amendment really trumping every other issue," Rogers said.

"Whether I agree with the content of what Dr. Hoppe said is really not relevant. He has the constitutional right to say it."

That constitutional right has been in question since last March, when Michael Knight, a student in Hoppe's money and banking class, filed a complaint against Hoppe for allegedly making discriminatory comments about gays.

Hoppe told the class that homosexuals are less likely to save money than heterosexuals because they do not to have children and have riskier lifestyles. The very young and the very old are also less likely to save.

Knight, who is gay, said he felt singled out and unable to challenge Hoppe's comment because everyone in the class was laughing at the examples.

When reached Friday afternoon, the 2004 UNLV graduate said he was "shocked and disappointed" by Harter's decision. He called it a political move.

Knight said he hopes Hoppe will at least be more sensitive about how his comments affect students, and that he will back up his theories.

"He should have academic freedom to a certain degree but he should also take into account the academic responsibility to provide the facts," Knight said.

Hoppe referred all questions to his attorneys, but he did express his disappointment in a brief e-mail message to the Sun.

"Obviously the university is not interested in justice," Hoppe wrote.

Hoppe is not looking for an explicit apology, Peck said, but for a statement that exonerates him from any wrongdoing and that clarifies that his statements were protected by the principles of academic freedom.

He also wants a paid, one-year sabbatical "to compensate him for yearlong ordeal he has had to endure," Peck said. "He believes he has been significantly harmed ... and it has made it much more difficult to do his scholarly work."

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