Editorial and Comment by Zac “AGhostInTheSnow” Papantoniou
Ok, so we’re a little late on this one, but over the course of the last two weeks, Rogier van Bakel at the blog “Nobody’s Business” posted, commented on, and eventually “debated,” law professor Kristen Juras on the subtleties of the First Amendment.
Professor Juras is an assistant law professor at the University of Montana. Professor Juras has been in the news recently because she has a fundamental problem with the content of a weekly sex column featured in the “Opinion” section the University’s newspaper, the “Montana Kaimin,” and is written by a University of Montana senior, Bess Davis.
Professor Juras has publicly stated that the column is “embarrassingly unprofessional,” and that the subject of sex is “inappropriate for college students.” The professor also stated that the sex column not only, “. . . reflects poorly on the university’s School of Journalism and UM itself,” but also, “. . . affects my [Juras’s] reputation as a member of the faculty.” The Professor, after having her complaints in letters to the paper’s editor go nowhere, has now threatened to take the issue to the state legislature unless the newspaper establishes written policies for hiring columnists and reviewing content that could be deemed “controversial.”
While I certainly can’t agree with the Professor’s views and struggle to find the logic of her arguments, Professor Juras is nonetheless a member of the University’s community, and as such, she is free to express her view that the sex column takes up space that can be better used for other things. However, when Professor Juras was contacted by Rogier van Bakel, to respond to van Bakel’s initial post on Juras’s public threats to take her complaints to the Montana state legislature, not once does she suggest what a better use of such column space might be.
It’s perfectly reasonable for Professor Juras to have and express her opinion, but the Professor would be wise to educate herself with something Benjamin Franklin once wrote – “Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom; and no such thing as publick [sic] liberty, without Freedom of Speech.”
If Kristen Juras were not a law professor, I would still vehemently disagree with her view on this issue. However, Ms. Juras is a law professor; and that makes me find her arguments and threats to seek legislative action, for suppressing the free dissemination of ideas and subjects with which she personally finds “inappropriate for college students” completely repugnant.
Simply saying that you support the First Amendment just doesn’t cut it; as a law professor, you more than most, should know and understand the dangers of institutional/governmental oversight on the press and while I must disagree with Rogier that your actions amount to “professional misconduct” – they are, to me, professionally reckless. As the wise Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy once said, “The First Amendment is often inconvenient. But that is besides the point. Inconvenience does not absolve the government of its obligation to tolerate speech.”