For students in Professor Scott Gerber’s class at Ohio Northern University (ONU), April 14 was a pretty typical Friday afternoon—until the police showed up.
Around 1 p.m., ONU security officers entered the classroom full of students and perp walked their professor to the dean’s office. Armed town police assisted ONU.
Gerber was forbidden from teaching, banished from campus, and warned that if he didn’t sign a “separation agreement and release of claims” within a week, he would be fired. What on earth did he do to deserve this?
Nobody really knows. Despite numerous requests by Gerber, his lawyers, media outlets, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), campus free speech organizations such as the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), ONU alumni, his students, and many others, the reason behind the erasure of Prof. Gerber is still a mystery.
The lack of due process, at a law school of all places, is astounding. The university put forth “collegiality” as the grounds for his suspension, with no details suggesting what that means.
Gerber’s legal team has a theory. They believe the university is striking back in retaliation for his criticism of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives on campus, which have a chilling effect on free and open discourse.
In a column for the Wall Street Journal, titled, “DEI Brings Kafka to My Law School,” Gerber explains:
“Like many universities, ONU is aggressively pursuing ‘diversity, equity and inclusion’ initiatives. I have objected publicly as vice chairman of the University Council, an elected faculty governance body, and in newspaper op-eds and on television, to DEI efforts that don’t include viewpoint diversity and would lead to illegal discrimination in employment and admissions.”
“… I requested during a University Council meeting earlier this semester that ONU’s DEI program address viewpoint diversity. The administration responded, brusquely, that viewpoint diversity is ‘not part of our diversity, belonging and inclusion plan.’”
Gerber is wildly popular with the students at ONU. His courses filled to capacity on the first day of registration, and his teaching evaluations are excellent. His 10th book is going to be published this summer by one of the world’s most prestigious university presses.
The professor was also reappointed to the Ohio Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. “All of this is happening during the most successful year of my professional life,” Gerber says. He has been teaching for more than two decades.
Gerber is receiving a groundswell of support from national organizations, media outlets, ONU alumni, and current students. One Harvard Law School professor wrote an open letter to the university, co-signed by more than 50 professors in less than two hours, demanding an explanation.
“I would like for you to know that we are watching this matter closely, that we expect your institution to uphold due process, and that we look forward to hearing soon about a proper resolution of this distressing situation,” wrote Harvard Law Prof. Randall Kennedy.
In another open letter to the university, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) outlined a number of due process violations made by ONU in its unceremonious eviction of Gerber, and concluded that ONU is not trying to “prove charges; it has, apparently, already decided to dismiss him and seeks to strong-arm his acquiescence.” The National Association of Scholars (NAS) also sent a letter to the school, calling the incident appalling, inexcusable, and bullying.
Despite this public outrage, the president of Ohio Northern University, Dr. Melissa J. Baumann, doubled down, saying, “ONU will not be providing a response.”
Their silence says it all. Indeed, Dr. Kenneth Westhues, the world’s leading authority on academic mobbing, warns that the abuse ONU has inflicted upon Professor Gerber indicates that ONU is suffering from “an organizational ill, a malfunction, a breakdown of normal academic dialogue, debate, and squabbling, a breach of healthy academic politics” that could lead to the shuttering on the university.
Scott Gerber is a great teacher, and he loves doing it. He deserves an explanation, he deserves an apology, and he must be reinstated immediately—if they are lucky enough to keep him.