Editorial: University of Tampa overreacts to offensive tweet

Published September 1 2017
Updated September 1 2017

Kenneth L. Storey's tweet that Hurricane Harvey was "instant karma" for Republicans in Texas was stupid and insensitive. But the University of Tampa found a way to share in the shameful limelight by firing the sociology professor after public reaction hit the fan. It was an overreaction by the university and yet another dispiriting example of how free speech is suffering in this overly coddled era.

The university first distanced itself from Storey but quickly fired him Tuesday, after angry parents and alumni popped off on social media. It was enough for the university to condemn the comments, but it went overboard by apologizing for the "pain this irresponsible act has caused." The two sides came to some agreement Thursday after the American Association of University Professors stepped in and raised the obvious question about academic freedom. Storey resigned, allowing UT to rescind the firing. It's an unsettling end to a manufactured crisis made worse by the university focusing on public relations instead of an individual's free speech rights.

Universities are places for young people to mature. But the University of Tampa used the first week of classes to teach its incoming freshmen that they have a right not to be offended by ignorant or demeaning statements, even on social media. Is that what parents are paying for? This is often an insensitive world. We better prepare the younger generation to handle it.

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