UC Davis Chancellor Gary May and UC President Janet Napolitano say there may be nothing they can do about a professor who has publicly advocated for the death of police officers. But the chancellor is investigating his options.
English Professor Joshua Clover was asked by SFWeekly in 2016 how he would improve society. He replied, "People think that cops need to be reformed. They need to be killed."
An editorial in the California Aggie also quotes Clover tweeting in 2014 "...it's easier to shoot cops when their backs are turned, no?" and "I am thankful that every living cop will one day be dead, some by their own hand, some by others, too many of old age."
Clover has since made his Twitter account private.
May has asked the campus legal team to review the professor’s conduct and give advice as to the limits of Clover’s constitutional rights, according to a university statement.
May said last week he does not condone Clover's comments and that there is no place for remarks like those at UC Davis, but the professor wouldn’t be fired either.
According to the university, only the UC Board of Regents can dismiss a tenured faculty member, though Napolitano could start the wheels in motion with a recommendation for termination.
Such a recommendation by the president would only come after consultation with the Chancellor May and the Academic Senate. A faculty member is entitled to a hearing before a panel of senate members before any discipline is imposed.
"We are sort of constrained by the fact that the statements were not made on campus or in a classroom and they are not, at least now, not considered to be a violation of the faculty code of conduct."
May said the comments don't rise to the legal level of hate speech because they are about police and not protected groups.
"There are such things as protected groups and you have to treat those groups differently," May said. "Police are not considered a protected group as a minority might be."
President Napolitano echoed May's sentiments.
"The statements were ill-informed, wrong, repugnant to university values and we object to them with all that we can," she said."As the chancellor said, the first amendment and principles of academic freedom tie in."
But May said things would be different if Clover has made those statements on campus.
"If the statements had been uttered in a classroom as part of a class, then we'd be having a different kind of conversation than we're having now," he said.
In response to a request for an interview, Clover emailed a comment. "On the day that police have as much to fear from literature professors as Black kids do from police, I will definitely have a statement," he wrote.
The statements come to light two months after Davis police officer Natalie Corona was ambushed and killed.
The California Police Chiefs Association says it believes in free speech, but was alarmed to learn Clover has called for killing police several times.
The association has sent a letter to the school saying it appreciates a recent statement from UC Davis condemning Clover’s comments.
“But condemnation is not enough,” the association letter says. “If he made those statements, he should immediately and unequivocally be fired. Such hateful rhetoric from any individual or group should not be tolerated.”
The police chief's association says violence targeted at peace officers is on the rise. A report from the The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund found 144 officers were killed on duty in 2018, a 12 percent increase.
The association says Clover’s rhetoric is reprehensible, could incite violence and is unbecoming of a University of California professor.
Assemblyman James Gallagher has started an online signature-gathering petition to put pressure on the UC System to fire the professor.
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