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University will not fire law professor who spoke at pro-Trump Capitol rally

Nina Agrawal, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

"Academic freedom is sacrosanct in our business ... but inciting a riot that attempts to overthrow a government — it's a little different than just speaking your mind in politics," Leitz said.

In an emailed response, Eastman said his claims are backed up by evidence, and that the breach at the Capitol was instigated by the leftist, anti-fascist group known as antifa.

"Without bothering to check with me about the evidence I have to support every statement I made, they simply made scurrilous, defamatory, and unfounded claims that my statements had no basis in law or fact," Eastman wrote.

There has been no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the presidential election, nor that leftist extremist groups led the violence at the Capitol last week.

A university spokesperson did not respond to questions about whether any investigatory or disciplinary process had begun in Eastman's case, but if one had, such personnel matters are usually confidential.

Eastman is on leave from Chapman this year and serving as a visiting professor at the University of Colorado Boulder. Boulder Chancellor Phil DiStefano called Eastman's advocacy of conspiracy theories "repugnant" but said he would not fire him, citing First Amendment protections, according to local newspaper The Daily Camera.

 

Eastman, who has testified before Congress about presidential impeachment and written extensively about freedom of religion, citizenship and immigration, served as dean of Chapman's law school from 2007 to 2010. He stepped down to pursue a bid for California attorney general the year that Kamala Harris was elected to the position.

This is not the first time Eastman has been caught up in controversy. Faculty members called his December filing of a brief on behalf of Trump asking the Supreme Court to overturn the election results "an embarrassment" and "contrary to the core values of this university."

And last August, members of the Black Student Union led a protest against racism at Chapman, including over an essay by Eastman in Newsweek in which he questioned Harris' birthright citizenship and eligibility to become vice president. Newsweek later apologized.

Alison McKenzie, president of Chapman University's faculty senate, said the senate plans to hold an emergency meeting Friday to vote on a resolution acknowledging faculty members' right to due process but urging the university to separate itself from Eastman's statements and to explore the possibility of terminating his endowed professorship and preventing him from teaching especially vulnerable students who may feel uncomfortable working with him.

"We're not happy," McKenzie said. "We're not happy with the potential role he may have played in what happened, and we don't want our good name and our university's good name to be associated with what happened."

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