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Prof. Stephen Porter on his GoFundMe page.

The case of Stephen Porter, a professor at North Carolina State University who alleged retaliation for expressing critical views on social justice and diversity, equity, and inclusion, was declined by the US Supreme Court on Monday, with no comment provided.

In July 2023, the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Porter who claimed job retaliation for criticism of NCSU’s School of Education’s excessive focus on social justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion.


Judge Stephanie Thacker wrote for the 2-1 majority that in the spring of 2016, Porter questioned adding an item about diversity to student course evaluations, because the proposal had been made without proper research. A 2017 report from NCSU’s Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity labeled Porter as a “bully.”

“Appellant identifies three statements or communications he made between 2016 and 2018 which, in his view, are protected speech,” Judge Thacker wrote. “According to Appellant, he was eventually subject to adverse employment actions in retaliation for these three communications.”

Referring to another incident in 2018, Porter pointed out a second communication. In response to an Inside Higher Ed article that criticized a faculty search committee led by one of Porter’s colleagues, he emailed a link to the article to all department faculty members. In the email, Porter commented, “Did you all see this? … This kind of publicity will ensure we skyrocket to number 1 in the rankings. Keep up the good work, Alyssa!”

A third communication took place in September 2018 when Porter alleged in his personal blog that the Association for the Study of Higher Education had turned into a “woke joke.” The blog post centered on the themes of an upcoming Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE) conference. Judge Thacker stated, “According to the appellant, this research indicated a shift in the conference’s focus from general post-secondary research to social justice.”

“Appellant’s post concluded with his commentary, ‘I prefer conferences where 1) the attendees and presenters are smarter than me and 2) I constantly learn new things. That’s why I stopped attending ASHE several years ago,’” Judge Thacker wrote.

Porter claims in October 2018 his supervisors initiated the procedure to oust him from his position within the Higher Education Program Area of his department. Additionally, he was excluded from various opportunities, including participation in a new Ph.D. program area.

Judge Julius Richardson dissented, writing, “It is now well-settled that ‘citizens do not surrender their First Amendment rights by accepting public employment. Today, when a state employer retaliates against its employee for speaking as a citizen on a matter of public concern, the First Amendment demands that the state justify its action.”

“Stephen Porter, a professor at North Carolina State University, says that the University retaliated against him for his protected speech. My friends in the majority say otherwise,” Richardson added. “They hold that much of Porter’s speech was not protected at all, and that — for his speech that was protected — Porter has not drawn a plausible link to the adverse action that he suffered.”

“My friends err at both steps,” Richardson concluded. “Porter was indeed speaking as a citizen on a matter of public concern. And – based on his complaint’s allegations – it is plausible that the University retaliated against him because of it. The University thus must put forth evidence to justify its action. But, at this early stage of litigation, the government has not made that showing. So, we should allow Porter’s suit to proceed.”

Well, it’s not happening, seeing as the Supreme Court shares the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals’ reluctance to protect Porter’s First Amendment rights.

To support Prof. Porter’s effort, click here.

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