Chapman University Resists Calls to Fire Law Professor Who Spoke at DC Trump Rally

Chapman University Resists Calls to Fire Law Professor Who Spoke at DC Trump Rally
Constitutional law expert John Eastman testifies during a hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 4, 2013. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Bill Pan

Chapman University has refused to fire a law professor who spoke at a rally for President Donald Trump near the White House last week, citing the university’s rules for dismissing a faculty member.

The California-based private university is under pressure to fire John Eastman, a conservative legal scholar at Chapman’s Fowler School of Law. On Jan. 6, Eastman appeared on stage alongside Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani at the “Stop the Steal” event, where he claimed fraud not only in last year’s presidential election, but also in runoff elections for Georgia’s two Senate seats.

Some 150 faculty members at Chapman are calling on the administrators to fire Eastman, arguing that his “conspiratorial claims” were responsible for the violence that took place around the U.S. Capitol a few hours following his speech.

“Free speech is sacred, and tenured academics like Eastman have the privilege of speaking their mind without fear of repercussion. But Eastman abused that freedom,” reads a letter signed by the faculties demanding Eastman’s termination. “He does not belong on our campus.”

In response, Chapman University President Daniele Struppa said in two statements that while he doesn’t support Eastman’s role in the “tragic events” at the nation’s Capitol, he is not going to violate the university’s own rules to fire him.

“[Eastman] has now put Chapman in the position of being publicly disparaged for the actions of a single faculty member, and for what many call my failure to punish and fire him,” Struppa said in his first statement. “I will not subject the university to further humiliation by taking steps that may cause us to violate our own set of policies, and ultimately lead us to further embarrassment.”

Struppa explained in his second statement that the university can only fire faculty members under very specific conditions, and he must abide by the university’s rules.

“I am not the Emperor of Chapman University, nor I am the Supreme Leader of Chapman University,” Struppa wrote. “I am the President of the university, and as such, I am bound by laws and processes that are clearly spelled out in our Faculty Manual.”

The manual, according to Struppa, states the university has no right to dismiss faculty members unless a jury finds them guilty of a felony, or if they are disbarred. Neither condition applies to Eastman.

“When you are asking me to simply fire a faculty member without that, you are asking me to act as if I am indeed above the law. I continue to think this would be a terrible mistake for the institution, and I am troubled that so many are willing to sacrifice our process and our rules, in order to protect our reputation,” Struppa continued.

“I realize that my position has made me very unpopular with many of you,” he said. “As much as that saddens me, it will not compel me to violate the rules under which the university operates.”