Lisa Durden, the Black professor who was fired from a New Jersey college for defending Black Lives Matter on Fox News in June, was the subject of a new lawsuit filed Wednesday. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has started a legal battle against Essex County College for denying requests to release records about Durden’s termination.
Durden, who was an adjunct professor at the Newark, New Jersey college, made a strong stand for a BLM group who decided to host a Blacks-only Memorial Day celebration on FOX. “You White people are angry because you couldn’t use your White privilege card to get invited to the Black Lives Matter’s all-black Memorial Day Celebration,” she said during an appearance on Tucker Carlson Tonight on June 6.
Essex County College axed her over her comments, a move that was questionable, FIRE said. The foundation filed an information request under the New Jersey Open Public Records Act after her termination. The initial request, along with a subsequent one, were ignored for more than a month. The school did finally respond after receiving an official letter from FIRE’s Director of Litigation Marieke Tuthill Beck-Coon, asking for time extensions. When those deadlines passed and went, FIRE decided on legal action.
“This lawsuit is not just about a public institution ignoring its obligation under state law to release certain information to the public,” said FIRE Staff Attorney Brynne Madway. “This suit is also about Essex County College’s responsibility to be transparent about its termination of an adjunct professor who simply voiced her opinions publicly.”
The college had stood by Durden’s termination and maintained that they were flanked by complaints about her, NJ.com reported.
“I fully believe that institutions of higher learning must provide a safe space for students… The character of this institution mandates that we embrace diversity, inclusion, and unity. Racism cannot be fought with more racism,” Essex County College President Anthony Munroe said following Durden’s comments.
College administrators violated Durden’s constitutional rights by giving her the boot, FIRE officials said.
“The law under the First Amendment is clear: A public college cannot terminate a professor simply because she engaged, in a personal capacity, in a debate about matters of public concern and some were offended by her perspective,” Ari Cohn, director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program, explained.