Students, alumni, members of the LGBTQ community nationwide and many allies are clamoring for UTD to cut ties with computer science instructor Timothy Farage following his hurtful and backward-minded tweet on July 15 in which he called for researchers to “find a cure for homosexuality.” Farage’s termination might be justified, but we shouldn’t hold our breath. Farage likely isn’t going anywhere.
Farage’s tweets were abhorrent and reflect a disgusting, blatantly homophobic and incorrect view that has no place at UTDallas, one of the most LGBTQ-friendly campuses in the nation according to Campus Pride Index. The University needs to take action against Farage – but it’s unlikely that UTD will be able to do anything about his tweets and other homophobic, racist and sexist comments he made (such as implying on his blog Black babies are cheaper to adopt , or saying women are biologically unfit for STEM on his Quora account).
Farage’s tweet is protected speech under the First Amendment. As a public institution, UTD legally cannot infringe upon Farage’s right to protected speech, as the organization Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, or FIRE, thoroughly detailed in its call for the university to end any potential investigation into Farage’s tweets.
“While some may have been offended by Farage’s remarks,” the FIRE statement reads, “they do not fall into a category of speech unprotected by the First Amendment, which bars UTD from investigating or punishing protected expression.”
Farage’s case is exceptionally similar to that of Collin College instructor Lora Burnett of nearby Collin College, who won a $70,000 settlement for being fired over a tweet. Burnett faced similar public backlash, and Collin College responded by communicating that they were letting Burnett go by not renewing her contract, leading to Burnett’s lawsuit. UTD is likely trying to avoid a similar scenario.
What should be under investigation is Farage’s repeated injection of his personal opinions in the classroom, which has been documented not only on his ratemyprofessor page but also in statements from six different students to The Mercury. Whether it’s a tangent on the existence of climate change or a digression on the benefits of discrimination, Farage repeatedly takes significant class time for off-topic and often controversial subjects that distract from discrete math, the only subject he teaches. This is a violation of the University’s Policy on Faculty Conduct, which explicitly prohibits “significant or repeated intrusion of material unrelated to the course.”
The university needs to take Farage out of the classroom immediately. Making alternative sections available is not enough. We do not believe that Farage will change. There’s a clear theme of inappropriate and unprofessional behavior in Farage’s classroom conduct spanning decades. He’s had twenty years to improve but instead has proved time and time again that he is unfit to be in the classroom at UTD. Bigotry has no place at UTD, and it’s time that the university backs up its own sentiment with action.