Kent State has received dozens of calls and emails urging it to fire or curb a faculty member who shouted “Death to Israel” at a public meeting last week.
But Julio Pino’s views are protected by the First Amendment and are not considered hate speech. Plus he has tenure, a status of employment in higher education that confers virtual lifetime employment.
Pino’s view of Israel is “harsh, and I completely disagree with it, but it’s not illegal,” said Wilson Huhn, a specialist in constitutional law at the University of Akron.
Pino, 50, an associate professor of history, distributed anti-Israel fliers and verbally sparred with a former Israeli diplomat in a question-and-answer session. Pino left the auditorium with the shout about Israel.
It is the most recent public action by the KSU activist.
For example, over the last decade, he has written a column in the KSU student newspaper eulogizing a suicide bomber. He told the KSU administration that he contributed to a jihadist website called Global War. The FBI searched Pino’s Kent home in 2009.
Last week, Kent State President Lester Lefton said Pino’s words were “deplorable” and his behavior “deeply troubling” — the university’s strongest denouncement of Pino to date.
However, the university apparently is not taking action to censor Pino, according to Kara Robinson, president of the Kent chapter of the American Association of University Professors.
In fact, it is unusual for a tenured faculty member to lose his or her job for any reason.
Some faculty nationwide have been fired for “saying something inappropriate, but that was usually in the classroom,” said Sara Kilpatrick, executive director of the Ohio Conference of the American Association of University Professors.
“Outside the classroom, it’s a grayer area of whether this was a faculty member acting as a faculty member or a private citizen.”
No AAUP faculty member statewide lost a tenured job last year in Ohio, she said. In the last three years, Kent State has fired only one faculty member with tenure, according to the university.
In the case of Pino, students have not complained about his teaching or for “taking his politics into the classroom,” said Ken Bindas, chairman of the KSU history department.
Pino also has protections under the First Amendment right to free speech.
In addition, his language would not be considered hate speech, because he did not make a credible threat to the speaker, said Jonathan Entin, a professor of law and political science at Case Western Reserve University.
“It is a point of view, as controversial as it may be, about policy. That will afford it pretty broad latitude,” he said.
Those arguments do not appeal to the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, or CAMERA, based in Boston. It co-sponsored the KSU speech by former Israeli diplomat Ishmael Khaldi, a Bedouin who rose to the top rank of the Israeli government.
Aviva Slomich, director of student programming for CAMERA, said the organization had not reached out directly to the KSU administration but that many of the organization’s 60,000 members had.
She said members shared their responses from Tom Neumann, KSU associate vice president for communications and marketing.
His reply “wasn’t substantive but was a clear attempt to gloss over the seriousness of the matter by misrepresenting it as a First Amendment issue,” Slomich said. Neumann could not be reached for comment.
KSU spokeswoman Emily Vincent said all communications about Pino are getting “personal attention.” She said she didn’t know how many communications the university had received.
Pino joined KSU in 1992. The KSU website says his specialties are Latin American history, the history of race and the Third World.
Carol Biliczky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-996-3729.