The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) has sent a letter to San Francisco State University (SFSU) requesting an end to its intensive investigation of Professor Maziar Behrooz for showing a drawing of Muhammad to his history class. A student reportedly "strongly objected" and filed a complaint with the university.
Sabrina Conza, FIRE's program officer, says under the First Amendment, professors have certain rights.
"As a public institution, San Francisco State is bound by the First Amendment to respect faculty's academic freedom rights," Conza asserts. "That means that they can't have policies preventing faculty from showing pedagogically relevant materials in their class."
Similarly, a professor at Hamline University in Minnesota was fired last fall for showing a medieval depiction of Mohammad to her art history class. Conaza says these incidents set a bad precedent.
"Professors at San Francisco State or at other universities are going to see this situation, and they're going to see the situation at Hamline, and they're going to say, 'Is it worth it for me to show this image in my class? Is it worth it to discuss these topics that students might find controversial?'" the FIRE spokesperson poses.
Despite FIRE's request, SFSU President Lynn Mahoney is moving ahead with the inquiry.