California campus pushes out professor who riled up Capitol rioters

John Eastman, a renowned conservative, joined Trump at rally to push vote fraud claim

January 14, 2021
Anti-Trump poster
Source: iStock

Chapman University has negotiated the retirement of a conservative law professor who helped rally Trump protesters and endorsed their baseless claims of voter fraud ahead of their deadly attack on the US Capitol.

The professor, John Eastman, a former dean of law at the private 9,600-student California institution, also was pushed out from a visiting teaching position at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Professor Eastman participated in the failed legal challenges to the November election that President Trump pursued despite a lack of evidence. He then reiterated those baseless legal claims to the armed crowd that Mr Trump directed towards the Capitol to deter lawmakers from formally certifying his electoral loss.

“We know there was fraud,” he told the assembly just ahead of its rampage, which led to Mr Trump becoming the first US president ever to be impeached twice by the US House of Representatives.

Some 169 Chapman faculty and trustees signed a letter urging action against Professor Eastman, and a community petition calling for his firing attracted more than 500 signatures.

In a statement announcing his decision to retire, Professor Eastman offered a lengthy summary of his failed claims of voter fraud and said he was leaving because his complaining colleagues – none from within the law school – “have created such a hostile environment for me that I no longer wish to be a member of the Chapman faculty”.

He said he would remain as director of the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence at the Claremont Institute, a conservative thinktank.

The statement suggested his intention to also remain as a visiting professor of conservative thought and policy at UC-Boulder. But then UC-Boulder, while declining to fire him, cancelled his two spring semester classes, citing low enrolment.

UC-Boulder’s chancellor, Philip DiStefano, in his statement on the riot, castigated Professor Eastman for being among “those who fanned the flames of disinformation and distrust, contributing to this mob”.

“His continued advocacy of conspiracy theories is repugnant, and he will bear the shame for his role in undermining confidence in the rule of law,” Professor DiStefano said.

Chapman’s president, Daniele Struppa, also joined leaders across US higher education in condemning the attack on the US Capitol. In his statements, he chided Professor Eastman for acting “in direct opposition to the values and beliefs of our institution” but said he had broken no rules that would allow him to be fired.

“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,” Professor Struppa wrote.

Under persistent pressure, however, Professor Struppa issued another statement a few days later saying the university and Professor Eastman had reached an agreement in which the professor would retire and both sides would commit to pursuing no legal action against the other.

paul.basken@timeshighereducation.com

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