The controversial black academic, Leonard Jeffries, lost his first court case last week when a panel of appeals judges ruled that he was lawfully demoted by City College of New York for making inflammatory comments about Jews.
In ruling against Professor Jeffries, the Federal Appeals Court reversed its decision of a year ago. It did so after the United States Supreme Court ordered it to reconsider City College's attempt to oust Jeffries as chairman of its black studies department.
The Jeffries case, which has been wending its way through the courts for three years, has generated widespread publicity and created deep divisions on campus. Originally the courts found that City College violated Professor Jeffries's free-speech rights by removing him as chairman after a 1991 speech in which he had said "rich Jews" financed the slave trade, and Jews and the Mafia conspired to denigrate blacks in the movies.
"We recognise that academic freedom is an important First Amendment concern," said the appeals court. "Jeffries's academic freedom, however, has not been infringed here."
When the Supreme Court ordered the lower court to reconsider the case, it cited the case of a sacked public employee which it said could alter the interpretation of the facts about Professor Jeffries. In the second case, it was decided that a public employee could be fired for insubordination even if some of the statements were protected under the First Amendment to the Constitution.
In its new decision last week the appeals court said the college "made a substantial showing at trial that the decision to limit Jeffries's term was based upon a reasonable prediction" that the controversial speech would disrupt university operations.