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Durden v. Essex County College

April 2018
Essex County College (Public college or university)
Essex County, NJ, United States

Identity of Speakers

  • Lisa Durden
    Faculty/Staff
    Other

    Lisa Durden is a Black filmmaker and media commentator, as well as an adjunct professor of mass communication and pop culture at Essex County College, a public college in New Jersey. She was fired by Essex County College after appearing on Tucker Carlson's Fox News show, where she defended the decision of Black Lives Matter to host an all-black Memorial Day celebration.

Additional Information

  • Incident Nature:
    Rally or protest
    Other
  • Incident Responses:
    University administration not protective of speech
  • Incident Status:
    In litigation State Court
  • No protest Occured
  • Was Speech Code incident

Summary

Lisa Durden is an adjunct professor teaching mass communication and pop culture at ECC, a public school in New Jersey. She is also a frequent media commentator. On June 6, 2017, Durden appeared on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News program, where she defended a planned Black Lives Matter-organized Memorial Day Event where the group asked white people not to attend. She said: “Boo hoo hoo, you white people are angry because you couldn’t use your white privilege card to get invited to the Black Lives Matter all-black Memorial Day celebration.” Two days later, ECC suspended her status as an adjunct. The school claimed it was “immediately inundated with feedback from students, faculty, and prospective students and their families expressing frustration, concern, and even fear” about her statements. She was later terminated. In July, FIRE filed a public records request seeking to confirm that Essex was in fact “inundated” with feedback. NJ law requires a response within seven business days; the school ignored the request at first and then repeatedly requested extensions until setting a final deadline of November 20th, which also came and went with no response. Thus, FIRE sued, at which point Essex returned responsive records. The records revealed “that administrators had already decided to take action before any member of the public contacted them. And for the first 13 days after Durden’s appearance, only one person contacted the college to complain.” Durden filed suit against Essex in state court, alleging a violation of her right to speak under the New Jersey Constitution, a termination in violation of public policy, and breach of contract. As of November 26, 2018, the parties have agreed to mediation and are seeking to come to an agreement on a party-chosen mediator.