Heim v. Daniel

December 2013
The State University of New York at Albany (Public college or university)
Albany, NY

Identity of Speakers

  • John Heim

  • Adrian Masters

  • Betty Daniel

Additional Information

  • Incident Nature:
  • Incident Political Orientation:
    Not Clear
  • Incident Responses:
  • Incident Status:
  • Did not involve Speech Codes


Since 2012, John Heim has been an adjunct professor of economics at the State University of New York at Albany. He describes himself as a traditional Keynesian economist, focusing on demand-driven government intervention. The Keynesian school was highly influential during the decades following the Great Depression. During the 1970s, however, many economists began to doubt that traditional Keynesian methods could account for the peculiar mix of inflation, unemployment, and stagnant growth that characterized that era. This doubt led to the creation of new economic techniques. One such technique, called “dynamic stochastic general equilibrium” or “DSGE” modeling, is central to this lawsuit. Proponents of DSGE argue that it allows economists to model economic trends much more dynamically and realistically than would be possible through traditional Keynesian tools. Heim, however, is sharply critical of DSGE modeling. The debate surrounding DSGE is unresolved. But Heim, as a traditional Keynesian economist, is on one side, while his colleagues at SUNY Albany, who are not, are on the other.

Heim alleges that he has faced hostility for his approach to economics from the rest of the faculty. He alleges that in 2013 he expressed his interest in a rare tenure-track macroeconomics opening at SUNY Albany’s Economics Department. However, the position later went to a recent Ph.D. with a micro foundations research focus instead. Three years later, Heim alleges that he learned that the Department had hired for a full-time lecturer position in financial economics and that, despite Heim’s background in the area, he was never approached about the opportunity.

Finally, in 2017, Heim learns of another open tenure-track macroeconomics position in the Department. He applies for the position but hears nothing for several weeks. Heim then contacted Adrian Masters, the Chair of the Department, and learned that he is not being considered because his recommendation letters had not been received in time. However, Masters later revealed that Heim had in fact been considered by the committee, but they had concluded that they would not offer Heim an interview regardless of what his recommendations said. In an email, Masters noted that the Department wants someone who can teach and train students in “modern macroeconomics” and that nothing in Heim’s credentials supported that possibility. Masters further stated that Heim’s work lacked synergies with the rest of the faculty. The position later went to a recent Ph.D. who, according to Heim, has limited familiarity with traditional Keynesian methods.

Heim filed this lawsuit in 2018, and his claims against the University were soon dismissed. After exchanging discovery on Heim’s sole remaining claim, First Amendment retaliation, Defendants moved for summary judgment. The district court granted their motion in 2022. Heim then appealed to the Second Circuit. Though ultimately ruling against Heim on appeal, the Second Circuit recognized that Garcetti’s denial of First Amendment protection to employees’ on-the-job speech does not apply to public college and university faculty. Instead, joining the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Ninth Circuits, the Second Circuit held that courts should analyze public faculty speech under Pickering balancing.