Higbee v. Eastern Michigan University

From September 2016 to August 2019
Eastern Michigan University (Public college or university)
Ypsilanti, MI, United States

Identity of Speakers

  • Mark Higbee

    Mark Higbee was a professor of American history at Eastern Michigan University.


Additional Information

  • Incident Nature:
    Social media
  • Incident Political Orientation:
  • Incident Responses:
    Faculty sanctioned
  • Incident Status:
  • No protest Occured
  • Did not involve Speech Codes


Mark Higbee was a professor of American history at Eastern Michigan University. In September 2016, racist graffiti appeared on the campus. Students protested, and the university instituted disciplinary action against the protestors. Almost a year later, a former student was arrested for vandalism. In the arrest’s aftermath, Higbee posted a message in a public Facebook group criticizing the university’s response to the graffiti and referring to African American administrators as “ ‘HN in C’ functionaries.” The university interpreted this phrase as a racial slur and suspended Higbee, without pay, for one semester. Higbee filed a grievance through his union, and an arbitration reversed his suspension.

On December 4, 2018, Higbee filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, alleging retaliatory discharge claims under Michigan’s Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act against the university and its Board of Regents, in addition to First Amendment relation claims under § 1983 against the individual Regents and other administrators who decided to punish him for the post. On July 1, 2019, the Court denied the individual defendants’ motion to dismiss the § 1983 claims. On appeal, the parties stipulated to a dismissal, and the case was dismissed on August 7, 2019.