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Savage v. Gee

From March 2006 to January 2012
Ohio State University – Mansfield (Public college or university)
Mansfield, Ohio, United States

Identity of Speakers

  • Scott Savage
    Faculty/Staff
    Other

    Savage was the Head of Reference and Library Instruction at Ohio State University – Mansfield.

Additional Information

  • Incident Nature:
    Other
  • Incident Responses:
    University administration not protective of speech
    Litigation
    Other
  • Incident Status:
    Dismissed
  • No protest Occured
  • Did not involve Speech Codes

Summary

Scott Savage was the Head of Reference and Library Instruction at Ohio State University – Mansfield, from 2004 until he resigned in June 2007. In 2005, Ohio State – Mansfield instituted a policy in which all incoming freshman would be assigned to read a single book. Savage agreed to serve on the committee to choose the book along with several other faculty members. Savage, a self-described conservative Quaker, was concerned that the faculty committee was “going to pick mostly lefty books instead of looking for something really interesting.” After several faculty members suggested books that Savage perceived to have a liberal point of view on controversial issues, Savage proposed to Donna Hight, the Student Affairs Directors, that the class be assigned to read Freakonomics. Hight forwarded Savage’s recommendation to the committee noting that she had “received a request that we . . . don’t chose an ideologically or politically or religiously polarizing book.”

On March 3, 2006, Hannibal Hamlin, an OSU faculty member responded to the committee stating “if the idea is to seriously engage the students in issues of real importance, it is bound to be somewhat divisive. Furthermore, I think the University can afford to polarize.” On March 8, 2006, Savage responded stating in part “as a librarian, I wouldn’t agree with the imposition of any test of academic orthodoxy… But if we are decided that we want to engage our students in the kind of exchange of idea on which the ‘secular’ university was founded, then let’s choose something that confronts the accepted wisdom of Ohio State University!” He then recommended four books, one of which was The Marketing of Evil: How Radicals, Elitists, and Pseudo-experts Sell Us Corruption Disguised as Freedom by David Kupelian, which contained a chapter that described homosexuality as deviant sexual behavior that had obtained general acceptance “under the guise of political correctness.”

Norman Jones, another committee member, responded to Savage’s email that the “anti-gay book Scott Savage endorses” was full of “anti-factual rabble-sousing that has no place in any university. I am frankly embarrassed for you, Scott, that you would endorse kind of homophobic tripe.” Scott responded by defending the book, stating that it had been reviewed by well-credentialed scholars. Jones and Hamlin both continued to criticize Savage for endorsing a homophobic book, and emailed Savage’s supervisor, Beth Burns, to complain that Savage’s recommendation and his decision to “stand- by… this anti-gay book”  had “severely damaged my confidence in the library and its staff here as OSU-Mansfield.”  An openly gay professor, Jim Buckley, then emailed all OSU-faculty stating that because of Savage’s book recommendation had caused him to become “fearful and uneasy being a gay man on this campus. . .” and that he intended to notify “the OSU-M campus, and Ohio State University in general that I no longer feel safe doing my job.” Additionally, Jones sent another email to all of the faculty at the University accusing Savage of creating a “hostile work environment.”

On March 16, 2006, Professor Gary Kennedy, filed a complaint with the human resources department against Savage on behalf of Jones and Buckley, alleging “harassment based on sexual orientation.” On April 11, 2006, Savage filed his own complaint against Jones, Buckley, Hamlin, and Kennedy for filing false charges against him. On April 20, 2006, Savage received a letter informing him that the University had found him not guilty of the harassment charges. A week later, he received another letter informing him that Jones, Buckley, Hamlin, and Kennedy had also been found not guilty. Despite the University’s finding, Hamlin and Phelps continued to communicate to the faculty that the harassment issue had not in fact been resolved.

On July 5, 2006, Savage took a leave of absence from the University. On April 7, 2007, Savage filed suit in the Court of Claims of Ohio and in the Richland County, Ohio Court of Common Please asserting federal and state law claims against Ohio State University. Shortly after, Savage resigned from his position. On July 28, 2008, Savage dismissed his action in the Court of Claims. On March 10, 2008, Savage filed suit in the District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Columbus, alleging claims under § 1983, § 1985, § 1986, and § 1988 against various University officials and faculty members. On January 7, 2009, the district court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, finding that when Savage dismissed his claim in the Court of Claims of Ohio, he waived his right to request federal damages and that Savage had insufficiently alleged his claim for First Amendment retaliation. On January 4, 2012, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s judgment.