Assemblyman James Gallagher argues UC Davis should fire Professor Joshua Clover
Some stories sound too outrageous to be true. But the excellent investigative column by The California Aggie on a UC Davis professor’s violent rhetoric shows us the inconvenient truth: that our civic dialogue has hit an all-time low. If we are to change this terrible dynamic, English Professor Joshua Clover’s revolting comments about law enforcement can no longer be tolerated.
Professor Clover made it clear in public statements that he thinks cops “should be killed” and that it’s “easier to shoot cops when their backs are turned.” When given the chance to recant in light of the recent ambush and murder of Davis police officer Natalie Corona, Clover responded that the best way to end police shootings is to get rid of the police altogether. This statement is almost as ridiculous as it is abhorrent.
His words are a slap in the face to the men and women who put their lives on the line to serve our communities day in and day out. These kinds of comments are unacceptable and have no place in our campus communities (or anywhere else in society for that matter) — especially in a time where officers are clearly being targeted by radical and deranged individuals.
Natalie Corona’s murder brought that crashing home for all of us. On Jan. 10, 2019, this bright young officer responded to a routine call to help people involved in a traffic accident. She had the training and passion for the job and was eager to carry on her father’s legacy to protect and serve those around her. In a ruthless display, she was taken out by one of these sick individuals who, unfortunately for us all, do exist.
I attended her funeral held here on campus, and I can tell you it was a powerful and moving service. As gut-wrenchingly sad as it was, it was amazing to see the strength of her family and the unity of our community to support the men and women in law enforcement. What a contrast that on this very same campus, Professor Clover continues to believe that police officers like Corona deserve to be shot dead.
That is not consistent with any sense of human decency, let alone our Aggie values of dignity and respect for all. And that is why he needs to go.
This is not about free speech or academic freedom. It is important to note that incitements of violence are not protected speech under the First Amendment. Calling for the death of a group of people is not a contribution to a discussion; it is the ultimate abolition thereof — to silence the other side forever. Would we tolerate his statements if they were made toward any other identifiable people group? Of course not.
I wholeheartedly believe in free speech and the right of all professors and students to express their opinions and convey different ideas. Diversity of thought is important but can only be achieved in an environment that is free from violence and intimidation. No, I do not mean a “safe space” where I can censor ideas different than mine. I mean a civil society where we can express ideas freely without fear of retribution in the form of physical violence, where there is order. Ironically, it is the police who we often rely upon to ensure this kind of civil order.
In the Legislature, we are currently having a debate on the use of force by police officers and its impacts on minority communities. There are strongly held beliefs on the issue. There will be passionate and vociferous debate, but together we will listen to and discuss the various perspectives in our attempt to provide good public policy. One thing we will not do is call for the death of those with whom we disagree.
This is precisely where Professor Clover has crossed the line. He doesn’t want a debate or discussion. He is not interested in discussing reform. He and others like him continue dragging our dialogue downward into “us” versus “them” in hopes of sparking the violence he apparently seeks.
We can begin to change the trajectory of our public dialogue by no longer tolerating this kind of invective. UC Davis can act now to take us higher and preserve the values and integrity of this university by terminating Professor Clover immediately.
Written by: James Gallagher
The writer has represented the Third Assembly District in the California Legislature since 2014. He received his Juris Doctorate at UC Davis in 2007.