Don't fire Jane Chu

A very strange story has appeared in my favorite Wall Street Journal, about a Yale administrator who was posting racially insensitive comments in her Yelp reviews. Jane Chu referred to some people as "white trash" and said that a particular Japanese restaurant might be good enough for white people, implying that they were not as sophisticated about Asian cuisine as she was, coming from a Chinese background.

The latest news is that Yale has put her on "leave" after more "insensitive" posts were discovered. I guess this answers two burning questions: Can minorities harbor racist views, and are there no bounds to political correctness? (Yes and No.)

What Jane Chu or anyone does on their own time, short of criminal activity, should be of no concern to her employer. Period, end of story.

Repercussions against free speech are a very dangerous and slippery slope, and they conflict with an employer's right to terminate employees at will. What employees do on their own time can easily be construed as impacting their employer, despite tenuous connections and how such information comes to light.

Let's suppose that someone checks out the racist classic, Tom Sawyer. Would checking a book out of the library, if researched and discovered by some inquisitive reporter, possibly be grounds for termination? What if the book checked out was a manual on how to commit jihad against the West? What if it was Mein Kampf?

Let's say an employer asked an employee if they had ever read Mein Kampf, and the employee said no. The employer was then confronted with "evidence" that the employee had checked the book out of the library. Could the employee be fired for lying to the boss, even though the question was out of bounds and none of the boss' concern?

What if someone got the browsing history of some person and decided to make an issue of which websites they had visited. Would it matter if the web surfer was just curious, or doing research? Would visiting, say, white supremacist websites be evidence that could be used to fire someone? And let's say they were a "white supremacist" and the research uncovered their hidden, dark secret. Is that a fireable offense?

I will note that we hear so much about how awful posted anonymous comments are in online media, filled with hate speech, expletives, etc. Here we have someone who made mildly offensive remarks and used her own name. Now you know why people prefer to remain anonymous.

It is also ironic that political correctness has taken over one of the supposed bastions of free speech, which is higher education. That system developed tenure specifically to protect professors (not administrators, unfortunately) from attacks of this type, although the designers could probably not have imagined how petty some of these attacks would be.

Based on some recent free-speech "violations" against Yale employees, I would suggest that all college campuses, starting with Yale, extend free speech protection to all of their employees, not just the tenured ones.

One of the central tenets of libelous speech is that truth is an absolute defense. It may be true that most white people are not good judges of Asian cuisine.

How many times have you heard someone say that the mark of a good Chinese restaurant is how many Chinese diners are eating there? Is that also racist, or is it true? (or both?)

Political correctness has shown us that generalize statements about large groups of people, even if true, should not be made because they do not and cannot apply to every member of such a large group. That is a good lesson and a good reason not to generalize, especially when making disparaging comments. But such comments should never be used as a reason to jeopardize one's employment.



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