University of Nebraska President Hank Bounds insists he supports, even advocates for, free speech; and says the experience of a student on the Lincoln campus is an isolated incident.
Bounds doesn’t really want to characterize the treatment of sophomore Kaitlyn Mullen.
“You know, you can choose a number of ways to describe it. At the end of the day, it was inappropriate,” Bounds tells Coby Mach, host of Drive Time Lincoln on Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN.
Bounds says he has disciplined the professor who allegedly harassed Mullen as she recruited for the conservative group, Turning Point USA, on the Lincoln campus. He says federal law keeps him from disclosing the punishment, though the professor claims she was removed from the classroom for safety reasons.
Mullen says several people insulted her while she recruited for Turning Point. She says a number called her a fascist. Others accused her of being a white nationalist and a member of the Ku Klux Klan. One made a vulgar hand gesture.
Turning Point USA has a presence on around 400 university campuses across the country. It is perhaps best known for keeping a “watch list” for university professors perceived to be too liberal.
Bounds says students need to feel free to express themselves on the four university campuses.
“Free speech to me is important. I’m not interested in creating safe spaces. There needs to be rigorous, robust debate,” Bounds says. “But I wish that we would get to a point where we would stop talking about what we’re against and start having the conversation about what we’re for.”
Bounds says the issue has been difficult to deal with and he acknowledges the controversy which erupted has hurt the university’s brand. He says he has gotten quite a bit of correspondence on the issue, with some quite nasty and a few containing threats.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]