LINCOLN, Neb. – A lecturer at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln is no longer working in a teaching role after receiving threats stemming from a video posted online that shows her confronting a student recruiting for a conservative group.
Graduate teaching assistant Courtney Lawton was among several faculty members last month who protested recruiting efforts for Turning Point USA. The group advocates for conservative causes and maintains a "professor watch list" of faculty it deems radically liberal.
Video circulating on social media shows Lawton flipping off the student recruiter and referring to her as a "neo-fascist." The footage also shows Lawton saying, among other things, that the student "wants to destroy public schools, public universities."
University spokesman Steve Smith said Thursday that the school doesn't condone Lawton's behavior, but that the decision to take her out of the classroom "was made with the lecturer's safety concerns in mind."
"Our expectations for civility were not met by the lecturer in her behavior ... and not representative of a university where the robust free exchange of ideas takes place 24 hours a day, seven days a week," Smith said.
Lawton said she has been reassigned to nonteaching duties because of emails and online messages that the school deemed threatening. She said an administrator told her the reassignment wasn't disciplinary and that she was "being removed from the classroom due to a security threat to me and my students."
The student recruiter, sophomore Kaitlyn Mullen, said neither she nor the conservative nonprofit was responsible for the threatening emails. She also questioned the university's approach in not disciplining Lawton's conduct.
"I would like to make it clear that I believe that professor should not be allowed to harass students," Mullen said. "I hope UNL will set an example by removing her from campus so she can't do this to any other students."