Eugene Narrett has lost his job as a professor of English at Framingham State College in Massachusetts. An outspoken conservative who never misses a chance to bash feminism and liberalism in his columns for the Middlesex County News and in periodic essays for this and other magazines, Narrett thinks that his politics had much to do with his firing. Narrett’s view has been seconded by conservative columnists in the Boston area and by the National Association of Scholars, which has written outraged letters to the ESC administration. At the very least, his firing and the incidents leading up to it raise questions about whether the First Amendment is still in effect at a school that the taxpayers are forced to fund.

Narrett’s qualifications are not in doubt. He was well-liked by his students and had received glowing evaluations from his department in his four years at FSC. The holder of a doctorate in comparative literature from Columbia, Narrett had delivered guest lectures at colleges throughout New England and had published papers in academic journals. As for Narrett’s colleagues in the English Department, their professional activities off campus are mostly limited to poetry readings at a local bookstore; two tenured women do not have doctorates, and one has a degree in a field other than English. Eugene Narrett was, arguably, the most distinguished and widely published professor in his department.

Perhaps to compensate for its obscurity, FSC strove to be on the cutting edge of political correctness. According to Narrett, the school brought in a “Professor of Diversity” and promoted feminist professors who have publicly made sneering comments about men. Narrett’s application for a tenure-track position was reviewed (and turned down) by a professor who had reportedly referred to one of her colleagues as a “worthless white man.”

Narrett’s writings in the local newspaper, which is in no way affiliated with the college, were increasingly unpopular with his colleagues—and with FSC’s students. After Narrett published a trenchant column on feminism in the Middlesex County News, anonymous posters accusing him of misogyny and making scurrilous remarks about his personal life started appearing around campus. Narrett claims that Jack Ling, the administrator in charge of harassment cases, failed to take action. On another occasion, Mary Murphy, a tenured professor, reportedly stormed into Narrett’s office and screamed that his criticisms of feminism had “gone too far” and “had to stop” immediately. She apparently wanted the college to insist that Narrett obtain prior approval from the school to publish any future article—a clear violation of academic freedom. A harassment complaint he filed against Professor Murphy was summarily thrown out.

For his failure to embrace radical feminism, Narrett was harassed and even menaced by his colleagues. A senior colleague stood over Narrett in the faculty dining room one day and harangued him, and another professor got into the habit of stalking up and down the hallway outside Narrett’s office. In September 1996, Professor Narrett’s office was suddenly moved to a closet-sized room without telephone and computer, a deprivation that not even beginning professors have to put up with. According to Narrett’s written account, he was told that he “can use the secretary’s phone” to make calls.

Last March, several students approached Professor Narrett and said that they were interested in taking his classes in the fall but could not find his name in the 1997-98 catalogue. The reason was simple: no one had bothered to tell Narrett, but he had been fired. Despite his glowing evaluations of Narrett’s teaching, department chairman Alan Feldman insisted he had the right to sack Narrett without giving a reason, which runs counter to a clause in Narrett’s contract which bars the department from firing him without explanation.

Although Narrett’s writings have not been cited officially as a reason for his firing, his credentials as a teacher and scholar beg the question why the department would so abruptly terminate him for reasons that remain hazy. Narrett says that Feldman did finally come forth with an after-the-fact rationalization; Narrett had broken his contract by asking to teach a fall course he had taught in the past, instead of one he had never taught before (although Narrett never insisted on this). Meanwhile, the college has thrown out Narrett’s two “wrongful termination grievances,” sending a strong message that a worthless white man who has run afoul of the thought police need not reapply.