CEDAR RAPIDS — Kirkwood Community College has agreed to pay $25,000 to a former adjunct professor who said he was asked to resign after his public political statements and social media posts sparked criticism and threats to campus.
Jeff Klinzman, who had been with Kirkwood since 2010 and last year taught one course in the English Department, said the $25,000 payout is about the amount he would have earned for teaching over three-and-a-half years.
Although Klinzman won’t return to teaching at Kirkwood, his attorneys called the payment “a victory for Jeff.”
“Public colleges simply cannot fire professors because a small, vocal group of people online get upset,” said Greg Harold Greubel, attorney for the national nonprofit Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE. “We are grateful that we were able to work with Kirkwood to resolve this matter and secure a good result for Jeff.”
Kirkwood officials confirmed the $25,000 payment for The Gazette and that Klinzman won’t be returning to the Kirkwood faculty.
Officials also maintained a different take on whether Klinzman was forced to resign or did so voluntarily.
“Kirkwood Community College has reached a settlement agreement with former adjunct professor Jeffrey Klinzman, who disputed the circumstances surrounding his own resignation last summer,” according to a statement from the school.
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“The settlement agreement, which was reached by both parties via a mediator in early March, does not render a decision about the circumstances surrounding Mr. Klinzman’s resignation,” the statement read. “Rather, it calls for a modest monetary payment to Mr. Klinzman with the stipulation that he shall not seek future employment at Kirkwood.”
The college defended its handling of “how sensitive issues were managed related to his resignation at the beginning of the 2019-20 academic year.”
FIRE representatives and Klinzman, meanwhile, maintained their criticism of Kirkwood’s actions and said the administration’s willingness to pay averted a First Amendment lawsuit.
“My struggle with Kirkwood was never about money, but about protecting my right as a college faculty member to exercise extramural free speech,” Klinzman said in a statement. “I served my colleagues and students at Kirkwood for over 16 years and wish the college had agreed to reinstate me.
“However, I am profoundly grateful to … all the folks at FIRE who helped vindicate me by making sure the college had to pay a price for trampling on my free speech rights.”
The outcry over Klinzman erupted after he responded to a tweet from President Donald Trump in July 2019 when Trump called Antifa — a left-wing political protest movement of anti-fascists — a “major organization of terror” with members who go around hitting “people over the heads with baseball bats.”
Klinzman commented in an Iowa Antifa Facebook group, “Yeah, I know who I’d clock with a bat.”
About a month later, KCRG-TV9 reported on Klinzman’s Facebook posts and interviewed him, inciting Klinzman’s affirmation that, “I am Antifa.” The story spread widely, including across national conservative media outlets, and Kirkwood received numerous complaints and even threats.
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That outcry prompted Kirkwood to reach out to Klinzman to discuss his personal political posts — both recent and in years past. Administrators pulled him from the classroom for “safety” reasons, and Klinzman told The Gazette he was asked to resign to avoid being fired.
Kirkwood officials said he resigned of his own volition.
Kirkwood officials, in a statement to The Gazette on Monday, said by settling the matter with a $25,000 payment, the school “avoids potentially lengthy and costly litigation to defend itself and can keep its attention focused on educating students.”
“Kirkwood is pleased to put this matter behind the institution as it moves forward with its continued commitment to creating a learning environment where free speech and academic freedom can thrive.”
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