No Justice, No Speech

Central Washington University targets conservative prof for destruction.

As this week’s primary election approaches, conservative Republican state candidate Matt Manweller is speaking out against a partisan investigation into his conduct by Central Washington University in Ellensburg. As Northwest Public Broadcasting reported, the political science professor faces charges of a “pattern of unprofessional and inappropriate behavior,” but the conservative professor is pushing back before release of the report.

“There is nothing to apologize for in this report,” Manweller said in a video posted on Facebook. “The things that are true are not inappropriate and the things that are inappropriate are not true.” The investigation that produced the report began in curious fashion.

Last December, Central Washington University seized Mannweller’s computer, put him on paid leave and told him he was under investigation. CWU vice president of public affairs Kremiere Jackson told reporters, “No further information can be disclosed at this time, except to confirm that the investigation will be thorough, objective and fair.” The professor had good reason to wonder.

As the Seattle Times reported, the investigation went back to statements Manweller had allegedly made in a bar in 2006. Students claimed he handed out “A” grades in return for sexual favors and propositioned two students for a threesome. Manweller told the Times “I’ve never propositioned a student. I’ve never offered a student a grade or anything in exchange for a sexual favor.” The allegations, he said, were untrue and came from people opposed to him politically. 

Central Washington University, the alma mater of Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis, investigated Manweller in 2012, when he was making his first run for the state legislature, and again in 2013. CWU never substantiated the allegations against the professor and no formal complaints were filed. Outside investigators found no evidence that the Manweller violated CWU’s sexual harassment policy.

Manweller was not disciplined, promoted to full professor, and won $15,000 in attorney fees and other concessions. As the 2018 election approached, CWU continued to target the conservative Republican. He believes CWU bosses are determined to fire him, even though he was recommended for a promotion. 

CWU hired Trish Murphy of Northwest Workplace Law, which billed the university $118,950 between December and June. CWU denied public records requests and claims the investigation is “ongoing.” Professor Manweller sent out a legal declaration from former CWU student Isa Holsclaw who said Murphy had pressured her to say things “that were not true.” According to Holsclaw, “I felt like Ms. Murphy was engaging in a ‘witch hunt’ against professor Manweller.”

Murphy did not immediately respond to reporters’ requests for comment but Manweller made his case in a statement

Central Washington University, he said, “is a liberal island in conservative Kittitas County. Most of the staff are uncomfortable having a high-profile Republican on faculty, let alone representing them politically in Olympia.” The highly rated professor noted that this was “the third time Central has investigated the same claim,” and “it seems they want to keep investigating until they get the answer that they want.”

Manweller said he was “not under fire for misconduct, not for ethics violations, not for breaking the terms of my employment contract, but for the subjective opinion from one Seattle attorney that things like looking at a student constituted unprofessional and inappropriate behavior.” As the professor had learned, “the fix was in from the beginning” and “the decision to fire me was made before the investigation even began.” 

So no surprise that “during this entire investigation, there was no due process. I was not allowed to question witnesses. I was not allowed to contact witnesses. Several former students said that the interview summaries did not match up with what they actually said in the interview.” And one student “has already recanted her story.” 

Manweller proclaimed, “I’m proud of my 25-year career as an educator. I’m proud of the work I do for you as a state representative and I look forward to continuing to serve you over the next two years.” Meanwhile, the conservative professor understated the way CWU had stacked the deck against him. 

There was no presumption of innocence, no opportunity to face the accuser, and the proceedings were kept secret. The “ongoing” investigation of old and discredited charges was a form of double or even triple jeopardy. Manweller’s computer was seized without notice, and action taken against him before, not after, the investigation. In a proceeding proclaimed “thorough, objective, and fair” CWU had violated basic legal principles that apply across the entire country. The same jurisdiction holds true for free speech. 

Like Matt Manweller, Keith Fink of UCLA was a highly rated professor at the school where he won three national debating championships as a student.  Students packed out Fink’s class on  “Sex, Politics and Race: Free Speech on Campus,” which taught them about their free-speech rights.  That fell afoul of the campus left and despite student protest UCLA bosses purged the professor. 

At this writing, CWU has yet to announce a decision regarding professor Matt Manweller, still in the running for the August 7 primary. The case has confirmed that the totalitarian mindset has taken hold at CWU. On countless other campuses the same rule applies: no justice, no speech.