James Spiegel, a tenured professor from Taylor University, was recently fired when he refused the university’s order to take down his video “Little Hitler” on Youtube. In the video, Spiegel sings there is a “brutal killer within everyone.”
Taylor is a small, private Christian liberal arts university in Indiana, and Spiegel has taught there since 1993. He started as an assistant professor on Religion and Philosophy until he attained full professor status in 2003.
The university administration has yet to make an official announcement to the entire community, but they released the following statement to faculty members through email:
“Just as we as individuals are all called to seek restoration of damaged relationships, the biblical principles embodied in Taylor’s Life Together Covenant compel us to do the same corporately within the University,” the message stated. “That process was followed, engaging faculty leadership, the academic department, and the administration seeking to restore what was damaged. In this case restoration was not possible.”
Among those who signed the email were Interim President Paige Cunningham, Provost Michael Hammond, and Tom Jones, dean of arts and humanities.
The email also dispelled possible speculation that there was political motivation on their decision. “Taylor is not a political enterprise, nor was this an effort to silence disagreements with the University and/or its leadership,” the administration wrote.
Freedom of Expression Issue
Spiegel is a Christian, and in his video, he sang his own composition, “Little Hitler.” The lyrics include: “There’s a Little Hitler inside of me. There’s a brutal killer within everyone.”
The message is consistent with the Christian tenet of human wretchedness. Spiegel said that he has played the song inside the Taylor campus multiple times before, even in front of faculty members.
However, Spiegel believes that Taylor officials may not have been supportive of his decision to upload the video on social media last August 16. Two days later, the professor received an email from Provost Hammond that ordered him to take it down.
The next day, Spiegel met with Hammond to discuss the issue, but later in the day, Spiegel told Hammond that he would not take down the video. He was terminated four days later.
Spiegel shared that he met with Taylor officials including Hammond and Jones. In that meeting, they read the termination letter, wherein Hammond accused Spiegel of “insubordination” since he did not comply with a direct order.
During the meeting, it was also revealed that a faculty member had filed a “formal harassment complaint” against Spiegel. The basis of the complaint was Spiegel’s video upload, which was not directed at any individual. Taylor’s administration did not identify Spiegel’s accuser.
The university has ceased to pay Spiegel beyond his August 24 paycheck and they also canceled his health insurance.