Cooper v. Ross

472 F. Supp. 802 (1979)

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Cooper v. Ross

United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas
472 F. Supp. 802 (1979)

Facts

Grant Cooper (plaintiff) was employed as an assistant history professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (Arkansas). Cooper was a proud member of the Progressive Labor Party (PLP) and subscribed to a Marxist point of view, something that he shared with his students. Cooper had been teaching for three years but did not have tenure. Teachers were given a curriculum to follow but had discretion in how they covered it. After a profile was done on him in a student newspaper, Cooper became the subject of controversy, and he was sued by members of the Arkansas state legislature for violating a law mandating that no state employee be a member of the Communist Party. Cooper began participating in public forums, during which he criticized a book that was used by another faculty member. At a meeting with Arkansas’s chancellor, Robert Ross (defendant), Cooper was asked whether he could teach his class from an objective point of view, instead of from a Marxist point of view as Cooper had attested to doing. Cooper replied that doing so would be intellectually dishonest. However, Cooper always encouraged debate in his classes and invited his students to challenge him. After being notified that he was not being reappointed for the 1974-75 school year, Cooper requested a list of reasons. A letter from Arkansas listed several reasons unrelated to Cooper’s political beliefs, including his questionable grading practices and student complaints about meetings and holding scheduled classes. The letter stated that the dean of the Division of Social Science received numerous complaints about Cooper and his unwillingness to cover the material. The letter also referred to Cooper’s criticism of the book used by his colleague. At Cooper’s request, the decision was reviewed by an ad hoc committee, which determined that the proper procedures were followed but expressed concern over the university’s stated reasons and quality of evidence. Cooper filed suit, alleging that Arkansas’s decision not to reappoint him constituted a violation of his First Amendment rights to free association and free expression.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Heaney, J.)

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