This week Dr. Elizabeth Weiss, a fully tenured professor at San Jose State University, filed a lawsuit to stop efforts by the university to stifle her free speech and impede her research.

Professor Weiss is a highly decorated, fully tenured professor of anthropology at San Jose State University, where she specializes in osteology—the study of human skeletal remains. She has published and spoken about the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act and similar laws. While her views on the issues are controversial, she has written about these topics for years without criticism or pushback within the university.

After the publication of her book titled Repatriation and Erasing the Past, co-authored with attorney James W. Springer, San Jose State University embarked on a campaign to label professor Weiss as anti-Indigenous and racist. The university called for shutting down her views, even hosting a Zoom event entitled “What to Do When a Tenured Professor is Branded a Racist,” where staff members repeatedly called her racist and a white supremacist.

Finally, after Professor Weiss posted a photo on Twitter of herself with remains, the university removed her access to the skeletal collection that forms the basis for her academic research, going so far as to change the locks to bar her from the facility.

“Professor Weiss’s right to freedom of thought and expression are protected by the First Amendment,” said PLF attorney Daniel Ortner. “Her right to free speech, including academic research, writing, and instruction, deserves the highest level of constitutional protection. Furthermore, the university cannot silence her speech because they disagree with her viewpoint.”

The case is Weiss v. Perez, filed in United States District Court for the Northern District of California.


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