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U. of Rhode Island President Says Professor’s Tweet Was Protected Speech

The University of Rhode Island’s president issued a statement on Sunday supporting a professor’s right to express his views after the professor sparked a controversy last week when he wrote in a Twitter post that he wanted to see the National Rifle Association chief executive’s head “on a stick.”

David M. Dooley’s new statement came five days after he first said that Professor Erik Loomis’s remarks, made shortly after the recent mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school, did not reflect the views of the institution. Mr. Dooley’s original statement drew fire from critics who spoke out in support of Mr. Loomis, an assistant professor of history at the university.

“In the statements at issue, Professor Loomis did not make it clear that he was speaking solely as an individual, and that the views he expressed were his alone and did not reflect the views of the University of Rhode Island,” Mr. Dooley said in the new statement. He noted that the university had been contacted by many people who had expressed “very strong support” for the professor.

“It is our conviction that Professor Loomis’s personal remarks, however intemperate and inflammatory they may be, are protected by the First Amendment, as are the views of those who have contacted us in recent days,” Mr. Dooley concluded.

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