This previous post explores possibilities of academics not getting hired or getting fired because of their personal lives. Answers and comments there focus on the US legal concept of Protected Classes. Bill Barth's comment mentions the legality of firing academics for having blue hair or loving basketball, but I would imagine such cases are extremely rare, if extant at all.

I believe that terminations of academics due to their personal lives are of some concern to (say) unions of academics, and I wonder if they compiled lists of such terminations. Obviously, widely publicized dismissal cases often involve political or religious affiliations, but they are not what I am interested in (they are probably illegal dismissals, anyway). I would also like to exclude cases where the academics engage in illegal activities as well. (What does count, then? I cannot think of good examples, but running a legal but arguably exploitative real estate business comes to mind.)

Do such lists exist? (I could not find such a list on the Web site of AAUP.)

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    What kind of examples are you looking for? You're eliminating illegal acts by the fired person and religion - I would assume by extension this eliminates any other illegal firings as well i.e., firing someone for some protect reason. What's left? In at will states, without some other contract or explicit protection from the law, anyone can be fired for anything - or nothing at all. It doesn't matter if someone was fired because they slept with the dean's wife or because they exclusively wear cargo shorts outside of work. It's not like this info is made public.
    – sErISaNo
    Commented Aug 2, 2023 at 4:56
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    @sErISaNo: Tenured faculty usually do have such a contract, so some sort of good cause is required, usually with the possibility of an internal appeal. Commented Aug 2, 2023 at 16:27
  • Yes that's exactly my point. Those who are protected in some way can't be fired for an arbitrary reason. I imagine that the threat of lawsuits does actually prevent this from happening all too frequently (or at least openly). So who does that leave for the OP to be interested in and under what circumstances?
    – sErISaNo
    Commented Aug 2, 2023 at 20:53
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    I don't think such lists exist, and even if they did - I don't think they'd be very useful/informative. If my college wanted to fire me for having blue hair, they may know that it looks bad to officially say that, and would just state some other vanilla reason like "no longer fits the needs of the college" or some other meaningless language. To my knowledge, employers aren't obligated to tell you why you were fired, and would certainly not risk telling you that in writing so as not to expose themselves to lawsuits.
    – Spark
    Commented Oct 26, 2023 at 13:35
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    Is being an unpaid spy for a foreign government a controversial personal life?
    – EarlGrey
    Commented Oct 27, 2023 at 8:52

2 Answers 2


An adjunct professor of statistics at Purdue was fired for being a slumlord.

Or at least, "is no longer working" at Purdue.

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    it seems to me a gigantic cover-up for something related to this: thecipherbrief.com/column_article/… Sure, the professor may have been a slumlord giving a wonderful opportunity for a sting operation: I am not 100% sure that the tenants were actually real student ...
    – EarlGrey
    Commented Oct 27, 2023 at 8:51
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    This is not a list, but a single instance, so I don't think it answers the question. Commented Dec 21, 2023 at 15:35

I have never heard of and seriously doubt if any sane institution would ever draft in print even an outline listing of private life actions giving rise to disciplinary action by a university. (Sure cases like those referred to by T K at Baylor - and maybe worse - will exist and in some jurisdictions their peculiar edicts may well prevail. But these are off the norm.)

I say this as no university management could ever:

(1) Envisage all potential private life activities giving rise to concern over corresponding professional conduct; nor

(2) Always be sure that an aforelisted private life activity, regardless of its limited degree, intent and circumstances, should be regarded as sufficient grounds for disciplinary action leading to dismissal proceedings. For example, an academic continually nudged by a drunken provocateur in a bar where the former was having a quiet drink after the funeral of an old friend may well lose his temper and attack his annoyer leading to an assault case involving the academic. Clearly the circumstances and extent of this incident would not justify a dismissal process by the employing university.

To me, it makes far more sense to establish (naturally, in consultation with academic and other staff associations, student union reps, university governing committee and the wider educational and communities) general principles whereby the professional and personal lives of academic staff be fairly separated and unacceptable potential areas of conflict highlighted.

The borderline between the personal and the professional life of an academic (as for any other profession) must be clear.

Clearly, if this separation is not respected on campus, then professional ethical issues not related to the nature of the personal issue will arise.

But I assume you particularly refer to personal aspects of academics' lives that are done off-campus but which may still lead to concern by the university management.

Obviously, extreme views and/or public expression of those views in a way that really offends many people would be an instance. Like a professor expressing on local TV a disbelief for the notion of a Jewish holocaust in WW2. Likewise w.r.t. other discriminatory rhetoric.

The issue here is whether a university management can plausibly expect the public to believe an academic will keep such views to him/herself on campus. If they adjudge the public to disbelieve this then there is an immediate threat to the institution's corporate reputation and the relationship of trust betwen the univerwsity and the public.

Similar situations arise with public knowledge of other personal behavior of an academic that clearly would regarded as deviant or dangerous and likely to emerge in the campus environment.

I personally think - and many universities' fair process procedures sort of supports this - that these situations should always anyway be judged on a case-by-case basis even where some category of infraction is applied.


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