January 27, 2021

Chapman professor who spoke at pre-riot Trump rally to retire

Capping days of growing uproar, Chapman University announced Wednesday that a professor who participated in the pro-Trump rally the same day that a violent mob stormed the U.S. Capitol would retire immediately.

John Eastman, an endowed professor and constitutional law scholar at Chapman, spoke alongside Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani at the “Save America” rally Jan. 6, making the unsubstantiated claim that “secret folders” inside ballot-counting machines skewed both the presidential and Georgia Senate race results in Democrats’ favor.

Chapman President Daniele Struppa said in a statement that the university and Eastman had reached an agreement and Eastman would retire immediately. Both parties agreed not to take any kind of legal action, including over claims of defamation, which Eastman had alleged.

“Dr. Eastman’s departure closes this challenging chapter for Chapman and provides the most immediate and certain path forward for both the Chapman community and Dr. Eastman,” Struppa said in a statement.

More than 160 Chapman faculty members had signed a letter calling for the university’s faculty senate, provost, president and law school dean to take action against Eastman, including stripping him of his endowed professorship and removing him from teaching students.

Struppa had rejected demands to fire Eastman, saying that while Eastman’s actions and statements were in “direct opposition to the values and beliefs of our institution,” he was its president, not its “Supreme Leader,” and appropriate processes for investigating the actions of faculty must be followed.

In an emailed statement Wednesday, Eastman said it was “with mixed feeling” that he announced his retirement, noting that he spent his entire academic career at Chapman and that the university’s law school achieved its highest national ranking under his leadership.

But, he said, the faculty members who signed the letter calling for his termination had “created such a hostile environment for me that I no longer wish to be a member of the Chapman faculty.”

He called the letter “defamatory” and said the claims he made at the rally were factual. He also said it was “scurrilous” to claim he had participated in a riot.

“This charge is really an attempt to shut down the exercise of First Amendment rights,” he wrote.

Eastman said he would finish out his term as a visiting professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, then turn his focus to the Claremont Institute’s Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, which he directs.