(CN) – A Texas professor was not defamed by his community college president’s opinion that the professor might be the kind of person who will “shoot up a dorm,” a state appeals court ruled.
The contentious relationship between tenured biology professor Gerald Sansing and Del Mar College president Carlos Garcia came to a head at a public meeting in 2006, when Garcia stated that there were “a handful of individuals” who were “interested in tearing this community college down.”
In Sansing’s response during the public comments session, he took the president’s statement as a direct jab at him.
One week later, Sansing sent Garcia an email explaining his public response. “I stated that if I were trying to destroy Del Mar College, there would not be a brick still standing,” he wrote. “It appears that you have been doing the destroying and that several of us ‘little people’ have been trying with every fiber of our bodies to prevent you from accomplishing your destruction.”
Garcia addressed Sansing’s email 10 days later at a faculty council meeting:
“If you ever had an employee who or an individual who shoots up a dorm … that does something damaging to the institution, they always leave clues behind,” he said.
Sansing sued Garcia for slander, fraud and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The trial court dismissed the case, and the 13th District Texas Court of Appeals in Corpus Christi affirmed the decision.
“Garcia’s opinions are clearly an expression of his belief,” Chief Justice Valdez wrote. “A reasonable reading of Garcia’s entire remarks shows that he was conveying his belief that Sansing’s comments and conduct were inappropriate,” Valdez ruled.