Gay professor assaulted for recording anti-Israel encampment helps students in 'the new closet'

University of Washington rehired Stuart Reges, whose head injury is healing, to three-year contract amid lawsuit over "land acknowledgment" parody punishment, but only lets him teach small electives. "They have to give me something to do."

Published: May 19, 2024 9:58pm

It's not common to find faculty wandering into anti-Israel protests and encampments on college campuses who aren't known allies of the protesters.

What happened to the University of Washington's Stuart Reges, an increasingly prominent irritant of the administration and progressive campus activists, might explain why.

Video shows an unknown assailant striking the iconoclastic computer science instructor on the head as Reges recently filmed UW's encampment, which Reges told Just the News sent him to the campus hospital for six hours.

"They said I had a 'significant hematoma' but the CT scan showed no bleeding in the brain, so they said I should be fine," he wrote in an email. 

It was the second knock against his free expression that Reges received in the span of a few days. 

A federal judge threw out his lawsuit against UW for retaliation in response to the parody "land acknowledgment" Reges put on his Introduction to Computer Science syllabus – itself his response to UW encouraging faculty to acknowledge the Coast Salish people's historic ownership of campus land in their syllabi.

The taxpayer-funded university unilaterally removed and reposted a sanitized version of the syllabus and banned Reges from teaching the required introductory course as well as an honors section. 

U.S. District Judge John Chun deemed that his syllabus, which said the Coast Salish cannot claim most of UW's land under John Locke's "labor theory of property," caused a "significant disruption" that justified UW's actions and "outweigh[ed]" Reges' First Amendment interests.

"The Court’s decision makes clear that the removal of Stuart Reges’ anti-inclusive land acknowledgment from a Winter 2022 course syllabus in response to the disruption and difficulties it caused to students, faculty, and staff was legal and appropriate," UW spokesperson Victor Balta told Just the News. "We are hopeful this puts an end to his meritless legal action."

Before his first brush with sanctions at UW – demotion for penning an essay in 2020 titled "Why Women Don't Code" – Reges was a local celebrity for his practice of baking cookies for the roughly 1,000-student intro course on finals day. 

He's not the only gay instructor with a sweet tooth who leaves his administration with a sour taste.

California's Madera Community College suspended David Richardson for handing out "Jeremy's Chocolate" bars, which affirm the sexual binary, at a department open house. It cleared him in January, just as the history professor told Just the News in November he was expecting. 

Richardson was already suing the district for reprimanding him for choosing "Do, Re, Mi" gender pronouns in a Zoom webinar on pronoun etiquette, which offended a transgender colleague. A federal judge dismissed the suit earlier this month, finding no ongoing or likely-to-recur harm, or an explanation from Richardson on "exactly how he has self-censored" in response.

Reges, who challenged Stanford's president as an undergraduate for "constantly talk[ing] about diversity" without mentioning gays, says he's emerged as a refuge for "conservative, libertarian, and religious students who feel the need to lead a double life," trapped in "the new closet."

He's the faculty sponsor for the Turning Point USA chapter, which hosted the conservative campus network's founder, Charlie Kirk, for a May 7 event that drew violent opposition, as well as Students for Life of America chapter Huskies for Preborn Lives, whose display was vandalized and president assaulted last fall. SFLA President Kristan Hawkins spoke on campus in March.

"I have more students than ever before coming to me to discuss their concerns," who feel left out of UW's pledge to create a community "where everyone can bring their whole self to campus," Reges said.

He put a target on his back by shooting and narrating lengthy videos of the encampment, sharing them with local talk radio host Jason Rantz. 

Participants recognize him, warning others to raise their masks, and surround Reges with umbrellas and signs to block the video. "You guys are the ones not obeying regulations," he told a protester who asked him to leave.

"Stuart Reges is here," an organizer warns what appears to be a teach-in, telling others to mask up and raise umbrellas. Occasionally, self-styled encampment security guards follow him.

His luck ran out May 7, as shown by video Reges gave Just the News

Twenty seconds after an encampment participant yelled "we got a doxxer coming through" a public space with no expectation of privacy, an off-camera assailant struck Reges in front of witnesses "very hard in the head," as he narrated while picking up his camera. 

"Are you alright?" one asks. "No," Reges responds. "They are not affiliated with us, we are not here to attack people … That's why they ran off," a masked man tells Reges, who asked him if "Antifa people" were there. "No comment," the man responded.

Reges continued recording for another several minutes, mostly surrounded by umbrellas. He said he went to the hospital later because he developed "disturbing complications."

"I filed a police report and said that I would want to press charges, but we don't know who did it. I suspect that the protestors know the guy, but they're not talking," Reges told Just the News. He said the police won't enter the encampment "unless they see something very extreme."

"We take all assaults seriously" and "the case is pending identification of the suspect," Balta, the UW spokesperson, told Just the News.

While UW President Ana Mari Cauce has declined to clear the "unauthorized" squatting, she expressed exasperation with protesters in a recent statement, denouncing "vile and antisemitic" language in chants and signs

Encampment representatives made "a series of changing and escalating demands" that would violate academic freedom and possibly the law, she wrote, including a new department with an "anti-Zionist" faculty hiring litmus test, student-overseen "religion-based" UW scholarships and "blanket amnesty for all violations" of law and student code.

Multiple buildings were vandalized with "offensive … antisemitic and violent" graffiti overnight, Cauce said. "Much to my dismay … the representatives also said the new graffiti is an intentional escalation to compel the University to agree to their demands." 

Reges occupies an odd place at UW. He said the university gave him a standard three-year contract renewal in December 2023 but only lets him teach smaller electives – this quarter, two classes with a combined 63 students.

"It feels like I am in a holding pattern and they are as well," he wrote in an email. "They have to give me something to do" and "still recommend my textbook and teach the material using my pedagogy, but they won't allow me to teach it myself."

He pointed to a winter 2022 email chain among administrators, obtained in legal discovery, that shows them debating whether to censor another Reges choice for an Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering honors course titled "Meta, Memes, Math and More."

Reges told students they would be reading and discussing "Bad News: How Woke Media Is Undermining Democracy" by Newsweek deputy opinion editor Batya Ungar-Sargon.

"Under the new principle of 'nobody should be forced to take a class from Stuart'" after the syllabus dustup, Vice Director Dan Grossman suggested, students could "delay their honors seminar to next quarter when someone else is leading it." 

Grossman urged others "not to restrict the book choice here," given the "range of provocative readings" in other Allen School seminars. Director Magdalena Balazinska agreed with the delay option "if possible," and if not, "ask someone to run an additional offering of the seminar."

"Professor Reges remains a Teaching Professor at the University of Washington and has the same academic freedom as all faculty," Balta told Just the News.

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