Kenneth E. Hardy, 45, a college professor contesting his dismissal over use of racial epithets in a classroom discussion, died Saturday in Louisville, Ky., of lung cancer.
Hardy taught four years at Jefferson Community College, but was not rehired for the summer of 1998 after a black female student complained that one of his communication classes included a discussion of racial slurs and sexist epithets.
Hardy sued, charging that he had been wrongly terminated for conducting a class discussion on the power of language, including the effect of epithets.
The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals cleared the suit for trial--a ruling the U.S. Supreme Court let stand two months ago by refusing to hear the case.
The appellate justices said that in their opinion "the 1st Amendment tolerates neither laws nor other means of intimidation that cast a pall of orthodoxy over the free exchange of ideas in the classroom."
Adrienne Regnier, Hardy's widow and a Jefferson College philosophy professor, said she will proceed with her husband's case.