Online petition-signers are demanding that Ohio State University fire an administrator over a Facebook post seeking compassion for the perpetrator of a recent on-campus attack. That would be wrong. Perhaps especially in dark times, we need free speech.

Abdul Razak Ali Artan injured 11 people with a car and a knife Nov. 29 before a heroic police officer stopped his attack, fatally shooting him. The first-year OSU student was likely inspired by Islamist terrorists.

Stephanie Clemons Thompson reportedly took down her Facebook page, and the post being circulated could not be verified as authentic. But it apparently came after people began sharing images of Artan’s corpse.

The post urges people not to share those images or “celebrate” the death of Artan, a Muslim Somali refugee who came to the U.S. in 2014 with his family. “I pray you find compassion for his life, as troubled as it clearly was,” it says.

Thompson is an assistant director of residence life at OSU. A university spokesman said her post was “clearly … her own personal viewpoint.” Nevertheless, a petition asking OSU to fire Thompson got over 1,000 signatures. “We are disgusted,” the petition says, “that someone responsible for molding the minds of our future has the audacity to publicly promote such a dark and twisted narrative in the aftermath of this tragedy.”

Under the First Amendment, government institutions, including public universities, must not fire employees for speaking their minds. And college students aren’t there to have their minds passively molded; they are there to participate in an educational process built upon free inquiry. That inquiry extends beyond the classroom and the curriculum. A student’s time at a university is supposed to be devoted to it.

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