Michigan State University should not have removed a professor from classroom teaching based on a video showing him making anti-Republican statements, the university's chapter of the American Association of University Professors says in a statement released Tuesday. Video of William Penn making comments about Republicans led the university to remove him from the classroom. The AAUP statement says that the association "affirms the importance of mutual respect in faculty-student interactions," and the statement does not rule out the possibility that Penn's conduct was inappropriate. But the AAUP says that "a video, however apparently conclusive as evidence of offensive statements or disrespect to students, is not an adequate basis for immediate punitive action against a professor."
The statement continues: "A professor may well experiment with modes of presentation meant to shock. We are not prepared to agree that no professor may do that in the exercise of judgment about means of engaging students. We do not believe that what we know from the release of the video is sufficient as a basis to conclude that Professor Penn should not continue to receive the protections afforded by academic freedom. Indeed, we are concerned by the suggestion that one ten-minute video taken by a student of a professor in a class can be the basis for abbreviating the process leading to suspension of the professor from teaching responsibilities. The harm of a professor's controversial approach to stimulating students’ response, expressing his own take on one 'identity,' is minor compared with the chill on the classroom that arises from a rush to judgment in which there has not been an open fact-finding process or deliberation by a faculty body."
The University of Denver went ahead Monday night with its plans to honor President George W. Bush, as a protest went ahead outside the event, The Denver Post reported. Bush appeared at a fund-raising event (closed to the press) for the university's Josef Korbel School of International Studies. Anger over the award first surfaced this summer, when word spread that the university was going to honor Bush for "improving the human condition." The university then announced that it would change the award so that it would honor the former president's "global service." That change did not satisfy those who picketed outside the event. They held signs saying things such as "No Awards for War Criminals" and "The Iraq War Is Not a Global Service."
Johns Hopkins University on Monday asked a faculty member to remove a blog post, citing national security issues, and then several hours later said that he could restore the post, and that no national security issues were raised. The post was about the National Security Agency privacy debates and encryption engineering. The removal and restoration of the blog post were discussed on the Twitter feed of the faculty member, Matthew Green, and also in an article in ProPublica. The article noted ties between Hopkins and the NSA.
In an e-mail to Inside Higher Ed, a Hopkins spokesman, Dennis O'Shea, said the following: "The university received information this morning that Matthew Green’s blog contained a link or links to classified material and also used the NSA logo. For that reason, we asked Professor Green to remove the Johns Hopkins-hosted mirror site for his blog. Upon further review, we note that the NSA logo has been removed and that he appears to link to material that has been published in the news media. Interim Dean Andrew Douglas has informed Professor Green that the mirror site may be restored."
O'Shea said that "we did not receive any inquiry from the federal government about the blog or any request from the government to take down the mirror site." He said it was not yet clear how Hopkins was informed of Green's blog post.
Jay Rosen, a journalism professor at New York University, said via e-mail that he had doubts about the explanation from Hopkins. He said when a professor is told to remove a blog post that criticizes a government agency with which a university works, one should question why such a request was made. Further, he said that the university owes the public an explanation of how it became concerned. "The university also says that it doesn't know who originally raised the concerns. Really? Why not ask the dean? He would know, right?"
A History News Network poll of historians at highly rated colleges and universities have found that they give President Obama a B- grade on his performance as president. The historians were asked to grade the president in 15 categories. He earned the highest grades (all A-) in communication ability, Supreme Court appointments, integrity and crisis management. He earned his lowest grades in transparency and accountability (C+) and relationship with Congress (C).
In today’s Academic Minute, Stefan Lüpold of Syracuse University explain how females of certain species can pick the father of their offspring after mating with multiple males. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit last week gave a lift to free speech rights for faculty members at public colleges and universities by ruling that a 2006 Supreme Court decision does not limit those rights. Instead, the appeals court found that a more general First Amendment analysis protects those rights. The 2006 ruling, in Garcetti v. Ceballos, limited the speech rights of public employees. But the decision, which concerned the Los Angeles district attorney's office, noted that the ruling did not deal with identical issues to those found in public higher education. Despite that, some courts have been applying the ruling to faculty disputes at public universities -- while others have not. Faculty leaders have been pushing for clarification of university policies as a way to protect free speech rights amid the uncertain legal environment.
Last week's ruling, which essentially adopted the position of faculty groups with regard to Garcetti, came in a lawsuit by David Demers, a professor who says he was retaliated against with negative performance reviews for writings that criticized the administration. A lower court, citing Garcetti, rejected the suit, which has now been revived by the appeals court. The appeals court sent the case back to the district court, however, and did not determine whether retaliation had taken place.