The University of Missouri Board of Curators announced Tuesday that it has rejected an appeal from Melissa Click, an assistant professor at the university's Columbia campus, of the board's February decision to fire her. Click was given the right to file an appeal, which she did. She was fired based on two incidents, both videotaped. In one, she blocked the access of a student journalist to campus protesters even though they were in an open area on a public campus. In the other, the board determined that she interfered with a police officer trying to maintain order amid a protest during a parade.
Pamela Henrickson, chair of the University of Missouri Board of Curators, said that “in the board’s view, her appeal brought no new relevant information to the curators.” The board’s full rejection of the appeal may be found here.
In her appeal, Click wrote in part, “In my participation and in my actions on both days I firmly believe I was exercising my protected rights as a United States citizen and a citizen of the state of Missouri. I steadfastly believe it would be a violation of my First Amendment rights and my rights to academic freedom to suggest that my interactions on either day provide grounds for the termination of my employment. Additionally, I believe that your decision to terminate my employment without due process in the form of a fair hearing by a faculty body violates my contract of employment with the University of Missouri.”
The American Association of University Professors has questioned the decision to fire Click, and many observers expect the case to end up in court.
The 23 majors, which represent a quarter of the university’s programs, were chosen based on their low enrollment numbers. The university hopes the change will save $900,000 by 2020, and the savings will be invested in higher-growth programs.
The university has promised that faculty members won’t face layoffs or reductions in hours as a result of the cuts. While students will no longer be able to major in certain programs, lower-level classes will still exist in some cases. And in the meantime, all current students enrolled in one of the 23 majors will be able to finish their studies.
The university’s board voted on the change in January, going against the recommendation of a faculty and staff committee. The News Journal noted that the cuts were made “quietly,” a characterization that the university disputes. “There was a lot of discussion,” university spokesman Carlos Holmes told NewsWorks. “It was quiet to the News Journal because they didn’t attend the board meeting.”
Liberal arts majors, like foreign language and education programs, suffered most of the cuts. The savings will go toward programs like criminal justice, agriculture and applied chemistry.
Since the decision was finalized, some faculty members praised the changes, arguing that the scrapped programs were barely in use, while others argued that the programs were vitally important despite their low enrollment numbers. "The university used a hatchet instead of a scalpel to make cuts," Samuel Hoff, a professor of history and political science, said in an email. "The cuts are hurting students in the areas eliminated. The university is measuring efficiency entirely by numbers and profit rather than by learning, performance and consistency with DSU’s mission."
The University of Minnesota’s top faculty committee voted 7 to 2 last week to provisionally support a statement backing free speech on campus as the institution’s “paramount value,” according to The Washington Post. Dale Carpenter, Distinguished University Teaching Professor and Earl R. Larson Professor of Civil Rights & Civil Liberties Law at the University of Minnesota Law School, wrote in a guest blog post that the resolution adopted by the Faculty Consultative Committee (of which he is a part), has requested input on the statement from Minnesota’s president, provost, Student Senate and other groups, but was moved to affirm free speech rights in light of recent on-campus incidents.
In November, pro-Palestinian protesters -- three of whom were arrested -- repeatedly disrupted a speech by Moshe Halbertal, a law professor from Hebrew University in Jerusalem. And last academic year, the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action investigated and questioned the judgment of professors involved in a panel on free speech who promoted it using a Charlie Hebdo cover featuring Muhammad (the inquiry was prompted by student, faculty and external complaints).
The committee’s statement reads, in part, “Ideas are the lifeblood of a free society and universities are its beating heart. If freedom of speech is undermined on a university campus, it is not safe anywhere. The University of Minnesota resolves that the freedom of speech is, and will always be, safe at this institution.” The statement says that protecting free speech means embracing the following principles:
A public university must be absolutely committed to protecting free speech, both for constitutional and academic reasons.
Free speech includes protection for speech that some find offensive, uncivil or even hateful.
Free speech cannot be regulated on the ground that some speakers are thought to have more power or more access to the mediums of speech than others.
Even when protecting free speech conflicts with other important university values, free speech must be paramount.
A university spokesperson noted via email Monday that in a speech earlier this month, President Eric Kaler said that "the University of Minnesota promotes a climate of open, thoughtful and civil debate among our campus community. We encourage all to speak with respect and understanding of others, but we should not forbid speech that shocks, hurts or angers. Professor Carpenter's notion that, 'The best response to offensive ideas is to counter them with better ideas,' is spot on. If there is any space in society for that, it’s the university."
The spokesman also said that the committee's resolution is "the beginning of a dialogue in [the committee] with an objective of reaching a consensus that effects the input of a broad cross section of campus."
Amy Donahue, an assistant professor of philosophy at Kennesaw State University, was arrested Friday in the Georgia Capitol for protesting the state’s proposed concealed campus carry law, similar to the one recently passed -- against faculty and administrative concerns -- in Texas. State troopers handcuffed and arrested Donahue for disruption of the General Assembly and obstruction of an officer for holding a 22-by-28-inch sign opposing the legislation, which later passed the Georgia Senate, the Savannah Morning News reported. (The bill next goes to Governor Nathan Deal, who could sign it into law.)
Donahue was allowed to enter the building with her sign and visited an additional floor before she was arrested, according to the Morning News. The paper reported that groups routinely bring signs into the building, and Donahue’s arrest angered the Georgia First Amendment Foundation, whose executive director, Hollie Manheimer, said in a statement, "It appears this citizen was trying to express herself, but instead was arrested. Law enforcement operated under a criminal statute, even though there seems to have been no evidence that the citizen was obstructing the hallway or any area at all, with the intent to cause disruption.”
But a spokesperson from Kennesaw State suggested otherwise. Tammy DeMel told the Morning News, “We have the utmost respect for the General Assembly, and while we support appropriate expressions of opinion, we do not condone the disruptive activities associated with this incident.” Donahue was charged with two misdemeanors and released on a $2,000 bond. Via email, Donahue declined immediate comment.
The Human Terrain System was controversial throughout its history -- and that history may still be going on. The program set off intense debates among anthropologists and other social scientists when the U.S. Army in 2005-6 introduced the idea of embedding scholars with military units in Iraq and Afghanistan. The theory was that these scholars would help military leaders understand tribal groups and potentially reduce danger to civilians and the military. But many scholars viewed the program as violating their professional ethics and cheered the news last year that the program had been shut down.
But USA Today reported last week that the program remains alive and that the Army has simply kept it quiet. (The Army isn't talking.)
The news prompted the American Anthropological Association to call for the program to be shut down completely once and for all. "The fact is that when social science research is done at gunpoint, with researchers surrounded by armed combatants, it is coercive, professionally irresponsible and highly unlikely to yield reliable and accurate results," said a statement from the association.
In any Ph.D. job search, if there is an application process, you should read the instructions before you do anything, writes Natalie Lundsteen. You should take your time, be thoughtful and follow directions.