AAUP Questions Removal of Michigan State Professor From Classroom

September 11, 2013

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."


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