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Professor Removed Then Reinstated Over Discussion on Race

December 17, 2019

Louisiana Tech University briefly removed an instructor of history from teaching over class discussions on race and other topics before reinstating him this month. The instructor, Michael Savage, did not immediately respond to an interview request. According to student and faculty accounts, Savage asked students in a course this quarter to reflect on what it’s like to wake up every day in the U.S. as someone of their respective racial group. The follow-up discussion included a discussion of colonization. A student’s parent allegedly complained to the administration about an intimidating learning environment, and Savage was removed as instructor for two sections of a world history course.

Drew McKevitt, an associate professor in Savage’s department, said on Twitter that Savage also faced a complaint from last quarter about introducing such topics as impeachment into class talks, and that this factored into his removal. McKevitt and other faculty members expressed concern about Savage’s academic freedom and due process internally and on social media last week as students petitioned for his reinstatement. Louisiana Tech said in a statement that it cannot discuss individual personnel matters but that it is "obligated to ensure that each student feels safe in the living and learning environment."

"We take student concerns seriously at the same time that we work to protect the individual right to free speech," the university said. "Fortunately in this instance, we were able to work toward a resolution that ensured this instructor remained in the classroom and that our students’ concerns for safety were heard."

V. Elaine Thompson, professor of history, confirmed that Savage was reinstated as she attributed the move to student action. Savage had the “full support of the history faculty all along,” Thompson said. “His pedagogy is sound and is completely in line with the standards of our profession. Academic freedom is key to maintaining free, open and safe communication in the classroom.”

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Colleen Flaherty

Colleen Flaherty, Reporter, covers faculty issues for Inside Higher Ed. Prior to joining the publication in 2012, Colleen was military editor at the Killeen Daily Herald, outside Fort Hood, Texas. Before that, she covered government and land use issues for the Greenwich Time and Hersam Acorn Newspapers in her home state of Connecticut. After graduating from McGill University in Montreal in 2005 with a degree in English literature, Colleen taught English and English as a second language in public schools in the Bronx, N.Y. She earned her M.S.Ed. from City University of New York Lehman College in 2008 as part of the New York City Teaching Fellows program. 

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