Category Archives: Academic freedom

November 2, 2011, 7:30 am

Was this professor really fired for being too tough?

From Utah, here’s a story about business prof Stephen Maranville who was denied tenure at Utah Valley University, apparently based on student complaints about his use of the Socratic Method. I won’t quote from the article because it’s short — read the whole thing — and because it sounds a lot like other cases where profs have found themselves on the wrong side of student and administrative graces because of grades or pedagogy or both.

Here are my thoughts on this.

1. It can’t be as simple as the meme of: Professor is tough -> Students complain -> Administration caves to student demands -> Prof gets fired. What actually happened in Maranville’s classes? Do we know? There are profs using the Socratic Method all the time, being tough and holding high standards with students not that different from UVU students, who don’t get complaints on this scale or lose tenure. Some of them are…

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July 27, 2009, 12:45 pm

The blogging VPAA?

I was thinking over the session coming up at Blog Indiana by John Oak Dalton titled “Chancellor 2.0″ which promises to address “existing and emerging obstacles of CEO-grade context” [sic? Was that supposed to be "content"?] for Twitter. In other words, it sounds like the session will be about how to get your college’s upper administration up and running with blogging and tweeting. I’m curious to see what Dalton makes of this, because his home institution seems to have embraced blogging and Twitter at a scale you don’t normally see from a university. Even the chancellor tweets.

I’d love to see more college administrators blogging or twittering, using their real names, making no secret of their institutions, and writing honestly about their successes and struggles in the work that they do. There’s no faster track to giving higher education a measure of transparency that it badly needs…

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August 5, 2008, 11:43 am

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, R.I.P.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Russian novelist and winner of the 1970 Nobel Prize for literature, died yesterday at the age of 89.

I have for a long time considered Solzhenitsyn to be one of my intellectual heroes. His novels moved me deeply, particularly One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, which at a slim 200 pages packs a more devastating  punch than most novels three times its length and has a place on my list of 10 Books that Changed My Life. His novel The First Circle is another favorite for its brutal clarity about life as an intellectual political prisoner in Stalinist Russia. All of his novels lead me into a deep appreciation of the freedoms which I too often take for granted today.

He combined his powerful writing with an authentic faith and moral courage which enabled him not only to stand up to the soul-crushing effects of political imprisonment but also to look Western…

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April 24, 2008, 5:53 am

Friedman gets a pie in the face

Seems like it’s been ages since we’ve heard of crazed left-wing university students throwing pies at speakers, so I’m almost nostalgic about this:

Brown University is condemning the actions of two people — at least one of whom is a student — who threw a pie-like substance Tuesday night at Thomas Friedman, a columnist for The New York Times who was speaking on the campus. Friedman took a few minutes to clean himself up, but continued his talk. Michael Chapman, vice president for public affairs and university relations, issued a statement in which he said: “Freedom of speech is prized on a university campus. While Brown students are encouraged to express their opinions on any subject and in a variety of forums, the university does not tolerate such assaults against a speaker or disrupting the right of others to hear a speaker’s perspectives.” The statement said that one of those …

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April 18, 2008, 10:26 am

The Pope's message to academia

Some quotes from the Inside Higher Ed article:

“At times, however, the value of the Church’s contribution to the public forum is questioned. It is important therefore to recall that the truths of faith and of reason never contradict one another. The Church’s mission, in fact, involves her in humanity’s struggle to arrive at truth. In articulating revealed truth she serves all members of society by purifying reason, ensuring that it remains open to the consideration of ultimate truths. Drawing upon divine wisdom, she sheds light on the foundation of human morality and ethics, and reminds all groups in society that it is not praxis that creates truth but truth that should serve as the basis of praxis.”

“Truth,” he continued a little later in his speech, “means more than knowledge: knowing the truth leads us to discover the good. Truth speaks to the individual in his or her…

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January 11, 2008, 9:35 pm

Tenure vs. contracts

I’m on the Promotion and Tenure Committee here, and my two colleagues and I on the committee just finished the first of two solid weeks of reviewing evaluation portfolios of all the faculty up for promotion, tenure, and annual review. It’s great fun. But seriously, I’ve been thinking a lot about tenure this week. In the more exasperating moments, I’ve wished that we were one of those colleges that doesn’t do tenure any more at all, but rather some kind of contract system.

First of all, that would make us rare. According to the blurb for this book on colleges without tenure, 97% of research universities and 99% of four-year public universities offer tenure — and apparently 91% of small private colleges (like mine). The number of colleges without tenure is small, but I think it’s growing. Certainly I hear a lot of rumbling among administrators (although I haven’t ever heard it among my…

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November 2, 2007, 8:00 am

Retrospective: Truth and consequences for Ward Churchill (7.25.2007)

Editorial: Today we have articles #10 and #11 in the weeklong retrospective series here at CO9s. The twelfth and final one will come tomorrow, and then it’ll be back to regular posting.

This article was written this past summer, just after Ward Churchill had been fired. Even before his firing, I really believed that the main issue in the Churchill saga had gotten lost. People were merely choosing sides — the lefties taking Churchill’s side (see the Peter Kerstein reference in the main article) and the righties reflexively going the other way. But I didn’t believe, nor do I believe now, that this was the right way to see it all. The main point was that the man lied — about himself, about his research, in the research itself that he purportedly — and falsely — claimed he did. That he did so is on the public record and beyond dispute. That some would whitewash the fact by making him a…

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July 25, 2007, 9:00 am

Truth and consequences for Ward Churchill

Ward Churchill has been fired:

More than two and a half years after Ward Churchill’s writings on 9/11 set off a furor, and more than a year after a faculty panel at the University of Colorado at Boulder found him guilty of repeated, intentional academic misconduct, the University of Colorado Board of Regents voted 8-1 Tuesday evening to fire him.The vote followed a special, all-day meeting of the board, in which it heard in private from Churchill, a faculty panel and from Hank Brown, president of the University of Colorado System, who in May recommended dismissing Churchill from his tenured post. The regents emerged from their private deliberations at around 5:30 p.m. Colorado time and voted to fire Churchill, but they did not discuss their views and they quickly adjourned. A small group of Churchill supporters in the audience shouted “bullshit” as the board vote was announced.While…

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July 19, 2007, 5:37 am

More on that Zogby poll

Peter Wood at the National Association of Scholars has a response to critics of the recent Zogby poll in which 58% of those polled said that the political bias of college professors is a “serious problem”. (Backgrounder here.)

Predictably, many of the critics quoted in Wood’s article dismiss the results of the poll on the basis that the respondents are mainly dumb, uneducated (which here means “didn’t go to college”) white people who have been duped by conservative talk radio. Wouldn’t you be distrustful of a group of people who claim to love free inquiry and then turn around and dismiss you out-of-hand as an idiot whenever you express disagreement? Or claim to value equal rights and justice, but then make the level of one’s education as a litmus test for the quality of their ideas?

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July 17, 2007, 5:04 am

Tuesday morning linkage

Morning, everyone. Here are some quickies for your early Tuesday enjoyment:

George Will comments in the WaPo about Antioch College. Here’s a sample:

During the campus convulsions of the late 1960s, when rebellion against any authority was considered obedience to every virtue, the film “To Die in Madrid,” a documentary about the Spanish Civil War, was shown at a small liberal arts college famous for, and vain about, its dedication to all things progressive. When the film’s narrator intoned, “The rebels advanced on Madrid,” the students, who adored rebels and were innocent of information, cheered. Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, had been so busy turning undergraduates into vessels of liberalism and apostles of social improvement that it had not found time for the tiresome task of teaching them tedious facts, such as that the rebels in Spain were Franco’s fascists.

It gets better…

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