Professionalism and the professor I

Professionalism and the professor
I figured Michael Ballou, who assigned students to write a “kill the president” e-mail, wouldn’t be rehired to teach government at Santa Rosa Junior College. After all, he’s a part-timer without tenure.

Amritas discovered that I’m wrong: College lawyers say Ballou has the right to retain his job, despite what the college president called “ridiculous” and “unprofessional” behavior. The Santa Rosa Press-Democrat reports:

Saying he was “ashamed and embarrassed,” Santa Rosa Junior College President Robert Agrella Wednesday called an instructor’s “kill the president” class assignment ridiculous but said the teacher cannot be dismissed for it.

Without naming him, Agrella in a prepared statement said that part-time political science instructor Michael Ballou had shown “unprofessional behavior” by jeopardizing students and using “the classroom lectern as a bully pulpit to espouse personal political leanings.”

Agrella said Ballou can’t be fired because he has free-speech rights. That seems nuts to me. Surely, professionalism is a job requirement. Ballou has the free-speech right to advocate his personal political biases, recite The Faerie Queen or sing “Muskrat Love” — but not when he’s being paid to teach a government class. The real issue is the union contract: Ballou “has the right to continue classroom instruction as long as he has a satisfactory evaluation in his personnel files, according to both an administrator and a faculty union representative.”

When an instructor engages in “ridiculous” and “unprofessional” conduct, and proclaims himself “unrepentant,” it’s time for a new evaluation.

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