SUNY Fredonia’s president denied promotion to a well-regarded professor because of his criticisms of university policy, states FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education).
(Stephen) Kershnar, an associate professor of philosophy, was nominated for promotion to full professor in January 2006, with strong support from his colleagues, department head, and top administrators, because of his outstanding professional record. An outspoken member of the Fredonia community, Kershnar writes a bi-weekly column for the local newspaper, in which he questioned Fredonia’s affirmative action practices and examined the lack of conservatives in higher education. In 2005, Kershnar publicly condemned a new rule that targets students who fail to report violations of the student conduct code. He was quoted in a Buffalo News article saying the new policy would “turn the student population into a group of snitches.”
SUNY Fredonia President Dennis L. Hefner issued a letter to the university community defending the conduct policy against “media misrepresentations.”
A few weeks later, the president sent a letter denying Kershnar’s promotion.
Hefner explained that although Kershnar’s “teaching has been described as excellent,” he would not be promoted because of his “deliberate and repeated misrepresentations of campus policies and procedures…to the media,” which Hefner claimed “impugned the reputation of SUNY Fredonia.”
Kershnar told FIRE that Hefner subsequently “suggested that he would approve the promotion if Kershnar agreed to refrain from such statements in the future.” The professor offered to submit his written statements to a “Prior-Consent Committee,” which would decide if he was deliberately misrepresenting facts. Hefner proposed requiring “unanimous consent” from a university committee for all writing regarding the university. Kershnar rejected this and turned to FIRE for help.
Under FIRE, Hefner sent a new denial of promotion letter removing all reference to Kershnar’s statements. The letter says Kershnar’s teaching is excellent and his publications sufficient but the “quantity and quality of your performance in the area of service is inadequate for early promotion to full professor.”
I believe that means insufficient toadying.
Of course, if he’d been teaching that Dick Cheney, the pope and Mickey Mouse had blown up the World Trade Center, he’d be untouchable.
Update: Arguing about Israel with Palestinian students at a student activities fair can get an adjunct professor fired, without a hearing. That falls under insufficient toadying to students.