An Arizona community college profesor may lose his job for e-mailing George Washington’s Thanksgiving proclamation to fellow instructors, with a link to the web site where he found it. FIRE reports:
The Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD) has placed a professor on forced administrative leave and has recommended that he be terminated for e-mailing a Thanksgiving message to his colleagues last November. On the day before Thanksgiving, Professor Walter Kehowski sent out the text of George Washingtonâ€™s â€œThanksgiving Day Proclamation of 1789â€ and a link to the webpage where heâ€™d found it â€” on Pat Buchananâ€™s web log. After several recipients complained of being offended by the e-mail, MCCCD found Kehowski guilty of violating the districtâ€™s Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) policy and technology usage standards. Kehowski then contacted the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help.
The professor used the “announcements” listserv.
Within weeks, five MCCCD employees filed harassment charges against Kehowski, claiming his message was â€œhostileâ€ and â€œderogatoryâ€ because it contained a link to Buchananâ€™s website, where the conservative Buchanan had also posted his criticisms of immigration policies.
MCCCDâ€™s Initial Assessment found on January 3, 2007 that Kehowski was guilty of violating MCCCDâ€™s EEO policy and policies limiting e-mail usage to messages that â€œsupport education, research, scholarly communication, administration, and other MCCCD business.â€ These policies also prohibit â€œ[m]ailings to large numbers of people that contain unwanted solicitations or information.â€ However, MCCCD employees commonly use the â€œannouncementsâ€ listserv to send out unsolicited information. Recent e-mails sent over this very listserv include an advertisement for purchasing goats for orphans in Uganda, quotes about Womenâ€™s History Month, and a reminder about the health benefits of eating bananas.
FIRE points out that harassment is supposed to be severe enough to create a hostile environment. If instructors can’t handle a link to Pat Buchanan — let’s assume they weren’t objecting to George Washington — then they must be delicate souls indeed.