Stripping a Professor of Tenure Over a Blog Post

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by jnpy!$4g3cwk, Feb 9, 2015.

  1. jnpy!$4g3cwk macrumors 65816

    jnpy!$4g3cwk

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    #1
    http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/02/stripping-a-professor-of-tenure-over-a-blog-post/385280/

    I do consider Professor McAdams post to be ill-considered. All the same, I think the Marquette University response was bizarre:

    How can anyone ever write anything, if they are now responsible not only for what they wrote, but, for what someone else might anonymously respond? So much for freedom.
     
  2. Renzatic Suspended

    Renzatic

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    #2
    There's a lot more to this than meets the eye. To drill it down to the bare nuts and bolts.

    The topic of gay marriage comes up in discussion during a philosophy class. The teacher, Mrs. Abbate, challenges any student who disagrees with the assertions made during class to come up to speak with her afterwards.

    One student steps forward, and makes a good point alongside a misguided one. The teacher records the conversation, with the intentions of "showing it to his/her superiors".

    Now you could argue the student is wrong is his/her opinion, but what Mrs. Abbate did was rather petty in and of itself. Bating students who disagree with an option into speaking their mind in order to "mark" them, so to speak. Ultimately though, it's beside the point.

    Mr. McAdams comes across the conversation, and decides to post a transcript of it on his blog, without redacting the name of the teacher involved. It isn't so much that he had an opinion on what she did, so much as he called her out by name in a public forum, which drew a lot of negative attention towards her. Bit of a faux pas there.

    Now if this were an isolated incident, I'd say that stripping this teacher of his tenure, and firing him would be way overkill, and, like you said, set a dangerous precedent. It'd be something deserving of a public apology, and a good chewing out, but nothing more than that so long as it remains an isolated incident.

    ...which apparently it wasn't. According to Mrs. Abbates, this is a usual tactic of his. According to her, he was fired not for this one blog post, but for repeated incidences. These are her words, and there's no other proof of this beyond, but it does muddy the waters a bit.

    The one thing I gather most from all this is that a lot of intelligent people who should know better are being ridiculously petty across the board.
     
  3. mojolicious macrumors 68000

    mojolicious

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    #3
    It was the student rather than Ms Abbate who made the recording.
     
  4. Renzatic Suspended

    Renzatic

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    #4
    Crap, you're right. Well, she's pretty much an innocent in all of this then.
     
  5. FrankieTDouglas macrumors 65816

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    #5
    Why is academia so petty?

    Because the stakes are so low.
     
  6. sim667 macrumors 65816

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    #6
    In the UK this would be in breach of the data protection policy, and illegal.

    I'd imagine that america has a similar kind of laws and maybe the blogger actually fell foul of that.
     
  7. TimelessOne macrumors regular

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    #7
    So it was the straw that broke the camels back so to speak. I kind of had the same thought that there was a lot more to this that what the media reports. The truth is a lot less interesting as the firing makes sense when you add everything up.
     
  8. aaronvan Suspended

    aaronvan

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    #8
    I thought it was next to impossible to strip someone of tenure. Remember Ward Churchill? It took the university forever to get rid of that whacko even after they had irrefutable evidence of plagiarism.
     
  9. dsnort macrumors 68000

    dsnort

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    #9
    That whole "Freedom of Speech" thing becomes a lot trickier when people start deciding what speech can be free and what can't.

    This is 'Murica. Whacko's get special protections.
     
  10. Huntn macrumors G5

    Huntn

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    #10
    I skim read the Atlantic article and on that basis it was hard to decipher, but I admit that was all the effort I was willing put into it. The crime is that this (I assume) conservative professor took an issue with the person teaching the class, because she limited discussion regarding objections to gay marriage in a class on ethics? ? So he splashed her name in his blog bringing the ire of conservatives down upon her? And by the second link, this was not the first time he had done this? Am I close?

    If I am, and the professor has a habit of doing this, censor might have been prudent. Apparantly the student who tape recorded the conversation violated the law.- no charges? Is there a law about printing the names of a person with the intent of bringing scorn upon them?
     
  11. skunk macrumors G4

    skunk

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  12. TimelessOne macrumors regular

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    #12
    This is yet another case of people confusing freedom of speech with freedom of consequences.
    This is an example of consequences. We have freedom of speech. We do not have freedom of consequences of our speech.
     
  13. samiwas macrumors 65816

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    #13
    Even moreso, it's a confusion of what "freedom of speech" actually means. And a LOT of people don't seem to. You do not have freedom of speech in private situations, and Marquette University is a private organization. They are not bound by any freedom of speech doctrine.

    And, as Timeless says, you can't be jailed for your speech, but you can sure as hell be ostracized or fired for it. Nothing, including the Constitution, protects you from that.
     
  14. hulugu macrumors 68000

    hulugu

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    #14
    The arguments that Holz used are incompatible with the structure of tenure, however, McAdams deserves censor for exposing the name and identity of a graduate student.

    Wisconsin is a "one-party" state, so recording a conversation is allowed without the knowledge of all involved.

    Well, there are standards that define defamation (libel and slander), but in the United States both are protected by standards of truth. If something is true, you are protected.

    Here, I think that the Professor should be protected. He shouldn't have posted the name of the graduate student, but he should not be held responsible if someone on the Internet decides to attack an individual using social media.
     
  15. kds1 Suspended

    kds1

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    #15
    Not to be "that guy" but I think the word you guys want to be using is "censure", not "censor".
     
  16. VulchR, Feb 10, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2015

    VulchR macrumors 68020

    VulchR

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    #16
    The recording of the conversation would be if it were deemed in a private place. However, I doubt a hallway in a public building would qualify. As for blogging, it would not be illegal any more than a newspaper story would be. The blog was about a person acting on behalf of the University, not about the private details of a student. This is a matter of McAdams being rude and spreading gossip, and possibly harassment, but not data protection.

    And by the way, Thatcher abolished tenure in UK universities.

    Absolutely. I wonder how many of Marquette University's students are expelled for writing disparaging or inaccurate comments about academic staff on the 'Rate my Professor' web site, Facebook groups, etc. I am a faculty member of a UK university and students write demonstrably false (and sometimes quite hurtful) things about me every year. What's good for the faculty is good for the students...

    Nazi Germany removed many Jewish academics under the pretense of antivivasection. There are other examples of academics with unpopular views being hounded out of their academic positions not because of their research or their teaching, but because they held controversial views. I knew two such academics, both of whom were hounded out of positions or blacklisted because they were 'communists' (actually, they were socialists, and being a member of the Communist Party has never been illegal). Freedom of speech has to be guarded ferociously in an academic environment. Otherwise, universities will not be guided by seeking the truth, but by reinforcing orthodoxy. If you enjoy that sort of thing, I suggest you consider what universities are like in totalitarian or corrupt countries.
     
  17. jnpy!$4g3cwk thread starter macrumors 65816

    jnpy!$4g3cwk

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    #17
    Hmm. TA's are not ordinary students-- they are (about 8% ?) professor. They may have teaching responsibilities, offices (probably shared with several others), may or may not have labor rights (mostly not). But, their identities are not secret.

    OTOH, because they are not professors, either, and professors are always right, there is a certain privacy you would expect while being corrected by a professor.

    In any case, it turned out that this wasn't an isolated incident, so, one would need the full picture in order to judge properly. I still don't like the school's statement about it, though.

    ----------

    You've got me there. I was being sloppy. Freedom of speech in an academic and tenure sense, freedom of speech in a constitutional sense, and freedom of speech in an everyday "this is a free country" sense are all different things. Related, but, different.

    No, but, they are bound by the contract that they and the professor signed regarding tenure. He might have gone somewhere else, that respected tenure more, if he realized how easily it could be lost at Marquette. In the tenure sense, tenured professors are awarded some level of "freedom of speech."

    ----------

    Occasionally I have stumbled across these on the web. Amazing to read descriptions of a class instructor and try to imagine that the descriptions are about the same person. Sometimes the same person is both highly organized and bumbling and disorganized, an easy and a hard grader, funny and humorless, etc. Of course, you can see the same thing on Yelp.
     
  18. VulchR macrumors 68020

    VulchR

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    #18
    It's hard to satisfy all the students, but we try hard at my university. The problem is that it can lead to a conspiracy between students and staff to dumb things down....

    In any case, I am not sure what to think about the case that forms this thread. It sounds like McAdams might have committed harassment, but that conclusion should come after a due process in which McAdams is allowed to present his side of things. As for the TA involved, I think that she made a mistake out of inexperience. I do not believe it ever helps to preclude a discussion - I just warn my students that if we are going to discuss controversial topics that I will raise the research evidence without regard to their delicate sensibilities regarding their personal world view. Most students are reasonable and seem to accept that.

    The one thing I do not understand is why Marquette University has not gone after the people who sent the harassing e-mails to the TA. If they were students, they should have been expelled. Moreover, some of the e-mails the TA lists on her blog site seem worthy of criminal investigation.
     
  19. sim667 macrumors 65816

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    #19
    Well no students are secret. But for my to disclose any of my students information, or even confirm to anyone that they come to my college I have to get written permission off the student, or off the parent if they're under 18.

    If I wrote a blog post basically naming and shaming one of my students, I wouldn't just expect to be fired, I would also expect to be fined by the data commissioners office.
     
  20. FrankieTDouglas macrumors 65816

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    #20
    Are you referring to McAdams or Abbates' lack of freedom of consequences for their free speech? Both suffered a negative reaction to their views. One person was fired by the higher ups, one was defended by the higher ups.

    This! All of this.
     
  21. TimelessOne macrumors regular

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    #21
    You forgot a key part.
    One made a personal attack on a person on the Web blog multiple times the other did not.
    The one making the attack on the Web was fired the other one was not.

    It was not the views that got the guy fired. It was the public attack that did.

    Do not confuse those 2.
    The conservative see oh he is against gay marriage that is why he got fired. Not the fact that he made attacks on his blog and apparently multiple times threw his history do safe to assume he had been warned not to do it more than once.
     
  22. jnpy!$4g3cwk thread starter macrumors 65816

    jnpy!$4g3cwk

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    #22
    I'm not defending the prof, and, certainly not because he is "conservative". But, I do see a lot of value in the practice of academic tenure. Blogs are a new phenomenon and we see over and over that people have had a difficult time figuring out what the rules of permissible behavior are.

    I do have a big problem with Marquette explicitly blaming the prof for a bunch of random threatening emails sent by others.

    It may be, as you say, that the prof had already made this mistake and had been cautioned about it. If that is the case, Marquette should have stated that clearly instead of what it did say, quoted in the original post.
     
  23. TimelessOne macrumors regular

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    #23
    Look at post #2 of this thread. It turns out this is a normal thing for this professor who got fired and that he was warned not to do it before.
    This just happen to be the straw the broke the camels back so to speak. Now the media is leaving out that key piece of information and big time in this story because as soon as you put that in the firing goes from being an out rage to OH he had it coming and it becomes much more justified.

    If it was a one time deal it would be one thing but this was done by the guy multiple times so it really changes how it should be looked at.
     
  24. roadbloc macrumors G3

    roadbloc

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    #24
    I disagree with this nonsense. Somebody here made a big mistake.
     
  25. FieldingMellish Suspended

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    #25
    This has to be a big, scary development for academia. Before, it was only the private sector where you could get booted for having an opinion unpopular with select groups who seek to completely tamp down any and all opposing views. How many times have we heard of X person scheduled to speak at a college only to hear later that the person was either cancelled out of hand, or booed out of the auditorium before uttering a word? In this case, it appears the professor was both vindictive and retaliatory, not something you want in a professor. For all we know, tenured job security became the catalyst for his continual naming when told not to. The professor was probably like, “Well what are you going to do about it? Fire me?”
     

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