Tuesday, July 25, 2006

SUNY Professor Punished For Political Expression

A professor at the State University of New York - Fredonia has been denied promotion for publicly disagreeing with the university’s student conduct policies and affirmative action practices. SUNY-Fredonia’s president later agreed to approve the promotion only if the professor would submit all of his public writings to prior university review. Full story on Newsmax.com.

Professor Stephen Kershnar declined the offer and sought help from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a non-profit educational foundation advocating on behalf of freedom of expression at our nation's colleges and universities.

Kershnar, an associate professor of philosophy, was nominated for promotion to full professor in January 2006, with strong support from colleagues, his department head, and top administrators because of his outstanding professional record. He writes a bi-weekly column for a local newspaper.

In his column, he has questioned SUNY-Fredonia's affirmative action practices and decried the lack of conservatives in higher education. Specifically, he criticized the university's efforts to increase diversity by lowering standards for hiring and admissions. However, what triggered the sanctions directed at him was a column written in 2005, when he publicly condemned a new rule that targets students who fail to report violations of the student conduct code. He was quoted in the Buffalo News as saying that the new policy would "turn the student population into a group of snitches".

SUNY-Fredonia President Dennis L. Hefner promptly fired back by issuing a letter to the university community defending the conduct policy against "media misrepresentations.” However, Kershnar e-mailed the Fredonia faculty on the following day to say that he had criticized – not misrepresented – the policy.

Hefner replied to that e-mail by warning Kershnar, "You need to start acting like a responsible member of this campus community.” Then, on April 27, Hefner sent Kershnar a letter denying his 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.” Subsequently, Hefner told a representative of FIRE that he would approve the promotion if Kershnar agreed to refrain from such statements in the future.

In response, Kershnar drafted a contract to be in effect for one year, during which time he would voluntarily submit his written materials to a "Prior-Consent Committee" consisting of two other professors who would decide if his statements deliberately misrepresented the university. Hefner rejected Kershnar's proposed version, substituting a more stringent version in effect for an indefinite period, and requiring Kershnar to get "unanimous consent" from a university committee for all writing regarding the university. Kershnar refused to sign this contract and contacted FIRE for further assistance.

FIRE wrote a letter to Hefner on July 7th criticizing him for his actions against Kershnar. Hefner responded by informing FIRE that he would approve the promotion if Kershnar agreed to refrain from any such statements in the future. On July 20th, Hefner sent another letter to Kershnar denying his promotion, this time with the references to misrepresentation removed.

FIRE President Greg Lukianoff commented extensively on this issue."Professors must be able to publicly and frankly express their opinions if the ‘marketplace of ideas’ is to survive. SUNY Fredonia’s bungling attempt to suppress a professor’s criticism of university policies is both reprehensible and embarrassing,” said Lukianoff.

"President Hefner should have immediately understood that requiring a professor to submit his opinions to university review flatly violated SUNY-Fredonia's obligations to uphold the Frist Amendment. President Hefner made Kershnar's academic promotion - which should by all accounts be based upon his merits as a professor - dependent upon his public statements about the university. FIRE, along with others who care about academic freedom, will not stand idly by as a public university punishes a professor for speaking his mind and then requires him to relinquish his constitutional and moral right to express his opinions," Lukianoff concluded.

Analysis: A university is supposed to be an institution of learning. How can learning take place without robust dialog and vigorous discourse? All points of view must be allowed, as long as they are expressed in a manner not deliberately promoting disruption. This also means that people exposed to disgreeable points of view have a responsibility to react in a socially acceptable fashion, to not "go ballistic" and then later claim they lost self-control because they were "offended". It sounds like another shot in the anti-hate lobby's war against free speech.

Professor Kershnar went out of his way to resolve the situation by offering to submit to some minor censorship out of a genuine desire to allay the university's concern. However, that was not good enough for President Hefner. Hefner's disingenuous counterproposal represented de facto censorship because there's no way any university committee will reach a unanimous agreement and, unless he's incredibly naive, Hefner had to have known that in advance. Hefner wanted a complete, abject, total and unconditional surrender of the type imposed on Germany to end World War II in Europe. And this epitomizes what political correctness is all about - when you sin against political correctness, there is no forgiveness, only abject humiliation and punishment. This replicates one of the most psychologically loathsome aspects of the Soviet system and another indicator that the "Evil Empire" did not die in 1991, but merely changed its address.

And if SUNY-Fredonia attempted to increase "diversity" by lowering standards, they would not be unique. Diversity manipulation has occurred nationwide as the civil rights revolution is completing its transition from equal opportunity to equal outcome. The multiculturalists are not interested in "democracy", but in racial pluralism and Balkanization. Of course, only whites (particularly working class whites) are victimized; after all, every religion has its devil, and the Church of Martin Luther King of Latter-day Diversity has declared the white race its "devil". Racist doctrines of "white privilege" and "historical guilt" are routinely regurgitated, but the penalties imposed only on innocent whites who never owned slaves or Jim Crow businesses, under the guise of "historical guilt" or "historical remediation". Diversity and multiculturalism are both anti-white and anti-American.

And our public school systems begin the indoctrination early. Back in May, we found out how Dr. Caprice Hollins of Seattle Public Schools had instituted a racial indoctrination policy that not only taught that all whites were oppressors, but that such concepts as "individualism" and "future time orientation" (preparing for the future) were symbolic of white "racism".

The most grotesque example on how multiculturalism has lowered standards is South Africa, which, since the traitor F.W. deKlerk calmly and quietly handed over the keys to the country to the murderous African National Congress thugs in 1994, has steadily backslid into barbarism. Don't believe me? Read the entries of a former South African journalist on his South Africa Is Crap blog - one horror story after another.

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