Sunday, November 27, 2005

Academic freedom, extremism, and whose ox is being gored

There's a to-do at Warren Community College in New Jersey over an email sent to a student by adjunct instructor (now ex-adjunct instructor) John Daly to a student earlier this month.

Rebecca Beach, a Warren student and the head of the campus chapter of Young America's Foundation, sent out an email to the faculty about an event she was helping organize at which a veteran of the war in Iraq was to speak, favorably, about the war. In response, Daly fired off a long rant that referred to YAF literature as "fascist propaganda," denounced the assertion on one of their posters that "Communism killed 100,000,000" (which, Daly asserted, "is not only untrue, but ignores the fact that CAPITALISM has killed many more") and concluded thusly:

I will continue to expose your right-wing, anti-people politics until groups like your won't dare show their face on a college campus. Real freedom will come when soldiers in Iraq turn their guns on their superiors and fight for just causes and for people's needs--such freedom fighters can be counted throughout American history and they certainly will be counted again.

After the YAF publicized the email, a controversy eruped. Warren Community College president William Austin said that he found Daly's statements "personally repugnant" but would defend his First Amendment rights to express his views. Daly noted that Beach was not his student, and that he had sent the email from his personal account to her personal account (rather than a college one). Nonetheless, the Board of Trustees scheduled an emergency meeting to discuss Daly's fate, and he ended up resigning before he could be fired.

I agree with Eugene Volokh that the retaliation is troubling:

Daly sounds like a jerk, but it seems to me that his speech is protected by principles of academic freedom, and quite possibly by the First Amendment. ... He's entitled to express his views (however reprehensible) about the propriety of soldiers killing their superiors, and to condemn (even if intemperately) people who put on programs that he thinks express immoral views. Trying to intimidate students with threats of low grades would of course be improper, but simply threatening to urge others to stay away from the talk is permissible — again, in my view quite wrong for a talk such as this one, but permissible.

At the same time, it's interesting to note that Daly's email to Beach does not simply criticize or intemperately condemn her views; he promises to do everything he can to silence groups such as hers and make sure that their views are not heard on the campus. So there's a bit of hypocrisy in his claiming the protection of free speech for his own views.

Meanwhile, there is a lively discussion of the Daly contretemps in the comments at Inside Higher Ed. Daly's opponents argue that his comment about U.S. soldiers turning their guns on their superiors amounts to "treason" (hardly, since he was not directing any propaganda at actual soldiers) while his supporters lament that he was driven from his job for "private speech" and for exposing students to views "outside the mainstream."

As I said, I do think this case has disturbing implications for academic freedom, and it raises troubling questions about the rights (or lack thereof) of adjunct faculty.

But.

As a commenter at Inside Higher Ed noted, suppose Daly -- or some far-right intellectual twin of his -- had written, "Abortion will end when someone turns their guns on the abortionists." Suppose, too, that he had written this to a student who had emailed him about a pro-choice event. Suppose he had also written, "I will continue to expose your pro-death, godless views until groups like yours won't dare show their face on a college campus." And suppose he had objected to an overly negative portrayal of Nazism (or even South African apartheid) rather than Communism.

Other than Eugene Volokh, how many of the people who are now upset at the violation of Daly's First Amendment rights would still be defending fredom of speech for his right-wing counterpart?

To quote the title of Nat Hentoff's always-relevant 1992 book: "Free Speech for Me -- But Not for Thee."

Update: A friend alerts me to an interesting case with definite similarities to this one three years ago at Saint Xavier University.

Update: Eugene Volokh emails me to make a point somewhat similar to one made by one of the commenters:

Is "silence" quite the right term? Silencing by public denunciation strikes me as not inconsistent with defending free speech against government retaliation. If, for instance, I publicly berate people who are racists -- or for that matter, those who wrongly call people "racist" -- in order to deter such expression, I think I'm acting quite properly.

This having been said, I agree that professors should generally encourage students to put on more events, rather than fewer, even when they disagree with the events' theme. But if the event seems really repugnant, is it really wrong for the professor to urge a boycott, or to say that he'll try to make the organizers ashamed to do such
things?

As to the "turns their guns" point, I agree that some such statements might be seen as unprotected threats -- but here it seems important that the statement contemplated behavior by non-students against non-students, far away from campus and likely in another country. The better analogy would be "The Israeli-Palestinian conflict will end when the Israelis turn their guns on Palestinians." That statement might be condemned, but I don't think it could be punished as an unprotected threat; no listener would reasonably perceive that the speaker is threatening the listener's life, nor could it be inferred that the speaker is intending to threaten the listener's life.

Interesting point. To some extent, most of us probably do engage in "viewpoint discrimination" -- at least, between "beyond the pale" viewpoints and socially acceptable viewpoints. As the commenter in this thread has noted, no one would find Daly's language objectionable if it were directed at the Ku Klux Klan. But then again, how many people would be seriously upset if a university denied funding and office space to a campus chapter of the KKK? Of course, in this case, Daly was expressing an intent to make the expression of an "acceptable" viewpoint unacceptable on the campus.

An exhortation to kill "abortionists" seems to me to fall into the same category as Eugene's Israeli-Palestinian example, since in neither case is there a potential call to violence directed at students.

41 comments:

Ampersand said...

Other than Eugene Volokh, how many of the people who are now upset at the violation of Daly's First Amendment rights would still be defending fredom of speech for his right-wing counterpart?

I I still would be. (Not the only example, but the only one I could locate quickly).

At the same time, it's interesting to note that Daly's email to Beach does not simply criticize or intemperately condemn her views; he promises to do everything he can to silence groups such as hers and make sure that their views are not heard on the campus.

That's simply not true. He specifies that the technique he's planning to use is exposing her right-wing, anti-people views (oy!); he does not promise to do "everything he can." Earlier in the full text of his email, he specifies that he will be using boycotts.

Anonymous said...

What galls me the most about this is that the guy is a college professor. Does Mr. Daly know what fascism is? I’m not sure there could be a more sympathetic nod to real live fascism than the paragraph cited here. Threatening to rid one’s environment of opposing viewpoints and kill one’s superiors – all justified by history, it seems – is about as close to an invitation to fascism as I could ever expect in two or three sentences.

I assume that Mr. Daly is not tenured, but I think academic freedom is bigger than he is (but not much). It’s also bigger than Ward Churchill. But what kind of sensitivity training should Mr. Daly have to undergo? I would make him write a twenty-page essay on the evolution of Christopher Hitchens’ thought. He might learn how important it is to have opposing viewpoints around.

RK

anniesmom03 said...

I cringe as I read stories like this. As an academic and a liberal, I tend to get defensive about the attacks, mostly from the right, on liberal bias in academia. Then idiots like Mr. Daly go and give them fuel for the fire.

The contentious and polarized environment is bad enough in national politics. It is absolutely deadly in academia, where free exchange of ideas should rule the day, where dogmas should be constantly challenged, and where entrenched ideology should not exist.

While Daly may have been exercising his constitutional rights, I think it is quite inappropriate for a professor to send such an e-mail to a student. Had he attended a YAF meeting and spoke those very words, had he challenged the organization to a public debate on whether communisim or capitalism has killed more people, there would be no problem. In fact, such an exchange would have been in the true spirit of academic freedom. But I do feel that he crossed a line firing off such an e-mail. I can't quite explain this, but perhaps the personalization of what should have been a public exchange strikes me as a violation.

I am beginning to fear that I could lose my job any day over something like this. It's not a good feeling.

anniesmom03 said...

I cringe as I read stories like this. As an academic and a liberal, I tend to get defensive about the attacks, mostly from the right, on liberal bias in academia. Then idiots like Mr. Daly go and give them fuel for the fire.

The contentious and polarized environment is bad enough in national politics. It is absolutely deadly in academia, where free exchange of ideas should rule the day, where dogmas should be constantly challenged, and where entrenched ideology should not exist.

While Daly may have been exercising his constitutional rights, I think it is quite inappropriate for a professor to send such an e-mail to a student. Had he attended a YAF meeting and spoke those very words, had he challenged the organization to a public debate on whether communisim or capitalism has killed more people, there would be no problem. In fact, such an exchange would have been in the true spirit of academic freedom. But I do feel that he crossed a line firing off such an e-mail. I can't quite explain this, but perhaps the personalization of what should have been a public exchange strikes me as a violation.

I am beginning to fear that I could lose my job any day over something like this. It's not a good feeling.

Pooh said...

Freedom of speech does not equate to freedom from all consequences for what you say. While he has every right to disagree with Beach's position, as a professor, he should face consequences for berating a student in such a manner. His claim that he did not know her to be a student carries some weight, but in my mind, its overcome by the sheer intemperance of his remarks.

Is Daly being disciplined for the viewpoint expressed or for the manner of expression? I find it highly likely that it is the latter rather than the former. And I'm somewhat ok with that...

Just as a judge or justice should not write "additionally, sanctions are imposed on lawyer A for being an a*****e" despite the manifest truth of the statement, a professor should act with a bit more restraint. Boycott, protest, debate, whatever. Win the battle in the marketplace of ideas. Don't attempt to threaten or intimidate the other side into silence.

Cathy Young said...

Barry -- you're right, "everything he can" was a bit of hyperbole on my part (and may wrongly imply, particularly given Daly's violent language re US soldiers turning their guns on their superiors, that he was threatening Beach and her fellow conservatives wtih violence).

However, I think you're on somewhat shakier ground in equating Edward Swan with John Daly. Swan's only "crime" as far as I can tell was to express the "wrong" opinions in the classroom (opinions which, I should add, are held by a large portion of the American public).

For an analogy to the Daly case, Swan would have to be an adjunct instructor who, upon receiving a student email advertising a lecture by a supporter of same-sex marriage, wrote back to the student to say that he would urge his students and others to boycott the event, and concluded by saying: "I will continue to expose your perverted, ungodly lifestyle until people like you can no longer show their face on this campus. We will restore true values when we start stoning the sodomites like the Bible says we should."

anonymous:

Threatening to rid one’s environment of opposing viewpoints and kill one’s superiors – all justified by history, it seems – is about as close to an invitation to fascism as I could ever expect in two or three sentences.

Yep, good point.

anniesmom and pooh:

I certainly agree that Daly's manner of expression was inappropriate. (It would be interesting to see the email Rebecca Beach sent out, to see if it should have clearly identfied her as a student.) And I think that the email can definitely be seen as intimidating.

At the same time, though, I do think that to some extent he was being penalized for his views.

Pooh said...

Cathy,

You may be right in that there may be some 'viewpoint restriction' present here, but I think that is a risk you take when you skirt the edges of appropriate language.

As a large part of Daly's viewpoint appears to involve the repression of dissenting opinions (as anon spells out nicely), it loses a certain degree of legitimacy in my eyes.

Is disallowing the opinion that there should no other opinons heard (espeially coupled with outright threats, hyperbolic or not) pro or anti-speech? An interestig conundrum, I think.

Cathy Young said...

Pooh -- I agree, an intersting conundrum to be sure.

I have to say, one thing that rubbed me the wrong way just a bit was the college president bending over backwards to give assurances of patriotism ("We are fortunate to have so many brave men and women fighting for our freedom"). I think there is a legitimate point of view that the war in Iraq has nothing to do with our freedom, and one can express that viewpoint without dispecting the soldiers. As much as hate John Daly-style knee-jerk, virulent anti-Americanism, I'm not a fan of genuflections of patriotic loyalty, either. I think it would have been far better for Austin to make a statement that we all have the freedom to agree or disagree with the war, but we owe it to students to respect their opinions.

Anonymous said...

As someone who went through college free speech battles back in the 1990s, I'm surprised that none of the "conservative" commentators have been critical of the student's or school's response to this incident.

The student plays the victim card just like any left-winger crying "racism" or "sexism". Even worse, she demands that the instructor be fired. Fired for free speech? I'm sorry but back in 90s, those of us who considered ourselves "conservative" fought for free speech, even for people and viewpoints we didn't like. We never would have claimed victimhood or advocated firing anyone.

The school's response is just as pathetic. "Tolerance training"? This is the kind of garbage that we fought against back in the 90s. No one should have to suffer this kind of indoctrination for expressing their views, even ones we don't agree with. I guess some in the conservative movement have decided it's much more important to score points by destroying individuals with whom they disagree than standing up for the principals of free speech and freedom from government indoctrination. If this student is the future of the conservative movement, I fear for our country.

Revenant said...

The email in question was a private message, unrelated to Daly's research, sent from a non-work account. The principle of academic freedom doesn't cover it, nor should it.

I also think it is questionable to say that his right to free speech was violated. He wasn't jailed, fined, censored, or prevented from speaking. Freedom of speech does not mean "other people are required to keep paying you even if you're a raging asshole".

Ampersand said...

However, I think you're on somewhat shakier ground in equating Edward Swan with John Daly.

I didn't mean to equate them; merely to point out that it's not unknown for left-wingers to object to violations of the free speech of right-wingers.

Cathy Young said...

ampersand: I would certainly never deny that leftists and leftist groups have often defended conservatives' free speech rights in the universities. My "if the shoe were on the other foot" question was reserved specifically for this type of scenario (i.e., an abusive email by a professor to a student with whom he disagrees, containing advocacy of violence).

anonymous: I'm not sure the student in this case demanded the firing of the instructor, though some conservatives certainly did.

I'm of two minds about this case. I think there is a legitimate issue of academic freedom here, but there are other issues as well ... including, as has been noted, the fact that the professor specifically stated that his agenda was to silence the speech of those with whom he disagrees.

revenant, interesting that you think the fact that Daly sent the email from a private account makes it less relevant to academic freedom.

Anonymous said...

"I'm not sure the student in this case demanded the firing of the instructor, though some conservatives certainly did."

She did - I heard her say as much on the radio which is how I first heard about this case. She also was the one to demand tolerance training. Read this press release from the YAF:

http://www.yaf.org/press/11_17_05.html

It reads like a screed for some nutto left-wing outfit. Just replace the names and the offenses and you could be reading the latest diatribe from any leftwing campus organization.

Brad said...

I, too, am the liberal that would hold to anyone's free speech, regardless of how reprehensible the view (and, frankly, there hardly needs to be a counter-case with such a good example at hand).

I still see a problem with your stand that:

"the professor specifically stated that his agenda was to silence the speech of those with whom he disagrees."

His threat was to "expose" them into silence, so that they "won't dare show their face." I tend to read that as to shame someone, publicly, for their views. As opposed to, say, lobbying that a group not be allowed to speak at all, or taking any other measures that rely on abuse of power.

His actual threat of action, a boycott, supports this. While on its face a boycott seems like an effort to silence a group, it is a symbolic gesture that cannot be accomplished (perhaps paradoxically) without generating MORE publicity for the speaking group. It is a public refutation, not a private one.

The only issue I see here with validity has to do with the way the professor addressed a student. If his email is construed as an inapproprate personal attack (and, it IS important that he knows the email came from a student), then it might be a problem.

But it really does seem that his problem is with the views expressed. The only sentences that are even really directed personally are:

"I am asking my students to boycott your event. I am also going to ask others to boycott it. Your literature and signs in the entrance lobby look like fascist propaganda and is extremely offensive."


and

"I will continue to expose your right-wing, anti-people politics until groups like your won't dare show their face on a college campus."

Let me ask you this: if a professor had written this about a poster for a Klan rally, would ANYBODY be calling for their head? I absolutely think he is being punished for his views, rather than his behavior.

Incidentally, this is where the comparison to the Saint Xavier case falls apart. There is no equivalent in this case to "You are a disgrace to this country" or "your aggressive baby-killing tactics."

In Kirsten's case, being suspended is justified by his terrible treatment of a student. In this case, I find it far less clear.

Pooh said...

Brad,

His threat was to "expose" them into silence, so that they "won't dare show their face." I tend to read that as to shame someone, publicly, for their views. As opposed to, say, lobbying that a group not be allowed to speak at all, or taking any other measures that rely on abuse of power.

This is certainly a plausiable readings of his actions. However, you will admit that I don't exactly have to dig to draw out an interpretation that he is indeed attempting to restrict opposing viewpoints, won't you?

To paraphrase revenant, freedom of speech does not, nor should it, prevent you from receiving private (as in, non-state action) disapproval for intemperate expression of a valid opinion.

To put it another way, what does the indelicacy of expression used by Daly say about his likely professorial abilities? Do I think he should be fired just for this incident? Probably not. Does it upset me that he has 'resigned'? Not in the least.

Anonymous said...

"To paraphrase revenant, freedom of speech does not, nor should it, prevent you from receiving private (as in, non-state action) disapproval for intemperate expression of a valid opinion."

Except that's not what happened. There were calls that he be fired and forced to go through "tolerance training". The school was ready to hold an emergency session to discuss the situation. What was there to discuss except that it appears likely he was going to be sanctioned or fired for expressing his views.

Pooh said...

Except that's not what happened. There were calls that he be fired and forced to go through "tolerance training". The school was ready to hold an emergency session to discuss the situation. What was there to discuss except that it appears likely he was going to be sanctioned or fired for expressing his views.

And? If he's a jerk, does making him a jerk with unpopular opinions keep him from being terminated? Daly is free to say any damn fool thing he pleases, and I support that. However, words can be actions, and actions have consequences. If I were in charge of WCCC would I fire him? Well not for just this, but if he had a history of behavior inappropriate for a professor (can we at least agree on that much?) then maybe. But I think I would be within my rights to do so.

You have a point in that 'tolerance training' and such is just more PC silliness. But this really isn't the case I would want to hang my first amendment hat upon.

Bill said...

I agree that the "treason" thing is overblown and silly. But for the other charge that's being bandied about:

One must unfortunately recognize that the bench of “harassment” on a large number of campuses is based on the perception of the recipient or whims of a judicial officer rather than repeated behaviors or the reasonable person rules that mark more rigorous investigations of harassment. In either scenario, the judicial officers may be at the mercy of a reporting squeaky wheel regardless of rationality, or may have the option to cherry pick their offenders as in the case where a school brought charges against an Affirmative Action Bake Sale but not a concurrent Pay-Equity Bake Sale. If this was the school’s policy or if the professor personally held and acted as of this lesser benchmark for harassment was acceptable on a campus, his email would place him in a very nasty pickle. Indeed, that could have been enough of a pickle to pressure him into resignation.

I for one don’t think that he punched through the harassment membrane unless he made an effort to organize a Hecker’s Veto (ala Washington State) or organized retaliation against the student. But given the tone of the email he seems to be too inarticulate, unprofessional and impotent to get it off to any “reasonable person standard” of momentum. I would be very interested to know the school’s *and* Dr. Daly’s stand on Harassment before this incident. That would make the overall evaluation of the scenario much more navigable. After all, when you make your own rope, you should be prepared to hang by it. Fair or unfair.

Revenant said...

revenant, interesting that you think the fact that Daly sent the email from a private account makes it less relevant to academic freedom

Academic freedom is the freedom to pursue academic inquiry without fear of punishment. It is not the freedom to do whatever the heck you want without consequences so long as the words "college" or "university" are on your paycheck. Daly's comments were unrelated to his work, which was teaching English at a community college -- or rather, inasmuch as they were related, it was because they reflected on his character, not because they were related to his job directly.

There's also something perverse about the idea that academic freedom covers plans to deny other people academic freedom.

Anonymous said...

"And? If he's a jerk, does making him a jerk with unpopular opinions keep him from being terminated?"

It does when your employer is the government, your speech is protected by the First Amendment and your being terminated because of the content of your speech. It's called viewpoint discrimination and when you are singled out for punishment based on your viewpoint, that's illegal.

Brad said...

"However, you will admit that I don't exactly have to dig to draw out an interpretation that he is indeed attempting to restrict opposing viewpoints, won't you?"

Actually... I won't. He talks about asking his students to boycott. He never says or (as far as I can tell) implies that the group does not have a right to speak, just that they hold views he finds abhorrent. A public rebuke, of any sort, still falls in the realm of open debate, not restriction of ideas.

"...freedom of speech does not, nor should it, prevent you from receiving private (as in, non-state action) disapproval..."

I agree with this, and I'm not trying to hang my hat on a freedom of speech argument here.

Here's the rub, though: if you take on face that he didn't necessarily know he was speaking to a student (as opposed to any other activist), it sure seems like this is a flap about him expressing a view, privately in email, to another person. At what point does your employer, any employer, get to hold you accountable for such things?

I'd be stunned if I came in to work tomorrow and was fired because of a view I'd expressed over email to someone from a private account.

"what does the indelicacy of expression used by Daly say about his likely professorial abilities?"

Honestly, I suspect very little. I had terrific professors that I frequently disagreed with, and that voiced off-topic opinions clumsily. I had poor ones that I'd enjoy having a beer with. Who cares what my physics (or in this case, english) teacher thinks of Iraq, you know? This isn't middle school; his students are adults.

My take on this is that, if he knew she was a student, he was probably a little outside the bounds of propriety. I don't really see it as a firing/resignation type of transgression, but there'd be something there. If he didn't know it was a student, well... then it's awfully invasive to fire someone for sending out a cranky email, ugly views and all.

Revenant said...

It's called viewpoint discrimination and when you are singled out for punishment based on your viewpoint, that's illegal.

Where's the evidence that he was singled out or punised for his viewpoint? He was abusive and intimidating to a student of the university he taught at. That's a content-neutral grounds for a conduct hearing. It might not be grounds for firing, but since he wasn't fired that's not really relevant.

Question: if a clerk at the DMV told every woman who comes in "whores like you shouldn't be allowed to drive", could he legally be reprimanded, or even fired? So far as I know, the answer is "yes" -- he could be punished under a viewpoint-neutral policy against being verbally abusive.

At what point does your employer, any employer, get to hold you accountable for such things?

When it affects your ability to do your job and/or harms the employer. Daly showed conduct and character that is undesirable in an instructor.

I'd be stunned if I came in to work tomorrow and was fired because of a view I'd expressed over email to someone from a private account

Would you be surprised if the email in question had described your plans to use your position at the company in a manner abusive to clients? I wouldn't. Well, that's what Daly did.

Yeah, yeah, I know Daly claims he didn't know he was talking to a student. I see no reason to believe him, since his own words indicate that he's an amoral scumbag. The notion that a man who advocates the murder of political opponents would balk at lying to protect his job doesn't pass a laugh test.

Pooh said...

Anon,

I believe you are mistkaing my point. More clearly stated, just because you hold an unpopular opinion does not mean every bad thing that happens to you is based on suppressing that viewpoint. In my mind this is a close case between impermissible viewpoint restriction and legitimate concern with a professor acting within the bounds of professional decency. The fact that he was in fact emailing a student is what tips it in towards the latter in my mind. If he had just stopped at "I will continue to expose your right-wing, anti-people politics until groups like your won't dare show their face on a college campus," he would have been fine. But he didn't.

Again, I don't personally think that this was a firing offense, but that's a judgment call rather than a legal one, if that makes sense. We also aren't privy to his record, and if he's done anything remotely like intimidating a student before, well, all bets are off. Can we agree on that?

Brad,

as to your point in response to my question about how this reflects on his professional capabalities, I guess I have to disagree in that he is an ENGLISH professor. His baliwick is words and their usage. Comparing him to a 'physiscist who speaks inexactly on lay matters' doesn't quite hold.

All,

Is it possible that we are having two seperate, not entirely consistent, arguments here? The question of whether WCCC could have fired/disciplined Daly is a different question than whether it should do so.

Revenant said...

The question of whether WCCC could have fired/disciplined Daly is a different question than whether it should do so.

I'm not sure that either question is applicable, since neither happened. So far as I can tell, WCCC never reached any decision to discipline or fire Daly; he resigned before any hearings happened.

So the question, if any, would appear to be whether it was appropriate for a university to even holding hearings to decide if discipline was appropriate.

bill said...

"So the question, if any, would appear to be whether it was appropriate for a university to even holding hearings to decide if discipline was appropriate."

It depends on what the meeting was going to be about…

In-so-far as to determine if Daly was laying an implicit, albeit pathetically inarticulate and impotent, threat to a student to determine if it hits the Threat or Harassment membrane? Yes, that’s very much appropriate! It’s called due process. The alternative would be to summarily terminate or suspend him like they did to the prof at DePaul a few months ago.

In-so-far as to determine if Daly was not telling the truth when he claimed he didn’t know he was corresponding with a student or other member of the campus community? (And since the YAF email likely came through the “Campus Community” uber-email address, that statement from him is particularly lame and sets off my credibility detectors.) But Yes, that too is appropriate under due process (once again, consider the alternative).

In-so-far as to determine if it was inappropriate to relive Daly of his teaching load for the statements or email. Once again, Hell Yes!! The school should not have done that without due process to begin with.

In-so-far as to determine if he could be called out for using a personal non-professional email to conduct rude, uncivil, possibly threatening, university-related, business? Yes. Both profs or students can forward their *.edu emails to personal accounts so I don’t see *.com activity as an insulating matter. When I conduct or discuss business “off-duty,” I should expect to be held accountable for it. Consider a case where a professor is harassing (as per federal criteria) a student or employee from his Yahoo email. You bet your sweet bippy it’d count! Also the on-shift vs. on-duty vs. on-call argument for professors (especially in units where patents can be generated for the university) is a hot topic anyway. This isn’t anything new.

In-so-far as to determine if he should be relived for his statements about “turning guns?” or bringing bad press to the school. IMHO, that’s a NO. However, their ethics code may have an “undue embarrassment” clause. I don’t like those since I think they constitute an out to terminate someone for inconvenient viewpoints (left or right). But if it’s on the books, you fight it through the books, or through courts. Universities have a lot of low-level autonomy in that area – it’s no different than campus interdiction policies for alcohol or cooking in dorms.

Revenant said...

In-so-far as to determine if he should be relived for his statements about “turning guns?” or bringing bad press to the school. IMHO, that’s a NO.

Bringing bad press on your employer seems like reasonable cause for termination to me -- the job of an employee is to provide greater benefit to his employer than he does cost, after all. I have no idea if it is *legal* grounds for termination, though.

William R. Barker said...

How do idiots like Daly get hired in the first place? I mean... come on... the "smell test" tells us that Daly is nuts, yet, a college hires him to teach a class? This kind of over the top poor judgement is what gives academia a bad name. (Oh... and as Anonymous/RK rightly implies... the guy doesn't even sound like a highly educated nut! He doesn't even know what fascism is!) And let me just add this: Civility is to be encouraged, incivility is to be discouraged. Frankly, it's good for society and good for academia to demand civility from teachers and professors.

Revenant said...

I mean... come on... the "smell test" tells us that Daly is nuts, yet, a college hires him to teach a class?

It isn't exactly uncommon for people who are brilliant in one area to have completely idiotic beliefs in another (Noam Chomsky comes to mind). If Daly were being hired to teach current events, philosophy, or political science, his views would perhaps be a deal-breaker. But it doesn't necessarily matter if English teachers believe in armed rebellion, just as it doesn't matter if Physics teachers think the genius of 50 Cent rivals that of Mozart, or if Art History teachers think UFOs control the Pentagon.

William R. Barker said...

O.K., let's compromise: I'll consider the possibility that colleges should hire brilliant nuts if you consider the possibility that colleges shouldn't hire less than brilliant (or how about less than intelligent?) nuts? Again... I ask you... does this Daly guy sound like the optimal (or even a reasonable) choice to hire as an instructer at a college or university? From reading his comments that started this discussion, my thought is "no."

Anonymous said...

It's a community college instructor, not a Harvard Law Prof. No insult intended towards community college instructors but the hiring process probably doesn't get into whether the instructor is "brilliant" or "nuts".

Cathy Young said...

While I don't think looney political views should disqualify one from a teaching position, I do think there is a rather widespread problem of English instructors using their classes as vehicles for political indoctrination. Faculty surveys show that English departments are the most left-wing sector of the academy.

Pooh said...

Faculty surveys show that English departments are the most left-wing sector of the academy.

Anectdotally, this seems correct. Assuming it is true, I wonder why. Is it a self-sustaining thing (english profs are liberal, so the students who follow tend to be liberal,) or are people predisposed towards liberalism also predisposed towards Jane Austen?

Cathy Young said...

pooh -- I was talking about English professors; don't know about the students. As to why ... I would argue that at least in part, it's because English professors don't have to deal with "objective reality" as much as, say, history or even political science professors do (to compare other humanities only). There's more room for subjective thinking.

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Maria said...

What galls me the most about this is that the guy is a college professor. Does Mr. Daly know what fascism is? I’m not sure there could be a more sympathetic nod to real live fascism than the paragraph cited here. Threatening to rid one’s environment of opposing viewpoints and kill one’s superiors – all justified by history, it seems – is about as close to an invitation to fascism as I could ever expect in two or three sentences.
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