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Tenured radicals, or free-speech abusers, 101

One person’s pedagogical imperative is another’s unpardonable slur. Bone up. Quiz tomorrow.


Case study
Ward Churchill,
University of Colorado
J. Donald Silva,
University of New Hampshire
Ignacio Chapela,
UC Berkeley
Lawrence Summers,
Harvard University
Jared Sakren,
Arizona State University
Discussion question
Should the university oust Churchill, a tenured professor, after he writes an essay comparing some victims of the World Trade Center attacks to Holocaust facilitator Adolf Eichmann?*
Did the university act wrongly in firing Silva, an English professor, for sexual harassment when female students in 1992 complained about offensive comments* that he made in class?
Did Chapela, who taught in the department of environmental science, policy and management, commit career suicide in denouncing his employer for its ties to a private corporation?
Do academics universally support academic freedom when it involves questions* about female scientists?
Do academic freedom policies protect a Shakespeare-centric professor's right to exclude postmodern feminist/ethnic canon from his course syllabus?
Short answer
The 1st Amendment protects the professor's job, but the flap over his screed triggers secondary attacks on his integrity.
Yes. a A U.S. District Court judge ordered Silva's reinstatement, finding "legitimate pedagogical reasons" for the professor's statements and that the university had trampled on free speech.
Yes ... and no. He sued the school in April 2005, claiming it had thwarted his tenure because he lambasted its deal with Novartis to do agricultural biotech research.* He ultimately won tenure.
Not hardly. In March, members of Harvard's arts and science faculty passed a motion of "lack of confidence" in the leadership of university President Summers after his controversial speech.
Yes, the university said after agreeing to pay back wages to Sakren, a drama prof,* in a 1999 legal settlement. He claimed he lost his job for refusing to teach "Betty the Yeti: An Eco-Fable."
Footnote
* As "technocrats of an empire" fueling "engines of profit," Churchill argued, white-collar workers were "little Eichmanns" (enablers of evil) and inevitable targets.
* Discussing similes, he paraphrased a dancer's description of her vocation: "Belly dancing is like Jell-O on a plate with a vibrator under the plate."
* Chapela co-wrote a study published in the journal Nature that concluded that DNA from genetically engineered corn had contaminated native maize in Mexico.
* "...there are issues of intrinsic aptitude … reinforced by what are in fact lesser factors involving socialization and continuing discrimination…. "
* Among the former students who publicly supported Sakren's adherence to the classics was Annette Bening. He also taught Frances McDormand and Val Kilmer.

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