Blogs > Cliopatria > Academic Freedom at Penn State ...

Mar 3, 2004 5:06 am

Academic Freedom at Penn State ...

Ten days ago, KC Johnson reported on the case of Nona Gerard, a drama professor at Penn State, Altoona. Despite tenure, she was threatened with dismissal for having alienated a donor and, one assumes, being obnoxious to some of her colleagues. Urged by Erin O'Connor of Critical Mass, KC and I joined others in contacting Penn State President Graham Spanier. We asked him to examine the review panel's split recommendation to dismiss Professor Gerard very carefully. Whether he did so or not, O'Connor reports that Spanier has sustained Gerard's dismissal.

Don't put a lot of stock in my opinion, but I am more confident that Spanier and Penn State are in error because Eugene Volokh believes it is so. Being obnoxious is not grounds for dismissing a tenured professor. If that were so, most people I've known in academic life might have been dismissed at some point or other. My friends on the left at Crooked Timber disappoint me. Kieran Healy takes aim at Eric Rasmussen's known biases and weak reasoning about the case. The issue is not Rasmussen's irrationality and prejudice, Kieran. Nor is it Erin O'Connor's literary taste, Henry. Tenured professors are neither brussel sprouts nor are they abusive students and the issue is academic freedom. We need to be quite clear about that.

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