Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Two sides of the SUU debate 

Robert KC Johnson continues to provide coverage of the media reporting on the Roberds case at Southern Utah University. The discussion of Roberds centers on the f-bomb in class that I previously reported and an incident at a rally against gay marriage. Prof. Johnson's view is that much may have to do with the recent merger of two departments, political science and criminal justice, and the chair of the combined department is a criminal justice professor without at Ph.D. The head of SUU's faculty senate has weighed in, but Johnson is unconvinced.

...the president of the SUU Faculty Senate has said that his institution fired its 2003 Professor of the Year because he was uncollegial to the students who voted him their professor of the year; because he criticized a new Faculty Senate constitution coincidentally written by the same Faculty Senate president who now deems him uncollegial; and because SUU has a process in which all tenure candidacies are considered by multiple committees in a gentlemanly fashion. A piece of unsolicited advice to Professor Rees: the next time the idea of penning an op-ed crosses your mind, sleep on it for a day or two.

Update, 2.24pm: It turns out that the student who crossed swords with Roberds at the anti-gay marriage event was none other than Professor Rees' son. Funny how that doesn't get mentioned in his article.

While I think Johnson has blown Rees out of the water, I do not think he's found enough evidence to suggest why the heck SUU would do something which on the surface looks so foolish. Luckily, David Tufte, an economist there, is also blogging with a good bit of the rumors that are running around the campus. He says he knows more than what is in public but "I'm not dumb enough to spread the rumor further." He says,
The latter three he labels as rumors known on campus. I put very little stock in teacher of the year awards -- these can be purchased with easy grades and a good floor show. I've given a distinguished lecture, and thought little enough of it that I never listed it in my professional activities report to the university.

Prof. Tufte goes on to note that while he doesn't know Prof. Roberds well, he's known both as a liberal and a hothead. To which I think, big deal. We got a few of those around here and nobody is sacking them. Tufte ranks his administration quite highly, and then speculates on the motivations of the case, concluding
I wouldn't have voted against him based upon the facts that I know. But that's just me. But I can read between the lines and I know how I would've voted if the rumors I'm hearing are even half true.

Which is right where the rest of us should be. We don't know enough yet.

(Hat tip for Tufte reference: Newmark's Door. See also Erin O'Connor for why FIRE won't get into this case.)