Thursday, June 09, 2005

Do department chairs have academic freedom? 

There's a question to be asked, after Professor Timothy Shortell's forced resignation of his chair at CUNY. CUNY is unionized, and tenured faculty elect a chair, who is then appointed by the administration. But according to this memo from a previous go-round on evaluation of department chairs between the union and administration, the school's by-laws
provides that the president may remove a chairperson �as the interests of the college may require� and that in the event of a removal, and after conferring with the department, the president shall recommend to the board the designation of a new chairperson.
Is it in the interest of that college to have a department chair say that
On a personal level, religiosity is merely annoying�like bad taste. This immaturity represents a significant social problem, however, because religious adherents fail to recognize their limitations. So, in the name of their faith, these moral retards are running around pointing fingers and doing real harm to others. One only has to read the newspaper to see the results of their handiwork. They discriminate, exclude and belittle. They make a virtue of closed-mindedness and virulent ignorance. They are an ugly, violent lot.
In the NY Sun article, even the AAUP representative consulted by the reporter (good job there!) has his doubts.
A senior program officer at the AAUP, Robert Kreiser, questioned the extent to which a department chairman - who holds an essentially administrative post - is covered by the protections of academic freedom. He said a college administration may not want to have as chairman someone whose views "are outside the mainstream" of the department or the college.
Shortell's own writings indicate he is unrepentant, assuming that everyone will understand when he "changes roles" between author, professor and, I suppose, department chair. But Shortell wants us to believe that he could set aside his views to evaluate tenure for a Sociology professor who was, say, an evangelical Christian. It seems well within the rights of the university to think itself better served with someone else making the evaluation. This is a function both of the vehemence of his condemnation of religious people and that evaluation of social scientists is far less objective -- we would not have nearly the problem with Shortell were he a professor of chemistry, for example.