Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Another office door controversy 

This time, it's at Lake Superior State.
Crandall has adorned his office door and the wall near his office primarily with conservative political cartoons and postings since he started teaching at LSSU in 1969. Items he has posted in recent years include a photograph of President Ronald Reagan, a political cartoon mocking Vice President Dick Cheney's 2006 hunting accident, and political cartoons about Islamic terrorism. Other professors at LSSU, including professors on Crandall's own floor, post on their office doors similar materials reflecting various ideological perspectives. In 2005, Crandall first heard that someone had complained that his displays were "hateful and bigoted," and on March 12, 2007, Provost Bruce Harger finally ordered Crandall to take down his display, threatening to charge Crandall with "insubordination" if he failed to comply. Crandall acquiesced but has turned to FIRE to restore his right to free expression.
I have some pictures of office doors here on campus on this post a couple of years ago. These update pictures I took in 2004 (links here and here used blogspot image storage which has since been taken down, but replaced by the pictures I have in the other link. One of them had the slogan "Bush is a dumbass". As I wondered then:
The first thought through your head is:
a. "Ah, here's a place for reasoned discussion, just why I came to SCSU."
b. "I guess I don't have to watch what I say in here."
c. "So that's how you spell that! I thought it was two words."
d. "Better hide my Bush/Cheney button."
That sign was no longer on the door, last time I looked. The other office I photographed continues. I am fine with the display -- it is not insubordination. But it is intimidating to a conservative student who might take a class with that faculty member. A year after the pictures I retold a story from David Horowitz who, no matter your sentiments about him generally, makes a good point here.
The first thing I noticed was that the Chairman's office door was adorned with a large Anti-Iraq War poster. I have made a personal campaign against such political statements on professorial offices. Students go to these offices for counseling. Such partisan statements create a wall between the professor and the student who it is his or her professional responsibility to help. They serve no purpose but to vent the spleen of these tenured individuals who are apparently so frustrated as to be unable to maintain minimal self-discipline in the presence of a captive audience students who -- if they disagree with the statements -- have no choice but to suffer them. I asked Jamie, who is a senior and whose father served this country in the military, if
he had ever taken a course with Professor [and Chairman Johnathan] Hiller. When he said no, I asked him why. He pointed at the sign.
Now one must ask in the case FIRE is representing here: Did the display that the LSSU faculty member put on his office door put a wall between him and the student? If it did, is it "insubordination" for a faculty member to place such a wall? What Would Horowitz Do? What would you do? I believe the answer has to involve one's understanding of a professional ethic that faculty members have.