May 18, 2005

Foolish private universities

In the fall, DePaul University suspended professor Thomas Klocek without a hearing or a chance to confront accusers for having an argument with students outside class—not his students, either. And Yale University refused to renew assistant professor David Graeber's contract, and it appears like a possibility that he was fired either for being an anarchist and for siding with a graduate student active in the graduate-student union at Yale.

The salient differences between the possible outcome of these two cases are not the political viewpoints of the faculty. Nor is it the fact that Klocek has been reported to be an adjunct (though that's not consistent in what I've read), while Graeber is tenure-track, because normally that would lead one to believe that Klocek's position is much weaker. And generally, adjuncts are in weaker positions except where there are specific protections. But in this case, despite Klocek's probably adjunct status and what may have been a failure to file a timely grievance, Klocek has a chance of winning back his position because DePaul's administrators provided pretty clear evidence that they were taking action for impermissible reasons. Even though adjuncts at most places don't legally have to be given due process before being given a notice of non-reappointment, you don't fire someone and then give their public speech as the reason. And the post hoc claims about tossing papers seems a pretty flimsy pretext to me. I may change my mind if DePaul provides evidence of much more serious behavior by Klocek, but I suspect that won't be forthcoming. FIRE is an effective advocate, and they're going to kick DePaul repeatedly in the Chicago press.

Other comments on Klocek by Steven Plaut, Laura Putrie, and Nicole Zieglier Dizon. Crooked Timber weighs in on Graeber. Thanks to Erin O'Connor for the initial tipoff.

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Posted in Academic freedom on May 18, 2005 9:27 PM |