Academic Freedom

by Kieran Healy on March 9, 2004

Last week it was the “apparently unjustified firing”: of a Professor at Penn State Altoona. This week it’s the suspension of “two professors at Southern Mississippi”:, again for what looks like no good reason. Ralph Luker at Cliopatria “has more”:, with links to various commentaries. Here also is “a news story”: from the student paper found via “a blogger”: who knows more about the situation on the ground. Looks like there’s been “some”: “student”: “reaction”: to the suspensions, together with “criticism”: from benefactors and a “vote of no confidence”: from the USM faculty senate. (Hat tip: “Matt Weiner”:



Timothy Burke 03.09.04 at 3:56 am

The Penn State case is bad, but there’s at least some ambiguities to mull over. The Southern Mississippi one is so unambiguously horrible–and, I have a bad feeling, more typical than we might guess about the way life works at academic institutions that are not highly selective or elite–that there’s nothing much to talk about save to jam our fists in our collective mouths in horror and wonder how to help out.


Invisible Adjunct 03.09.04 at 4:43 am

The Southern Mississippi story is outrageous.

“and, I have a bad feeling, more typical than we might guess about the way life works at academic institutions that are not highly selective or elite…”

It’s probably (maybe?) an extreme version of the kind of routine abuses and violations that take place outside the privileged sphere of high-profile high-prestige higher ed.


Matt Weiner 03.09.04 at 4:45 am

Here’s the Google cache of the first half of the Student Printz story.


liberal japonicus 03.09.04 at 8:50 am

I am a graduate of that august institution, and I have to say, it’s more of the same. There was a vicious tell all book entitled _Exit 13_ that discussed some of the ways the administration sought to silence dissent during the 70’s. When I was there in the 80’s, the administration, in my first senior year, tossed out the faculty of the Honors College in order to install some more pliant types. It was never really certain if they wanted to punish the ones in the HC or reward the ones they installed with a more academic pedigree, but reading the Chronicle article brought back those halcyon days.

USM has always had a hard time, in that the university had to compete for funding with MSU and Old Miss, (it was originally the Teacher’s College, ‘Mississippi Normal’) and I still have some professors there who I think the world of, but the admin combined the worst traits of the old South and the New South, which is really saying a lot.


liberal japonicus 03.09.04 at 8:52 am

I forgot to add, one of USM’s claims to fame was that Bill Bennet taught their as a junior faculty for a few years.


liberal japonicus 03.09.04 at 9:13 am

Geez, really demonstrating the quality of the education I got there

Here is the amazon link for a tell all memoir of USM in the late 60’s and 70’s that describes various administration efforts to attack leftist professors.


GMT 03.09.04 at 3:20 pm

The corruption in the hirings and firings at my institution are notorious, but difficult to confirm.

English prof fired for publishing a roman a clef about his/her department.

Two Phil. candidates landed jobs for sleeping with the right committee members (one of the candidates turned out to be a good hire anyways).

Leftist His. prof dragged before tenure review for mental problems, claims ideological persecution. (imho, answer was somewhere in the middle)

His. prof denied tenure despite writing multiple award-winning monograph. Rumor that the position was being held for full prof.’s wife, formerly his grad. student, and girlfriend.

I’ve always thought that dept. politics were basically your average office politics, magnified by the participants’ lack of basic social skills. Of course, any of these dirty deals can provide fodder for those who would paint us all as a conspiracy for left-wing indoctrination, but down here at ground zero, the reality is far less glamorous…

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