9.5.17

BROADLY, OR NARROWLY, ARGUED?

American Association of University Professors spokesman John K. Wilson views Marquette University's summary judgement dismissal of dissident political scientist John "Marquette Warrior" McAdams's wrongful termination lawsuit as attacking academic freedom.  "The court’s decision is baffling. It is a bizarre and frankly idiotic ruling. It is a broad assault on academic freedom by a judge who clearly does not understand or care about the concept."

The dispute will ultimately be up to appellate courts.  Professor Wilson, and by extension, the Association, are troubled that the district court judge is upholding Marquette's procedures as a response to "extramural statements" by Professor McAdams.  "Faculty members must take into account the obligations imposed by their position to the subject, students, profession, and institution, be clear that they are not speaking for the institution, and promote conditions of free inquiry and public understanding of academic freedom."

People better versed in the law than I, including the appellate judges, will get to comment on that "obligations imposed by their position" (that strikes me as the guts of Marquette's charge, in that Professor McAdams abused his authority name-checking a graduate student) as opposed to "promote conditions of free inquiry" (and I'm old-school: the dean or provost is within his authority to tell a professor he is free to write about whatever interests him as long as he sticks to the course description and teach the controversies) and resolve any tension between those clauses.

Or perhaps the appellate courts will also consider the case more narrowly, treating internal academic procedures as presumptively valid.

That is, if I understand the law correctly, the basis for the protection professors enjoy from students who would like to contest an unfavorable grade in court.  The standards as laid down in the course outline and the college catalogue and as supervised and codified by grade appeal boards and internal judicial panels don't get overturned easily.

The extension of that principle to internal procedures as supervised and codified by the council of deans and the hearing panels may or may not be straightforward.

No comments: