The AP reported that U.S. Naval War College professor John Schindler was placed on leave after a photo of a penis with the professor ‘s name over it was posted on Twitter. It was unclear who sent it and who posted it.
After a blogger sent a complaint to the War College’s administration, the college’s president, Rear Adm. Walter E. “Ted” Carter Jr., ordered an investigation. A college spokeswoman said that investigators would look into whether the photo was not really of Schindler.
Now THAT should be an interesting investigation.
Schindler, a professor of national security affairs and a former National Security Agency intelligence analyst, has deleted his Twitter account. He has said his criticism of NSA leaker Edward Snowden and others has caused him to be the object of harassment on various social media.
Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day has two parts:
1. Is it fair for the War College to place Schindler on leave before it has even been established that he sent the photo or that the body part in question belonged to him?
2. If he didn’t send the photo himself but it is established that the body part in question does belong to him, should the Naked Teacher Principle* apply?
My views: regarding question #1, if I understand the facts so far, I see no reason why Schindler should be put on leave. I’d say the chances of a sane professor at a military college posting his naughty bits to Twitter with his name attached are on par with the chances that the U.S. will invade Sweden, and one would think that there are some allegations too remote to take seriously. The message intended by the tweet seems as obvious as it is crude, and the blogger who made the complaint seems to be operating under the influence of a similar motive: Let’s make trouble for this guy. I recognize that there may be policies in place that require a staff member to be placed on leave when an investigation is ongoing: it is still unfair.
To answer the question the Ethics Alarms reader asked: yes, if Schindler posted a photo of his own schnitzengruben with his name proudly attached, he cannot complain if he is relieved of his employment. True, children are not involved, and schnitzengrubens are not germane to his field of study, but the military does require a high standard of honor, and I would have no problem with U.S. Naval War College deciding that such conduct would render a professor untrustworthy and useless as an instructor. I would also approve if he was required to undergo psychiatric evaluation. Of course, I haven’t seen the photo…maybe I would be proud too.
My answer to question 2 as I posed it is, though not as emphatically felt, the same, and for substantially the same reasons. It can be persuasively argued that taking a private selfie of Mr. Wiggly is none of the Navy’s business, but it becomes the Navy’s business when the self-portait becomes public, and the reason doesn’t matter. Yes, the Naked Teacher Principle applies.
*The Naked Teacher Principle: The Principle states that a secondary school teacher or administrator (or other role model for children) who allows pictures of himself or herself to be widely publicized, as on the web, showing the teacher naked or engaging in sexually provocative poses, cannot complain when he or she is dismissed by the school as a result. The original formulation of the NTP can be found here. It has had many tweaks and variations since, which can be found here.