Are Universities Ethically Obligated To Tolerate Professors Who Embarrass Them By Saying Idiotic And Offensive Things?

Apparently the answer to the above is “Yes.”



If the university is a state school, then for it to fire a professor who makes ridiculous, foolish or hateful statements that make people wonder why they should ever entrust the minds of their tender charges into an institution that would knowingly hire cretins and jackasses to pollute student RNA, then this is probably a First Amendment violation, since it amounts to the government punishing speech and chilling free expression. If, on the other hand, the university involved is not a state school, then to send a professor packing because he or she has rammed his or her foot down his or her throat up to the knee is a violation of the crucial principle of academic freedom, which is, in brief, that to encourage the free discussion of ideas on a college campus, education being the purpose of the institution, literally no idea, point of view or position should be blocked or chilled by substantive negative action.

Three cases of recent vintage illustrate the university’s plight: Continue reading

Now THIS Is Incivility!

DormRoom1950sThe Delta Gamma sorority chapter at the University of Maryland has received some unwelcome publicity as a result of a leaked e-mail from one of the sorority’s executive board members, reprimanding the Gammas’ for not sufficiently participating in Greek Week activities with their “matchup” fraternity, Sigma Nu. The admonition was delivered in a vulgar, threatening and verbally violent rant containing, among its over 800 words, 4 stupids, 3 variations of ass–, as in “ass-wipe” and “ass-hat,” 5 shits, 2 cocks, 2 sucks, 3 goddamns, and no less than 42 variations of fuck. Gawker, which received the text of the rant, mercifully did not release the young woman’s name when it posted the thing, which is as it should be. No reason to destroy her reputation now. The odds are she’ll do it herself eventually.

I’ll post the whole message at the end, to spare your having to go to Gawker, but here are some brief observations: Continue reading

Biden’s Apology For Abusing the Press: Not Accepted!



In a classic scene from the “Animal House” toga party, the chaotic Bluto, played by John Belushi, encounters a pompous student strumming his guitar and singing a sappy folk song as co-eds swoon. Bluto suddenly seizes the guitar and smashes it to smithereens. “Sorry,” he shrugs.

This is about the level of effectiveness and sincerity achieved by Vice President Joe Biden’s office, as it apologized after taking a student photographer’s photographs of the Veep and destroying them.

From Poynter:

“Jeremy Barr, a reporter with the University of Maryland’s Capital News Service, was seated in a non-press section for the event, at which the vice president announced an anti-domestic violence initiative. Biden staffer Dana Rosenzweig approached Barr after the event and ordered him to delete photos.

“She said, ‘I need to see your camera right now.’” Barr said. The staffer called Barr’s presence in the non-press area an “unfair advantage” over the other members of the media at the event. The staffer then requested to watch as Barr deleted the photos from his camera to ensure his compliance, Barr said. After deleting the photos from the camera, the staffer asked Barr to show her his iPhone to make sure no photos were saved. Barr complied.” Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “The Priorities of U.S. Higher Education Defy Understanding”

When the topic on Ethics Alarms is education, Michael frequently scores a Comment of the Day, and he did it again following the post on the University of Maryland spending a fortune on its president’s residence. Here is his effort to help us understand the conduct discussed in The Priorities of U.S. Higher Education Defy Understanding. And I’ll have a closing comment at the end.

“I have asked these questions about what is driving up college costs. Here is what I have found: Continue reading

The Priorities of U.S. Higher Education Defy Understanding

The next president of the University of Maryland, apparently. Wait---that was the previous post!

The out-of-control costs of higher education are one of many systemic problems that plague America, and it is one that I confess baffles me completely. I do not understand why tuition is so high and continues to climb. I do not understand why universities pay professors huge salaries for minimal teaching duties, and I don’t see what expensive buildings and beautiful surroundings have to do with education. I don’t understand why students pay outrageous sums to be educated then take trivial and absurd courses, like the now-cancelled Columbia University undergraduate course that was to consist of hanging out with the Occupy Wall Street gang to endear oneself with course’s OWS-loving professor.

Most of all, I do not understand the persistence of the myth that a college education can, does, or should qualify a graduate for good job, when it appears that a large percentage of students, if not a majority, leave the campus unable to write, think, or name the men on Mount Rushmore. Decades ago, as an administrator at major law school, I was shocked to discover that the school held remedial reading and wring courses for some first year students, one of them a graduate of Yale.  Do you think the problem has improved since then? A college education in the U.S. is a poor and declining product that is over-priced and over-hyped, and I don’t understand why people are willing to go into debt to purchase it, and why the manufacturers haven’t cut costs, improved the product, and lowered the price.

Well, maybe I do understand. Like so many other problems, the reason for this one may be no more mysterious than the fact that those in charge are irresponsible, incompetent, and unaccountable.

This week brought the news that crews will begin demolishing the president’s house at the University of Maryland, and begin construction of a new 14,000-square-foot mansion that will cost the school at least  $7.2 million. The palatial new digs for Maryland U’s president is being built in the midst of the university’s pleas for donors to contribute funds to rescue Maryland students who may be forced to drop out because of their family’s financial plights.
Meanwhile, the current president, Wallace D. Loh, has said that he will cut eight varsity sports teams in June to save an estimated $29 million over the next eight years. Do you understand this? Continue reading