Civil Discourse Now

Where the far left and far right overlap for fun and enlightenment

Academic freedom and Mitch Daniels are incompatible.

   In 1975 I helped organize students at DePauw to protest the University's denial of tenure to a professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. The denial had the effect of termination of the professor's employment. DePauw, at the time (maybe still) required that a professor achieve tenure within seven years of that professor's employment, or the employment would end. The professor, Robert Fornaro, held a Ph.D., had published peer-review articles, and had been voted Professor of the Year at least twice by students at DPU. After two years of prolonged procedures of appeal, the denial was made final. We had a demonstration at the Union Building, held a one-day moratorium of classes (a sunny, warm spring day as I recall), and then DePauw went on as usual. Apparently the professor already had a tenure-track position lined up at a university in the south, and his attorney was near the end of negotiations for settlement of a lawsuit against DePauw. Of course, we did not know of these last couple of developments or else the indignation we felt over Fornaro's dismissal would have been muted. The beautiful spring day still would have occurred and just as many students would have skipped class---it was a Friday and most DePauw professors "called" Friday classes in their courses.

   The American Association of University Professors had determined Fornaro's academic freedom was violated in the denial of his tenure. Fornaro was left-wing. The University announced that certain concepts of departmental needs supersede academic freedom. The fact Fornaro was left-wing had little to do with the denial of tenure, however. Many of the professors were left-wing. His true "sin" was to be in conflict with the head of the department. I was shocked, nonetheless, that a University would deem anything more important than academic freedom.

   A news story by Tony Lobianco yesterday reports that then-Governor Mitch Daniels had sought to ban Howard Zinn's writings from college classrooms in Indiana. Zinn wrote a "People's" history of America in which he tells the story of America in a way most people do not want to read or hear. Many acclaim Zinn's work. Some do not. On the first page, Zinn quotes a letter written by Christopher Columbus to his royal sponsors in Europe to the effect that the natives he found in the so-called New World were so docile and trusting that, with only fifty (50) men, he could subjugate them in the name of Jesus Christ. I love the book. It gives a view of American history to balance the white-wash we usually are given. (Kokomo right-winger Peter Heck hates Zinn's writings; another reason I like Zinn.)

   As governor, Daniels, apparently, sought to ban Zinn's writings from Indiana college classrooms. He also sought to retaliate against professors who were critical of the then-governor. Variety of opinions are to be encouraged in a university. Apparently Daniels views post-secondary education as a place to teach vocational skills and to punish those who do not fall into line. I doubt he met such practices as the alma mater that almost wasn't---Princeton University, where he was busted for selling LSD.

   Daniels appointed enough members of the Board of Trustees at Purdue University to make his hire there ethically questionable. Of course, he appointed a lot of the members of the boards of trustees of the State's universities, so I suppose he could have gone to any of the five main campuses. He probably chose Purdue because of the parties and the summer produce available in the community. Then again, there is The Frozen Custard. In any event, a tyrant---in politics, but especially in academia---should not be tolerated.

   Perhaps this sounds sexist, but the members of the Board of Trustees of Purdue University should grow the cajones to terminate Daniels's contract and send him packing. He might already have begun to eliminate departments, though, and so perhaps Spanish will be eliminated from the curriculum. In that case, the members should go back to the American slang and grow balls. In either event, this is a man no more suited to run a University than he is to run a State.

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