July 24, 2008
More on NC State and academic freedom
The students get it, even if the administrators don't. Here's a staff editorial in today's student paper:
Chancellor James Oblinger said July 16 he would not reconsider his dismissal of former film professor Terri Ginsberg's grievance, in which Ginsberg alleged that the University had violated her right to academic free speech.
This is an obvious affront to the right of academic freedom and the symptom of a greater ill within both the contract policy and the grievance system. According to Jim Martin, chair of the Faculty Senate, Ginsberg's case is an example of everything that is wrong with the grievance process.
One of the first statements in chapter six of the UNC code reads, "The University and each constituent institution shall protect faculty and students in their responsible exercise of the freedom to teach, to learn, and otherwise to seek and speak the truth." These words perfectly frame the principle of academic free speech - the administration would be wise to heed them.
One of the real problems with the existing system is how the University views non-tenure track employment, which is how Ginsberg was hired. Simply put, N.C. State employees who sign contracts that do not qualify them for possible tenure are subject to the regulations governing employees who have contracts that allow for tenure. This is nonsense - the UNC code provides a distinct set of rules governing employees not eligible for tenure and allows them to file grievances for violations of academic free speech. Worse, the University's refusal to even consider a hearing for Ginsberg's grievance petition prevents any investigation of the facts or appropriate redress.
This is utter hypocrisy. Administrators preach to students about the importance of following the rules, yet act as if the rules are mere suggestions with regard to their actions. The University is again using questionable interpretations of existing regulations to defend its actions and remain above accountability.
The chancellor and other administrators involved are hiding behind the confidentiality regarding personnel matters and have failed thus far to take any substantive action needed to fix the broken grievance system.
Martin noted that teachers working in elementary through high schools enjoy more protection under the law with regard to academic freedom than non-tenured employees. This is absurd. University instructors often address controversial subjects, and it is vital to ensure such topics can be freely and openly discussed in an academic setting. Chancellor Oblinger and the rest of the University administration must address the problems with the grievance system and stand behind the principle of academic freedom.
Read more about the case here, and sign the petition here.
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