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More Faculty firing: Bowdoin College is under fire for allegations of impinging on Goldstein’s free speech–Can anyone say Stillman College fuck-ups?

April 12, 2009
Bowdoin College
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In yet another discussion of what faculty can and can’t say, and I am most likely offending censors by using the word fuck, Bowdoin College is disciplining a professor for handing out materials during a student recruitment session, on the unsupportable grounds of “interfering with…jobs,” and it’s no wonder that Bowdoin College finds themselves in headlines with this one:

Bowdoin officials offer a somewhat different version of that day’s events. On the walk over to the student union, says Hood, vice president for communications and public affairs, Goldstein spoke to students and families even as a student tour guide encouraged them to ignore him, “inappropriately interfering with college empoyees who are trying to do their jobs.”

Can you guess why the other profs are nervous?  Apparently if you dissuaded someone from attending this program or college, as a professor, you can be fired?  That’s some scary stuff there.  What about mentioning that another school might have a better program that fits a current student’s needs?  Is that a firing offense?

Idiot Hood, who is VP of communications and public affairs, for reasons unfathomable after the next comment, said that the professor just didn’t say things at the right time, not that they are constraining the prof’s speech:

The bottom line, Hood says, is that Goldstein behaved “in a very disruptive manner,” and the college’s problem is not with the nature of the ideas he sought to raise, but that he did so in a “time and place that was simply inappropriate.”

Funny how they use that, isn’t it?  These things are said at the wrong time?  Strange, isn’t it?  Is Bowdoin, and Idiot Hood by extension, saying that their professors can only talk in the classroom?  Are they only allowed to talk in their books and articles?  No professor can have a soapbox?  Why not?  I was approached all the time by people on campus for one reason or another, but because it’s as prof, then something is wrong, especially if it’s counter-culture?  Bowdoin, you guys are in trouble.  Idiot Hood isn’t helping, but then again, who are all these administrators out to help?

Apparently, you, as a professor can be harassed for not being nice and kissing ass (Judd is an administrator):

Over the next two months, charges came and went. On October 17, Judd wrote to tell Goldstein that Spoerri had concluded that, while he had failed to treat colleagues with respect and proper protocol, the professor had not harassed anyone. (The dean’s letter cites what she calls a “pattern” of dealings with colleagues — notably Goldstein’s telling her to “get lost” — that “disregards the basic standards of civility,” and requires him to complete and pass an online harassment prevention course within two weeks. It also suggests anger management courses.)

Hmm, do faculty have any rights here?  Deans somehow make their own laws and rules, and if you aren’t nice enough “following the basic standards of civility,” you can be fired?  What exactly are the supportable grounds for this argument?  Judd is the dean of academic affairs, but apparently at Bowdoin College, she believes she can also set social standards for interaction with professors?  how misguided is that?

Bowdoin College’s investigation turned up only that the prof had failed to cite a paper properly, but is that ground for termination when the real attack is on his personality?

Last Friday, the four-person investigative committee — which included three Bowdoin professors and a Colby College professor who is a Bowdoin alumnus and former member of its Board of Trustees — weighed in, dismissing the plagiarism charge but concluding that he had committed misconduct by failing to fully cite the source of the grade data despite having characterized the paper as “complete and fully documented.”

In addition, even though other people working with Goldstein didn’t realize the import of the legal language in Goldstein’s research paperwork, Bowdoin College declared these people “irrelevant.”  Sounds an awful lot like a witch hunt to me!

Furthermore, even though the committee seemed to take the fact that Goldstein didn’t mean to make a mistake as guiding notion, apparently Bowdoin College wasn’t buyin it:

The committee deemed those to be “serious offenses” and recommended punishment: a letter of censure warning that “subsequent, similar offenses would yield more severe sanctions.” The proposed penalty was mitigated, the panel added, by several factors, especially “the difficulty we have encountered in establishing intentionality in this matter…. [T]he distinct possibility that these actions were not intentional should be a mitigating factor in the application of sanctions.” The Faculty Handbook specifically exempts “honest error” from the definition of research misconduct, Goldstein and FIRE’s Kissel say.

So, even if it’s in writing regarding an “honest error,” we still target the prof and trump up the charges?  Odd stuff.  Even stranger is that the school’s own investigative panel disagrees with what sounds like a persecution vendetta against Goldstein:

“Despite the technical language of the Faculty Handbook that seems to tolerate the dual role of complainant and judge for the Dean of Academic Affairs, we do not think that basic fairness is accomplished when one person performs both roles. … Dean Judd has vigorously prosecuted this case. We do not believe it is now in the best interest of the college for her to be its final judge.

I want to know at what point Judd faces disciplinary action?  Does Idiot Hood face any disciplinary action?  Stillman College, perhaps you and Bowdoin are bosom buddies.  Who’s next up to apply to teach there?

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