Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Does Gossip now Equal Academic Freedom??

I guess it does in the minds of some professors, specifically one in New Jersey. Per an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education:  in the course of a lecture regarding state and local politics, a professor mentioned the local sheriff, by name, not only as someone who was double-dipping (retired and then was rehired, thus getting a salary and a pension) but also said that the sheriff needed all of that money for alimony payments and child support.  A student in the class apparently worked with the sheriff and texted him about the subject of the lecture whereupon the sheriff came to class and asked the professor to step out for a little chat.  The school has its knickers in a twist because the sheriff interrupted class but the kicker was the quote from the professor: 

Mr. Glass said he thought the sheriff would "have a clear understanding what any given professor, whether it's me or anybody else, can or can't say in a classroom."
To me it seems like the sheriff DOES have a clear understanding what a professor can or can't say in the classroom.  Just because you are standing in front of a bunch of students doesn't automatically give you a pass to say what you want about anybody.  By commenting about how the professor thought the sheriff was spending the money, he took his 'lecture' into the gossip column and I think the sheriff was right to call him on it.  Too many academics try to hide too much behind the 'academic freedom' tower.  I believe that particular Ivory Tower bastion has allowed the liberal academic groupthink to grow unchanged and unchallenged for far too long.

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