State University of New York at Fredonia: Professor Punished for Public Expression

Category: Free Speech
Schools: State University of New York – Fredonia

State University of New York at Fredonia Professor Stephen Kershnar, apart from his faculty duties, authored a biweekly opinion column for the Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer local newspaper. Kershnar’s column had been critical of university policies including SUNY Fredonia’s Affirmative Action policy; Kershnar also publicly criticized a new student conduct policy. In response, President Dennis L. Hefner denied his promotion to full professor due to his “deliberate and repeated misrepresentations of campus policies and procedures,” without presenting evidence of any such violations. Hefner proposed a severely strict arrangement that would indefinitely require Kershnar to get “unanimous consent” from a university committee for all writing about the university, which Kershnar rejected. FIRE wrote Hefner on July 7, 2006, but Hefner upheld SUNY Fredonia’s denial of Kershnar’s promotion. FIRE took the case public, however, and Hefner then agreed to reevaluate Kershnar’s application. On August 11, 2006, Kershnar was notified of his unconditional promotion to full professor.

  • Dennis the First Amendment Menace

    September 4, 2006

    Although I’ve been writing about free speech issues for years, I’ve never actually called for the immediate firing of a university president. That is, until today. Anyone remotely familiar with the part SUNY-Fredonia President Dennis Hefner (716-673-3456; hefner@fredonia.edu) played in denying the promotion of Stephen Kershnar must surely agree. Kershnar is a brave academic dissident who has challenged the politically correct student conduct and affirmative action policies at his university via a series of columns written for a local paper. He paid a price for his bravery recently when was denied promotion to full professor. This was despite a stellar […]

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  • FIRE hails free speech win for conservative SUNY Fredonia prof

    August 28, 2006

    A philosophy professor at the State University of New York at Fredonia, who says he was denied a promotion by the school for expressing conservative views, is now being promoted. Stephen Kershnar claims SUNY denied him advancement to a full professorship after he wrote three opinion articles criticizing the university for its affirmative action policy, its student code, and its lack of conservative professors. However, less than three weeks after the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) publicly accused the school of violating Kershnar’s free-speech and academic-freedom rights, SUNY-Fredonia’s President Dennis Hefner notified Kershnar that he was “promoted to […]

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  • Fredonia professor granted promotion

    August 15, 2006

    In a dramatic turn of events, the State University of New York at Fredonia (SUNY Fredonia) has promoted the embattled ‘Professor Stephen Kershnar to full professor. In April, SUNY Fredonia denied Kershnar’s promotion because he had publicly disagreed with the university’s policies and practices. Less than three weeks after the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) brought this abuse of free speech and academic freedom to public attention, the administration reversed its decision and promoted Kershnar. “This is a tremendous victory not only for Stephen Kershnar, but also for professors at institutions across America,” stated FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. […]

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  • SUNY-Fredonia Denies Promotion to Faculty Member Who Criticized a Rule

    August 4, 2006

    PRIOR RESTRAINT?: The State University of New York at Fredonia is drawing criticism for denying a promotion to a tenured faculty member after he publicly criticized several university policies in the local news media. The university’s president, Dennis L. Hefner, said in a letter to Stephen Kershnar, an associate professor of philosophy, that he would not be promoted to full professor because he had made “deliberate and repeated public misrepresentations of campus policies and procedures.” To read the full article, please click here: http://chronicle.com/free/v52/i48/48a00701.htm

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  • No free speech for SUNY profs?

    August 1, 2006

    SUNY-Fredonia recently denied a promotion to professor Stephen Kershnar explicitly because of his out-of-classroom speech – a violation of his basic free-speech rights. Famous professors like Paul Krugman and Noam Chomsky regularly make public comments on controversial issues, but those who lack the protection of fame or tenure can risk their careers by saying something that administrators do not like. In Kershnar’s case, he publicly criticized a policy that said students could be in violation of rules “if they fail to remove themselves from situations and/or report the incident to the proper authorities,” observing that this would “turn the student […]

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  • Steve Kershnar of Fredonia’s philosophy department believes denial was due to his beliefs

    July 31, 2006

    A professor at Fredonia State University who was denied a promotion is stirring some controversy. Professor Stephen Kershnar, an associate professor of philosophy, was nominated for promotion to full professor in January, with support from his colleagues, department head, and top administrators, because of his outstanding professional record. However, Kershnar’s promotion was recently was denied — and he believes it is because of his public writings against Fredonia State policies. Kershnar has written pieces questioning Fredonia’s policies — titled ‘‘Against Affirmative Action’’ and ‘‘Are Conservatives Being Shut Out of the Academy?’’ — for the Observer in Dunkirk. In his affirmative […]

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  • Prof levels attempted viewpoint censorship charge at SUNY

    July 28, 2006

    A professor at the State University of New York-Fredonia is accusing the school of punishing him for expressing conservative viewpoints. Philosophy Professor Stephen Kershnar claims he was denied a promotion to a full professorship after he wrote three opinion articles criticizing the university’s affirmative action policy, its student code, and its lack of conservative professors. In a letter, SUNY-Fredonia President Dennis Hefner told Kershnar he would not be promoted because of his “deliberate and repeated misrepresentations of campus policies … to the media.” Hefner later told the professor that, if he wanted a promotion, he would have to agree to […]

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  • Professor claims criticizing policies cost him a promotion

    July 28, 2006

    A Fredonia State College instructor said he is being denied a promotion for speaking out against campus policies in the media. Stephen Kershnar, an associate professor of philosophy, was nominated in January for promotion to the rank of professor. While he received support from his department’s chairman, dean and vice president, the request was turned down by Fredonia President Dennis L. Hefner. Kershnar said he is being punished because he wrote a column in the Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer charging that the college’s affirmative-action policies lower academic standards. And Kershnar was critical of the college last year in a Buffalo News story […]

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  • Prior Restraint on Speech?

    July 26, 2006

    The president of the State University of New York at Fredonia offered to promote a faculty member to full professor if he would agree, among other things, to subject any writing or public statements about the institution to prior review for approval. The professor and a free-speech group backing him say that the offer demonstrates the university’s willingness to censor faculty views, especially if they are conservative. But Fredonia officials say that — while the proposal was a mistake — the professor brought it on himself. The dispute centers on the promotion bid of Stephen Kershnar, an associate professor of […]

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  • SUNY at Fredonia Denies Promotion to Professor, Citing Public ‘Misrepresentation’ of Campus Policies

    July 26, 2006

    The Chronicle of Higher Education   The State University of New York at Fredonia is drawing criticism for denying a promotion to a tenured faculty member after he publicly criticized several university policies in the local news media. The university’s president, Dennis L. Hefner, said in a letter to Stephen Kershnar, an associate professor of philosophy, that he would not be promoted to full professor because he had made “deliberate and repeated public misrepresentations of campus policies and procedures.” …   To read the full article, please click here: http://chronicle.com/temp/reprint.php?id=f2yplf7xf3gj1ch4jzq0q9gj8tzvqs45 View this article at The Chronicle of Higher Education.

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  • This Month in FIRE History: SUNY Fredonia Professor Targeted for Political Expression

    July 19, 2011

    In July 2006, Steven Kershnar, a professor at the State University of New York, Fredonia, came to FIRE for help after he was denied promotion for publicly disagreeing with university policies. As a columnist for a local newspaper, Kershnar had written a number of pieces that questioned the school’s student conduct policies, examined affirmative action practices at SUNY Fredonia, and highlighted what he perceived to be the unbalanced political makeup of the broader academic community. This earned the attention of SUNY Fredonia President Dennis L. Hefner, who called Kershnar’s articles “misrepresentations.” Soon thereafter, Kershnar received a letter from Hefner explaining […]

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  • Victory at SUNY Fredonia: Professor Promoted, No ‘Prior Consent Committee’ Required

    August 14, 2006

    BUFFALO, N.Y., August 14, 2006—In a dramatic turn of events, the State University of New York at Fredonia (SUNY Fredonia) has promoted the embattled Professor Stephen Kershnar to full professor. In April, SUNY Fredonia shamefully denied Kershnar’s promotion because he had publicly disagreed with the university’s policies and practices. Less than three weeks after the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) brought this abuse of free speech and academic freedom to public attention, the administration reversed its decision and promoted Kershnar. “This is a tremendous victory not only for Stephen Kershnar, but also for professors at institutions across America,” […]

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  • FIRE in the ‘New York Post’ on Scandal at SUNY Fredonia

    August 1, 2006

    Today’s issue of the New York Post features an editorial by FIRE President Greg Lukianoff and Vice President Robert Shibley discussing SUNY Fredonia, where the administration recently denied Professor Stephen Kershnar promotion because he publicly opined on university policies and practices. SUNY Fredonia President Dennis Hefner even attempted to require that Kershnar submit all of his written material to a university committee before publishing—an egregious abuse of Kershnar’s academic freedom and free speech rights. As Lukianoff and Shibley wrote, “While free speech too often comes under assault on campuses these days, President Hefner’s brazen attempt to control a professor’s public […]

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  • SUNY Fredonia Punishes Professor for Political Expression

    July 24, 2006

    BUFFALO, N.Y., July 24, 2006—A professor at the State University of New York, Fredonia (SUNY Fredonia) has been denied promotion for publicly disagreeing with the university’s student conduct policies and affirmative action practices. SUNY Fredonia’s president later agreed to approve the promotion only if the professor would submit all of his public writings to prior university review. Professor Stephen Kershnar declined the offer and sought help from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). “Professors must be able to publicly and frankly express their opinions if the ‘marketplace of ideas’ is to survive,” stated FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. “SUNY Fredonia’s bungling attempt to […]

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