Yesterday, on Townhall.com, columnist Mike S. Adams called for SUNY Fredonia President Dennis Hefner’s termination for his handling of the promotion of Professor Stephen Kershnar. Adams wrote:
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; firstname.lastname@example.org) played in denying the promotion of Stephen Kershnar must surely agree.
As loyal Torch readers know, Professor Kershnar was denied a promotion explicitly because of his outside writings and comments critical of university policy regarding affirmative action, admissions, and the student conduct code. As Robert and I wrote in our editorial about the case for the New York Post, however, the case got even worse:
Responding to Hefner’s suggestions, Kershnar offered to submit his writings for one year to a university committee before publishing them. He called this a “prior consent committee,” hoping this might remind Hefner that requiring prepublication review of a professor’s speech was not only unconscionable, but an unconstitutional “prior restraint.”
Yet Hefner missed this cue, actually coming back with an even tougher counteroffer that would require Kershnar to get “unanimous consent” for his writings about the university from a university committee—apparently for the rest of his career.
Like Mike, this is the first time Robert or I have ever directly called for a university president to be fired. Hefner not only violated clearly-established law and ignored the most basic philosophical principles of the academy, he also showed tremendously poor judgment and exposed the SUNY system to both serious legal liability and national ridicule. While it is true that, in the face of national scrutiny, Hefner backed down and decided to promote Kershnar with no strings attached, he even then managed to bungle it by claiming that his about-face was just a happy coincidence. As Emily wrote at the time, “Heaven forbid the university acknowledge its wrongdoing and take responsibility for its misstep.” University presidents have been fired for missteps far less serious.
Thank you, Mike, for bringing more attention to this brazen abuse of power in the SUNY system.