This Month in FIRE History: Victory for Professor’s Rights at SUNY Fredonia

By August 6, 2007

It was one year ago this month that FIRE announced a victory in the case of Professor Stephen Kershnar at SUNY Fredonia. FIRE fans will remember that Kershnar was denied a well-deserved promotion because of his public criticism of the university on issues ranging from the school’s oppressive student conduct code to its affirmative action policies.

Kershnar came to FIRE with his outrageous tale of censorship-run-amok at SUNY Fredonia, where President Dennis Hefner not only denied Kershnar a promotion, but drew up a contract that would grant the university prior review over any public comments Kershnar made.

When Hefner was unmoved by FIRE’s letter advocating for Kershnar’s promotion, we issued a press release on the situation. A media frenzy quickly ensued, with the New York Post, Inside Higher Ed, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and local papers The Buffalo News and the Jamestown Post-Journal all getting in on the story.

In a remarkable turn of events, less than three weeks after FIRE issued its initial press release, President Hefner contacted Kershnar to inform him that he would indeed be promoted. FIRE’s Greg Lukianoff remarked at the time: 

Despite all of our successes…I have rarely felt as proud as I did when Professor Kershnar called to tell us of SUNY Fredonia’s reversal and to thank us for our work on his behalf.  SUNY Fredonia was playing an unfair and unlawful game with a man’s career and didn’t seem the least bit concerned about the ramifications of its actions until FIRE took the case public.  I wish we lived in a world where universities like SUNY Fredonia would do the right thing for its own sake, but as long as we still live in this world, I am very proud that FIRE could help set right an egregious wrong.

Schools: State University of New York – Fredonia