Appalachian State University Sign – Photo via Appstate.edu
The Appalachian, the student paper at Appalachian State University, reports that yesterday the university’s Faculty Senate passed motions voting "no confidence" in Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Lori Gonzalez and Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs Anthony Carey. According to The Appalachian, "[t]he motions were brought about by a petition received by the Faculty Senate Executive Board March 4, according to the agenda summary of the March 25 Faculty Senate meeting."
Gonzalez and Carey both figured prominently in App State’s wrongful sanctions against tenured sociology professor Jammie Price, who was removed from teaching without a hearing on the basis of in-class remarks and the screening of a documentary on the pornography industry’s wider cultural influence. Price was later ordered to complete a "professional development plan" that infringed on her academic freedom.
Although Price’s case, which we extensively covered here yesterday, is not mentioned specifically in the petition, it’s clear that it was very much on the mind of the petition’s authors, who state in part (emphases in original):
Whereas there has been a pattern of disregard for academic freedom by the members of the Appalachian State University administration named below, (a) in the case of actions pertaining to specific individual faculty members, and (b) forcing strict adherence to syllabi, forbidding criticism of the administration in the classroom and the expression of personal opinions, and failing to support instructors under fire from unfair allegations; and
Whereas the due process rights of faculty members have been ignored by these same administrators, (a) in the case of actions pertaining to specific individual faculty members …
The Appalachian writes further:
Chair of the communications department Janice Pope addressed the faculty senate at the start of the meeting and said, "no matter what you do, if you vote ‘confidence’ or ‘no confidence,’ we’re in trouble and we’re in trouble as an institution."
Pope’s remarks are borne out by other documentation of faculty apprehension, most notably a Faculty Senate survey (PDF) in which the university received extremely poor marks on its commitment to academic freedom. As I wrote yesterday, that survey revealed that:
only 42 percent of respondents agreed with the statement that "the climate at ASU supports and promotes academic freedom." And 67 percent of faculty "who have worked at ASU for more than 5 years stated that they felt ‘worse’ or ‘much worse’ about their morale compared to 5 years ago."
Much of this, no doubt, could have been alleviated had App State’s administrators respected professors’ (like Professor Price) right to due process and the role of faculty governance in adjudicating faculty disciplinary cases. As we pointed out, App State rejected not one, but two highly critical faculty committee reports concerning its prosecution of Price’s case. The Faculty Senate’s vote, unfortunately, makes clear how much damage universities can do to their standing when they ignore the basic rights of their faculty.