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. “Such unconstitutional attempts to dominate and control professors’ right to dissent must not be tolerated at our nation’s colleges and universities.”

As FIRE reported last month, Kershnar was nominated for promotion to full professor with abundant support from his colleagues and superiors.

SUNY Fredonia President Dennis L. Hefner nevertheless denied the promotion. Hefner explained that although Kershnar’s “teaching has been described as excellent,” he would not be promoted because of his “deliberate and repeated misrepresentations of campus policies and procedures … to the media,” which Hefner claimed “impugned the reputation of SUNY Fredonia.”

The supposed “misrepresentations” referred to Kershnar’s bi-weekly opinion columns in the OBSERVER and his public criticism of a student conduct policy. The university presented absolutely no evidence, however, that Kershnar ever actually misrepresented the university.

When Hefner suggested to Kershnar that refraining from such statements in the future would help his chances for promotion, Kershnar offered to submit his writings to prior review for a year.

Hefner suggested instead that Kershnar sign an even harsher contract that would be in effect for an indefinite period of time and that would require Kershnar to get “unanimous consent” from a university committee for all writing regarding the university to ensure “the avoidance of any future misrepresentations” of campus practices.

Kershnar refused Hefner’s illiberal and unconstitutional arrangement and contacted FIRE.

On July 7, FIRE wrote a letter to Hefner criticizing his actions. Hefner responded in a letter dated July 20 by upholding the denial of promotion to Kershnar.

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