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 action piece, Kershnar questions Freodnia’s policy for diversification saying the policies sacrifice merit, in an excerpt from the piece Kershnar writes, ‘‘If a liberal NBA team hired Jewish and Asian players despite their lowered abilities, it would hardly surprise anyone if these players were on average weak and if they hurt the team.’’

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education feels Kershnar has been wrongly denied promotion because of writings such as these.

‘‘F.I.R.E. doesn’t normally take on hire, tenure or promotion cases, but in the case of Professor Kershnar his denial for promotion isn’t a normal reason because he was expressing his own opinion outside of the university, he had every right to do what he did,’’ said Director of Legal and Public Advocacy Samantha Harris about Kershnar’s reasoning for contacting F.I.R.E..

Kershnar contacted F.I.R.E. after SUNY Fredonia allegedly agreed to promote Kershnar under the condition that he would allow a university committee to read and approve his public writing.

According to Director of Media Relations Christine Davis Mantai, it was Kershnar who came to the university with the idea of having his public works reviewed by a committee between himself and the university in hopes of accelerating a possible promotion.

‘‘The reason he wasn’t promoted was because he failed to reach certain standards at the level of service from which he applied for,’’ said Mantai about Kershnar’s denial for promotion.

‘‘Professor Kershnar was hired in 1998 as an assistant and was tenured as an associate professor in 2003, the application for full professor usually can be approved within six to 10 years,’’ said Mantai. ‘‘President (Dennis) Hefner wanted Kershnar to expand on his experience by working more so with his professional community and surrounding community as well.’’

When asked about the denial for promotion due to his public works, Mantai responded by saying, ‘‘We can’t ever let anything like that deal with the denying of a promotion, people are vocal and that’s what we expect from our faculty and staff.’’

Mantai said despite Kershnar making the topic public, SUNY Fredonia has continued to try and work on a reasonable conclusion.

‘‘Obviously he’s an ambitious scholar and he thought he was ready for this promotion and when it wasn’t granted he aggressivly pursued it,’’ she said. ‘‘These things are always being reviewed.”

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