The Atlantic prominently features FIRE in an article out today: “Should Professors Be Fired for Damaging a College’s Reputation?”
For authoritative answers on faulty firings at Louisiana State University, Mount St. Mary’s University, and beyond, as well as the trend’s far-reaching implications in the world of higher education, Atlantic reporter Laura McKenna turned to FIRE’s Will Creeley:
According to Creeley, the increasing pressure to police speech at colleges makes it a particularly perilous time to be a professor and has a chilling effect on faculty members. Faculty across the ideological spectrum seem to be under increased scrutiny. Creeley pointed to a conservative professor at Marquette University who was terminated for criticizing another faculty member, while Laura Kipnis, a liberal professor at Northwestern University, was subjected to a two-month, “Kafkaesque” inquiry for discussing sexual harassment on college campuses.
According to Creeley, several factors are driving these trends. The strain on university budgets has led to a “student-as-consumer” model, which puts a premium on student evaluations. The rise in the number of administrators at colleges has created a class of people whose job is to micromanage and police campus activities. The pressure from the federal government to respond to cases of sexual harassment has caused colleges to overreach and overreact. University decision-making, Creeley said, has become about minimizing risk—about prioritizing institutional inertia over dynamic teaching: “When universities allow risk management to drive decision-making, speech that might rock the boat is the first casualty.”
To find out which school’s “jaw dropping, reactionary, and brazen” faculty firing Will called “one of the most egregious examples of censorship that I’ve seen,” and to find out what he thinks young people need to know about campus censorship and academic freedom, read the full article on The Atlantic’s website.