Tuesday, February 10, 2009

More on Academic Freedom

Stanley Fish weighs in on the Denis Rancourt situation. It would be helpful to get some kind of official statement from U of O at this point, because what is not at all clear is if they're trying to fire him because of giving all his students A+'s (or saying that he would do so) or because he's a thorn in their side. It's looking like they're going after him for the grading in the same way that the prosecutors here in BC are going after the Mormons for polygamy when what they really want them for is child abuse. In neither case does this seem like a smart move. If Rancourt has, as Fish says, repeatedly overstepped the boundaries of acceptable professional conduct, surely he needs to be disciplined for those things. A friend of mine in high school got expelled after being caught smoking off grounds. He wasn't expelled for being caught smoking, but for all the other things he'd done. He'd been warned that one more infraction would lead to expulsion. Has Rancourt received warnings, or have his bosses just expressed their frustrations to him and told him to behave? Is the grading an actual infraction? A prof got fired at UPEI a few years ago for offering a B- to students in exchange for them not showing up. His course (on the history of Christianity; perhaps this was a concrete lesson in the selling of indulgences...) was over-enrolled and there wasn't enough space for everyone to sit. Fair enough, but dealt with in an unethical way. What Rancourt has done doesn't seem at all the same. He wants the students there. He wants them to get more from their educational experience. He's going about his business in an oddball way, but jesus, universities are full of people who spout weird shit as if it were wisdom and ramble on ad nauseum about things only tangentially related--at best--to the curriculum. If you want to get rid of all the tenured profs who are nuts, you'll have to do a lot of firing and hiring.

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