Monday, December 24, 2012

Update on L'Affaire Loomis

. Monday, December 24, 2012

Via Dan Nexon. While I see Nexon's point that we are dealing with mealy-mouthed university administrators, I must completely disagree with his ("modest") level of satisfaction. This represents no victory at all because this new statement from URI officials, like the first one, completely misses the point. This is not about First Amendment rights. Nobody was saying that Loomis should be thrown into the deepest darkest dungeon never to be heard from again. They were saying that he should be fired or otherwise professionally damaged for an emotional -- and politically motivated -- response to a mass killing.

The relevant standard here is academic freedom, not First Amendment rights. The University of Rhode Island subscribes to the 1940 "Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure" issued by the American Association of University Professors. This Statement indicates that Loomis deserves the full support of the University of Rhode Island even if he was speaking under the banner of the University. (Which he always is, implicitly, contra the views of the CT commenters.) Instead of espousing that principle, which is fundamental to the mission of public universities, the University has repudiated it by saying that Loomis deserves no greater protection than those who have written to the University on this matter, whether in solidarity with or opposition to Loomis.

Loomis does not need the University to protect him from the threats of violence he has received; he has the FBI and the Rhode Island police for that. Loomis does not need the University to protect him from those who would suppress his speech; he has the U.S. Constitution for that. Loomis needs the University to protect him from professional damage as the result of a campaign of sabotage in response to his expression of a political nature. The University has failed to do that. Therefore the University has failed.

This new statement from URI is no better than the first. It simultaneously misses the point and refuses to honor its obligations to its faculty. A better statement would have read, in toto:

"The University of Rhode Island does not comment on the statements of individual faculty members, but it steadfastly defends the principles of academic freedom which are an essential component of the University's commitment to 'fostering a collective and individual propensity for inquiry' so that students may 'communicate, understand, and engage productively with people very different from themselves', including those with different beliefs and values."

UPDATE: Dan Nexon further explains his position. I respond in comments.


Update on L'Affaire Loomis




Add to Technorati Favorites