Assault on Academic Freedom at OSU

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Tue May 9 11:06:28 MDT 2000

Date: Tue, 9 May 2000 10:44:49 -0400
To: Ed.Ray at
From: "Keith M. Kilty" <kkilty at>
Subject: Assault on Academic Freedom at OSU
Edward J. Ray, Provost
203 Bricker Hall
190 North Oval Mall
Dear Ed,
I am deeply concerned about the future of academic freedom at the Ohio State
University. In the "Message from the President" that we received dated May 7,
there were statements that indicate that central administration has decided to
dictate to faculty what and how and where they may teach. I have already brought
my concerns to the attention of President Kirwan, but the message also carried
your name. In addition, there was an article in today's Dispatch that raises
further alarm.
According to The Dispatch (May 9, 2000, p. B2), "In a full-page advertisement
yesterday in The Lantern, the OSU student newspaper, students were told to
expect classes to meet 'in a normal fashion' and were asked to contact vice
provosts 'if you feel that your instructors are not respecting your right to the
education for which you have registered and paid.'"
I am shocked. Is central administration beginning a witch hunt to identify
dissenters? I don't know what else I can conclude from this assault on academic
freedom and due process. How will such complaints be handled? Do students have
to identify themselves? If accusations are made against faculty for not
"respecting the rights of a student to the education for which they have
registered and paid," will faculty then be given the names of accusers? Will
faculty be given an opportunity to defend themselves? What is the intent of this
statement, other than fear and intimidation of the many people on this campus
who do not support central adminstration's position on the strike?
I teach a GEC course titled "Minority Perspectives" (Social Work 300) where I
get complaints (i.e., accusations) from students that I am anti-white and
anti-male. Others feel that I do not give proper credence to "creationism,"
since I do not consider it legitimate science. When values and beliefs are
challenged, especially around issues such as race or gender or sexual
orientation or biological determinism, some people have difficulty in dealing
with that and will respond with complaints, often anonymously. I do not take
such complaints seriously, although I encourage students to raise their concerns
in class where we can have an open discussion. Unfortunately, many are not
willing to do so; rather, they prefer to make complaints against people behind
their backs.
Now it appears that central administration is deliberately fostering a
McCarthy-like atmosphere of hostility and fear and intimidation to silence
disagreement. I hope that is not the case. Academic freedom and due process are
fundamental principles of academic life, especially in the classroom. How can we
develop and maintain a quality curriculum if we must contend with a system where
students are encouraged to make complaints because they feel they are not being
respected? That is a broad and nebulous position that central administration
advocated in yesterday's Lantern.
This is a sad day in the history of the Ohio State University. Is the goal of
central administration to divide and conquer? To pit students against faculty?
Students against staff? Faculty against staff? To create an atmosphere of fear?
To deny academic freedom and due process? I sincerely hope not.
A great institution of higher education must be committed to academic freedom
and due process, to fostering an atmosphere of open discussion, even when that
open discussion involves challenges to basic values and beliefs, even to the
positions of institutional authorities themselves.
I call on you now to stand firm for academic freedom at the Ohio State
University, to make a clear and public statement supporting and affirming the
commitment of this institution to this principle.
Keith M. Kilty
Professor of Social Work and Chair, Committee A, OSU/AAUP

Every great advance in natural knowledge has involved the absolute
rejection of authority.
- Thomas Huxley
Keith Kilty
kkilty at

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