[Marxism] Antiwar beliefs thwarts tenure bid

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Dec 2 08:21:11 MST 2005

Casualty of Anti-War Activism
Alan Temes believes that being a professor doesn’t mean you give up your 
First Amendment rights — and that his beliefs cost him a chance at tenure.

  Temes, an assistant professor of health and physical education at Indiana 
University of Pennsylvania, had been receiving good reviews until last 
year, when some of his colleagues objected to notices he posted in the 
hallway of an academic building, among the various other notices that line 
such hallways. Temes posted — and regularly updated — the death counts of 
U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians killed since the United States invaded.

His department chair sent Temes an e-mail last April stating: “Hanging a 
body count is not an issue of freedom of speech, but one of using poor 
judgment and showing lack of sensitivity for students, faculty and staff in 
our office who have immediate family members who are themselves at risk of 
dying in Iraq every day.”

In the same e-mail — according to a lawsuit Temes has filed — the 
department chair, Elaine Blair, requested a meeting to talk about Temes’ 
anti-war activities and his tenure bid. At that meeting, according to the 
suit, Temes was told that continued anti-war activity would hurt his tenure 
bid — and shortly after that he was rejected for tenure.

A spokeswoman for Indiana University of Pennsylvania said that no one at 
the institution could comment about the allegations.

Normally, tenure lawsuits are very hard to win. But Samuel C. Cordes, a 
lawyer representing Temes, said that because of the collective bargaining 
agreement in place at the university, tenure criteria are very specific and 
somewhat formulaic, so it will be easy to show that Temes met the criteria 
and was headed to tenure — at least until he exercised his freedom of 

The suit filed by Temes in federal district court charges that his First 
Amendment rights were violated and says that, as a result, he should be 
awarded tenure.

“It’s a First Amendment issue, and I think it’s important for that reason,” 
Cordes said. “Any public employee has a right to talk on matters of public 
interest. The Supreme Court has said that for more than 20 years, 
especially in the university setting, where there is supposed to be the 
free exchange of ideas.”

Temes said that he thought it was important, as a professor, to get 
students thinking about the war in Iraq. “The American media hasn’t been 
covering the deaths,” he said. It seemed perfectly appropriate for him to 
put up his notices in the hallway, he said, since the same hallway includes 
notices that were patriotic or pro-war and a display of alumni and employee 
relatives who are serving in the military.

At the same time, Temes stressed that the activities for which he was 
criticized weren’t in the classroom. He said that he doesn’t try to hide 
his liberal views, but that the war is rarely relevant to his courses, so 
he doesn’t bring it up. He did call off classes on the day the United 
States invaded Iraq, and participated in a teach-in instead, and he 
replaced regular classes with a discussion on 9/11. “I just thought we 
couldn’t conduct business as usual” after learning of the attacks on the 
World Trade Center, he said. But Temes said that those rare instances in 
which world events changed his classes weren’t criticized — his body count 
and his other anti-war activities were.

He makes no apology for the body counts, and he thinks professors who were 
offended should respond with their own views, not criticize him for having 

“I think it’s important for professors to speak out about all social and 
political issues. There are lots of problems — national, global, that we 
could and should be addressing,” he said. “The only time many of my 
colleagues are mobilized is on contract issues, pay and benefits. Sure I 
want to make a decent wage, but that’s not high on my list.”

While Temes feels strongly about pushing his suit, he also knows these 
things take time and his current year will be his last at Indiana — unless 
he is granted tenure. So when not updating his body count, he’s job hunting.

— Scott Jaschik




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