[Marxism] Professors victimized for opposing cutbacks in California
lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Oct 26 07:37:36 MDT 2009
Can Free Speech Be Furloughed?
October 26, 2009
On Thursday, several hundred students at Southwestern College, a
community college outside of San Diego, held a peaceful protest
over budget cuts that are leading to the cancellation of more than
400 additional course sections next semester. On Friday, the
students got a sign that someone was paying attention to the
protest, but they didn't get the response they wanted: Four
faculty members were immediately suspended and barred from the
campus or using the campus e-mail system.
The suspended professors include the current and former presidents
of the faculty union, which supported the student protest.
With California's economy in a free fall, and the budgets of
public colleges and universities in similar decline, student and
faculty protests have been picking up across the state, and
several campuses have seen building takeovers or other examples of
civil disobedience. But the Southwestern situation -- with faculty
members getting kicked off campus -- is notable for the extent of
administration reaction to a protest that was relatively mild
compared to some others.
The letters that the four faculty members received telling them
that they had been suspended immediately did not say why. But the
letters referenced (by number) a section of California's penal
code that bars people from "willfully disrupting the orderly
operation of the campus."
Southwestern officials could not be reached to explain why they
took this action. The college's spokeswoman was recently laid off
and she has not been replaced. The college's president, Raj
Chopra, is reportedly on vacation and his e-mail reply says that
he will be off campus until November 13. Chopra's executive
assistant gave local reporters a statement that said that the
reason for the suspensions could not be made public, and that "the
college shares our students' concerns about reductions in state
funding for the college. The college respects, values and is
committed to freedom of expression.”
Philip Lopez, an English professor who is president of the faculty
union, said that there is no other possible explanation for the
suspensions except the rally. "Nothing else happened the day
before," he said.
Lopez said that the union -- an affiliate of the National
Education Association -- has consulted with union lawyers and is
demanding a hearing, which the college must schedule within seven
days. He said that the rally received widespread support because
the students and faculty members were questioning how the college
is responding to the budget crisis. While state cuts are severe,
he said, the college has insisted on keeping a reserve fund that
is twice as large as necessary, when cutting its size might save
more courses. He noted that the cuts planned for next semester
will be about one fourth of courses in many departments.
Regardless of one's views of the college's strategy, he said it
was wrong for professors to be kicked off campus without any
explanation and apparently because they criticized the
administration. In his case, he said, he was forced to miss a
meeting with administrators Friday at which he was to have
represented faculty interests, because he was ordered off campus.
"Clearly the administration doesn't think there is such a thing as
the First Amendment," he said.
Andrew Rempt, a writing instructor who was suspended, said that he
was most upset about being pulled from his classes and not being
able to help his students. "I feel terrible not being able to
teach my courses," he said. "We’re are at a real key point in the
semester, a real make-or-break point for many of my students, and
I can’t be there to help them. This is very difficult for me to
deal with because that’s the whole point to what we do."
Ron Norton Reel, president of the Community College Association,
an affiliate of the California Teachers Association (the NEA's
California unit), issued a statement Sunday denouncing the
"In misguided actions by administrators who have no respect for
the rights of faculty, reports that at least four instructors at
Southwestern College have been suspended with pay after taking
part in a campus rally against severe cuts are extremely
disturbing," he said. "When a college president and governing
board support cutting 25 percent of all course offerings and
exclude faculty from important decisions, the right response is to
challenge these cuts. State education cuts are threatening the
future of this college and many others. Retaliating against
faculty for standing up for their school and students is a
reckless course of action."
— Scott Jaschik
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