Adler calls out her attackers. But winning a battle isn’t the same as winning the war.
I noted last month the latest in the University of Colorado administration’s ongoing campaign to completely destroy the school’s reputation, as it sought to fire Dr. Patti Adler for daring to teach deviance in her class on, well, deviance. There’s good news. The professional idiocrats who run the place backed down. Last week, Dr. Adler published a statement in the Boulder Daily Camera, and if you were expecting a display of mealy-mouthed diplomacy, you’re going to be sorely disappointed.
In short, Dr. Adler stomped the hell out of the administration. She begins by setting a clear tone.
After more than a month marked by trauma, turmoil, and great emotional distress for my family and myself, I am proud to say that the University of Colorado has backed down from their initial position and is allowing me to return to teach this semester in the course, Deviance in U.S. Society. During this process my character was severely and repeatedly defamed by administration officials, I was denied academic freedom and due process, my rights to privacy in a personnel matter were trampled, I was both intimidated and induced to take early retirement, and was then buffeted by the continuous and changing stories coming from the University as they attempted to cover-up their egregious mishandling of my case.
Not much of a conciliatory pose there, huh?
My victory today is a small one, and mostly Pyrrhic, because the trends toward mission creep and overreach by bodies such as the Office of Discrimination and Harassment and Institutional Review Boards are increasingly dominating decision-making in higher education. Universities and schools at all levels around the globe are increasingly sacrificing academic freedom as they become more concerned with risk and liability than with creating an environment in which creativity and ideas can flourish and students can be challenged to expand their horizons.
In the words of a famous Dixie Chick, “I’m not ready to back down,” I guess. Adler’s tone and words here may seem restrained, especially by the standards we’re used to seeing with mass media coverage of popular controversies, but by the rules of decorum commonly observed in academic circles this statement was an absolute flamethrower. She makes clear that the university blinked and she lays the blame in some rather specific places.
Adler’s case is a well-publicized skirmish in the war being waged on university campuses every day, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that the soul of our educational system is at stake. Once upon a time colleges were run by educators, people who knew their areas of expertise and who cared passionately about their students. Over the years, though, institutional power has been usurped by a rising class of professional bureaucrat with no grasp of nor investment in the educational mission. It’s even worse when they try to apply “business principles” to the university environment. First off, business principles are usually not very well suited to educational institutions, and second, these people’s grasp of business principles tends to be shaky, at best.
It’s an all-out war for control of some campuses and it’s a big part of why a lot of us left teaching. When you sanitize and strip the deviance out of Deviance in U.S. Society so that it passes muster with the squeaky-assed HR and Legal departments, what you have left is devoid of meaningful content. (And the idea that students are going to be traumatized by a skit on prostitution in a lecture is laughable. These kids get more first-hand experience with deviance in the average weekend of partying than you’ll see in a season of Game of Thrones.)
What the race to the bottom crowd is pushing isn’t education, folks. It’s Education-Whiz® Pre-Processed Learning-Like Product, Now With Half the Critical Thinking! Students – excuse me, customers – might as well spend three hours a week watching Three’s Company reruns.
Congratulations to Dr. Adler, not only for prevailing against an arrogant, gutless attack against her expertise, professionalism and character, but also for standing up in this public statement and calling out the anti-educational forces behind the attack.
Sadly, I doubt it’s going to matter. The same is true at the University of Colorado as it is most other places around the country: the administrators have won, or soon will, and the rest of us have lost.
Gods, I cannot wait until the school calls me up for its 2014 fund-raising campaign….