So, the Erik Loomis thing. On the one hand, I'm with Ken at Popehat: the speech of Professor Loomis' that has gotten him in trouble is uncivil, borderline offensive, and designed, I think, to promote exactly the sort of misreadings that his critics have engaged in (the "I'm not touching you"-type of rhetorical push whose only purpose can be to infuriate; calls to "start a dialogue" about a topic which has an extensive dialogue already, where "let's talk" means "I will not accept a result until I win" are a problem; this is an attempt to torch dialogue entirely). The public heat he's gotten is fair and deserved, or would be, if the people giving it were arguing in good faith (some are not).
On the other hand, the University of Rhode Island overstepped its bounds. His public-non-job-related comments are not a matter pertaining to his conduct as a professor. Even (especially) if they were, that's what a university and academic freedom are for: the ability to espouse all kinds of views. Public universities especially should not be in the business of policing (much less condemning!) the speech of their own communities. The URI president's unwillingness to engage in even the most basic of defenses of one of the university's employees ("we disagree vigorously with the positions of Professor Loomis, but we respect the right of people in the community to disagree on the range of issues, and protect their right to do so as a crucial part of academic inquiry") is unacceptable.
Labels: academic life