Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The University of Minnesota stands firmly behind Professor Myers

I got my response from the University of Minnesota today regarding my request for an investigation into the misuse of University resources and violation of University policy by Professor Paul Z. Myers. This was the U of M Morris Biology Professor who asked people to send him consecrated Catholic Eucharist Hosts, drove a rusty nail through one, threw it in the garbage with some coffee grinds, took a picture of it and put it on his "personal blog". (I won't link his blog here- you can google his name). I replied to the original email that I would not be supporting the University unless this Professor was disciplined. Here's what I got back:

Dear Ms. Kihne:

I have reviewed your letter dated August 7, 2008, and have shared with the University of Minnesota Morris, and our Office of the General Counsel the information you sent. They will review the matters you raise.

I truly regret that you have become unwilling to support your alma mater, especially given your close involvement in the past as both a student and alumna. As I explained in my previous e-mail, I do understand your outrage about the actions of University of Minnesota Professor Paul Z. Myers. Many of us do not share Professor Myers’s opinions or agree with his actions, but public employees like him do have a constitutional right to express themselves as private citizens without institutional discipline or restraint. The proper course of action in this matter was to deactivate the link to the professor’s personal blog from a University Web site, as that link was inconsistent with University Web policy, and this has been done.

Please know that I will continue to do everything I can to encourage religious tolerance and acceptance on our campuses and to support open and honest discussion of important issues facing our society. I appreciate your taking the time to write me.

Robert H. Bruininks

First of all- I find humor in the fact that Bruininks thinks that a University Aluma doesn't understand the idea of "free speech"- he needed to explain it to me. It's even more humorous that he did exactly what I said he would and hid behind the academic freedom argument in order to protect a bigot. Hence why I didn't even "go that route". Really, your response is SO predictable Mr. President.

The problem is President Bruininks, this "private citizen" is blogging on his "personal blog" on the University clock, at his University lab, on University Property and using University Networks. I stand by that charge until they can prove somehow that he isn't on campus from 8-5pm on days when he's scheduled to be in class.

As I said previously, the U DOESN'T CARE what Catholic Alumni think. President Bruininks expresses regret that I "have become unwilling" to support the University. I never said I was unwilling to support the University, I said I would not be supporting the U if this professor wasn't disciplined for breaking University policy which clearly states that "Community members are expected to: use University property, equipment, finances, materials, electronic and other systems, and other resources only for legitimate University purposes"

So, President Bruininks acknowledges that Professor Myers is not going to be disciplined by stating that he regrets that I'm "unwilling" to support the U.

The University is MY school and the school of many of my friends and family. Anybody who knows me knows how much I care about the University. My daughters have matching Gopher cheerleading costumes, they have talking Goldy Gophers and know the Rouser. Of all the Alumni at the U, I'd guess no more than 5% know the words and music to "Hail Minnesota!"- I'm one of them. I love the U- but it's (sort of) like how I love my children. I don't reward bad behavior. You can't say that "it's okay" to be a University professor blogging all day long on a personal blog. You can't have a University professor who continually publicizes death-threats he receives- going into a classroom to teach kids. Not now- not today- no way. It's not right.

This Professor has broken University policy- the University knows it.

Here's what Professor Myers said to the Daily Kos in 2006 when asked if University Faculty and Administration knew about his blog:

Yes, my colleagues and administrators know about it. It would be hard not to -- I'm not anonymous, we're a small school, and as traffic climbed I was representing a significant fraction of the total net traffic out to our little town on the prairie. They're supportive. They don't agree with everything I say -- in particular, I suspect my anti-religious stance might give a few of our administrators' ulcers -- but they're also committed to the principles of academic freedom.

Here's what Professor Myers said in 2005 at an L.A. meeting for Professors who blog:

"...I think we academics should feel a duty to disseminate information beyond that small group of people who actually pay us tuition. I don't believe this kind of thing can single-handedly change the world, but if all of us took a little time every week to share and explain some small bit of our specialized knowledge, the world might start becoming a slightly smarter place."

As class at Morris starts tomorrow-I'll be interested to see when Professor Myers is blogging and when he's "disseminating information" to that "small group of people who actually pay tuition".

A lot more to say on this mess....

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