In Tuesday's Democrat and Chronicle, staff writer James Goodman wrote an article about a professor at a major university suffering wrongful termination, now forced to launch a law suit for both professional and financial losses. And it isn't the first time.
This same university probably has a pattern of wrongful termination--but how would anyone know that? They wouldn't. Because each time the university does this to both faculty and staff, if a law suit is filed, regardless of outcome, the complainant has to agree to confidentiality. That means that there could be an endless string of wrongful terminations, and prospective students, parents, even employees, would never even know.
It's like a collosal bait and switch, except instead of a $20-bill, the loss is in the value of the tuition and education. Why? Simply put, the professor in question had a national reputation; this individual was good at not only teaching, but meeting disciplinary demands of the field. Interestingly, the article quotes a professor from the same university who is part of the AAUP or American Association of University Professors. The AAUP sets the standards for scholarship, teaching, service, and of course, the much coveted tenure of any college-faculty. The quote wreaked of logical fallacy--a kind of endorsement for the university meant to look otherwise as a kind of distraction from the truth--it's basic argument taught in most freshmen classes. Smoke and mirrors. More bait and switch techniques. What was the gist of the quote? That nothing like this had EVER happened at the university before. Of course, that's a lie.
In the last seven years, there has been more than one case of wrongful termination. The excuse of being a bad teacher as evidenced through student evaluations has undoubtedly been used before as well. But what the newspaper article doesn't tell the audience is that this particular professor could have had up to 225 student evaluations in a given year--were all 225 negative? Surely not. But even if they were, they are merely opinion. We just spoke about opinion in the censorship piece. Opinion is just that--one person's view, influenced by who knows what factors--in the case of this professor (and every professor who actively teaches)--the most likely factor that influences a student's opinion is their anticipated grade. That's no way to judge a professor's performance. And even the university's own policies and procedures agrees: Student evaluations are not to be used as a singular rubric for teaching performance.
So what's really going on? Misery. And lots of it.
Because this particular professor had a national reputation, a best-selling book, and was recognized by Congress as a field expert, the green-eyed monster was invited to the party.... Of course, no one told this professor such an invitation had been extended. More's the shame.
Professional jealousy is marked in the same way as any other fear: DIFFERENCE. What was different about this particular professor from other faculty? Undoubtedly, success outside of the university was one of the main factors. Go ahead, if you have the inclination, research the current faculty. See how many--of the hundreds--share the same national repute as the recently terminated professor. You won't find many. I would wager the reason why is because the ones who do, or who have the potential to, ultimately found themselves terminated.
Are colleges now caveat emptor? You betcha. All colleges and universities depend on tuition--even the state schools. What that means is all colleges and universities have to sell themselves--which in turn means prospective faculty, employees, students, and their families will have to dig to find the dark underbelly, like in this instance. Why is it worth researching? Because this kind of negative culture devalues the education. Though this specific university may have committed a similar crime before (yes, wrongful termination is an illegal act), now, because it made the mistake of firing a person of national repute, it has caught the attention of the media...and other relevent entities, like the AAUP. This particular university faces censure from the AAUP. Falling on the US News and Reports list of colleges can't be far behind. Future employers notice that kind of thing. That means that the 15,000 or so students now in attendance, with several thousand more joining each year, are in jeopardy of not having their degree taken as seriously as it should be. Ronald Reagan had it right with the trickle down effect in the 80's--and it's still the same result today, except, in this case, it's not about gaining more wealth, it's about gaining more evidence about a campus' reputation.
Misery may love company but to spread it willfully is one of the worst evils in society...one of the worst, and one of the most prevalent. So, it's not just one unfortunate individual who's lost a job here, this time, spreading misery may cost potentially tens of thousands of students tens of thousands of jobs, which means tens of thousands of parents lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in tuition investments. And this is just what we know. Where there's smoke, there's usually fire...or at least a recently shot gun.
Caveat emptor still stands but so does being mindful beyond dollars toward sense...and sensibility.
Until next time, dearest readers....