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Flushing Tenure Down the Toilet

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The attacks on tenured professors are just getting ridiculous.

Is the University of North Georgia moving to terminate a tenured professor of Spanish at its Dahlonega campus for being rude? Some North Georgia faculty members say that’s what’s happening to their colleague, Victoria McCard, and that her case demonstrates the university’s disregard for the tenets of tenure.

Various faculty accounts of exactly what transpired between McCard and a guest lecturer on campus in mid-October differ slightly, but they’re essentially the same on key issues. McCard, whom colleagues described as outspoken, asked the guest lecturer to speak up during a public presentation in the library — either because he was too quiet or because McCard thought he wasn’t being direct enough in his remarks about the political climate in his home country of El Salvador, or both. Either way, McCard offended the lecturer, who later met with her to discuss what had happened. He and McCard did not see eye to eye, and the lecturer lodged a complaint against her with the department chair. The chair reported it to the administration, which investigated the claim through a series of interviews with Spanish department faculty members.

A week later, McCard received notice that she was being suspended from teaching and barred from campus. She soon received word that the university was moving to fire her for various charges under the umbrella of being an unruly employee: disruptive behavior, discredit to the university, insubordination and interfering with the work performance of another employee.

I get that certain professors can be cranky and even kind of jerks. But a firing offense? For what? For challenging a visiting speaker who, presumably, is another professor? Even if not another professor, did McCord cuss the person out or something? No evidence of that. I’m not certainly not comfortable with the new definition of tenure, which is “saying nothing that offends the university president or provost” but this is ridiculous. Effectively, not saying anything negative to anyone at all is becoming the coin of the realm in keeping your academic job.

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