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AAUP Intervenes in Case of Suspended Pacific University Professor

The AAUP wrote Lesley Hallick, president of Pacific University (OR), yesterday to convey Association concerns about the failure to afford academic due process to Richard J. Paxton, a tenured full professor in his sixteenth year at the institution, after nearly four months on “administrative leave” and to press for his immediate reinstatement. In early October, the administration summarily removed Paxton from the classroom pending an investigation of student complaints about his classroom speech, a process that could potentially result in dismissal. The letter notes that, as of February 1, the outside attorney-investigator had still not contacted Paxton, no faculty body had been consulted, and no faculty hearing had been scheduled. The letter emphasizes that, under the 1940 Statement of Principles of Academic Freedom and Tenure, “A suspension which is not followed by either reinstatement or the opportunity for a hearing is in effect a summary dismissal in violation of academic due process.”

The letter states that, “according to the information [the AAUP] received from Professor Paxton, the classroom speech under investigation was germane to the subject matter. Whether it violated standards of professional ethics is a judgment to be rendered, not by administrators or outside attorneys, but by professional peers—if academic freedom is to retain any meaning at Pacific University.” It also states that the AAUP “has seen no evidence . . . that Professor Paxton’s presence . . . in his classroom, where he has apparently taught without complaint for fifteen years, represents a threat of immediate harm to himself or others,” the only basis for a suspension pending dismissal permitted by the AAUP. And it informs President Hallick that, given the failure to afford a faculty hearing, the AAUP is “compelled to regard the action against”  Paxton “as a summary dismissal.” "If allowed to stand," the letter continues, the action "would set a precedent inimical to tenure, academic freedom, and due process at Pacific University, despite the faculty handbook’s ringing endorsement of the 1940 Statement.”  

Read the letter.

 

Publication Date: 
Tuesday, February 2, 2021