Punishing an anti-war professor ....

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Posted by andreas from p3EE3C5B3.dip.t-dialin.net ( on Sunday, November 24, 2002 at 5:03AM :

Statement regarding Professor Peter N. Kirstein, Ph.D.

Richard A. Yanikoski, Ph.D.
President, Saint Xavier University
November 15, 2002

During recent weeks Saint Xavier University has attracted national attention because a tenured professor of history sent a young Air Force Academy cadet some e-mail containing inflammatory, anti-military comments. Professor Peter N. Kirstein, an avowed pacifist, quickly apologized to the cadet and to the Air Force Academy for his e-mail message, but in the meantime thousands of other interested parties have taken offense.

From the beginning of this incident, Saint Xavier University has worked to achieve four objectives: (1) to make things right with the cadet and the Air Force Academy; (2) to respond compassionately to the anger and anguish aroused in so many quarters; (3) to counsel and discipline Professor Kirstein in appropriate ways; and (4) to ensure that teaching and learning at the University will continue unimpeded.

The following actions have been or will be taken to make things right with the cadet and the Air Force Academy: (1) Professor Kirstein sent a personal apology to the cadet and to the Air Force Academy. Subsequent correspondence between them has been open and respectful. (2) The University extended an official apology to the Academy’s Superintendent, and as president of the University, I have agreed to accept an invitation to visit the Academy within the coming year. (3) Saint Xavier University will send a delegation to the Air Force Academy’s upcoming Academic Assembly. (4) Campus officials have attempted to respond to all cadets, parents, and members of the Academy staff who telephoned or wrote to the University. Any omissions in this regard have been unintentional.

To respond compassionately to the large number of men and women who somehow received copies of Professor Kirstein’s e-mail and thereby came to feel demeaned by his intemperate criticisms of the military, the University has done the following: (1) Faculty, staff and administrators throughout the University have fielded telephone calls during the past two weeks, in each case listening sensitively to complaints and advice. (2) We answered hundreds of e-mail messages personally, until the rising volume of correspondence made individual responses impossible. (3) We cooperated with the press in an ongoing effort to ensure accurate and responsible coverage. (4) We used web-page updates to summarize the University’s response to this emerging situation. (5) We consistently admitted that Professor Kirstein’s e-mail message was unwarranted and unbecoming a scholar.

By far the topic of greatest interest to most people has been the University’s response to Professor Kirstein. After careful deliberation, I have decided to take the following actions on behalf of the University:

Effective on the afternoon of November 11, 2002, Professor Kirstein was relieved of his teaching responsibilities for the current semester and reassigned to other duties.

An administrative reprimand will be delivered to Professor Kirstein and placed in his personnel file.

While on sabbatical leave during the spring semester of 2003, Professor Kirstein will submit his teaching, scholarship, professional development, and service record to peer evaluation within the norms of the University’s procedures for periodic review of tenured faculty. Professor Kirstein volunteered to have this review conducted earlier than it otherwise would have been.

Any future faculty contract(s) extended to Professor Kirstein will include a binding addendum specifically requiring him to adhere both to institutional policies and to the norms of the American Association of University Professors in matters relating to the proper exercise of academic freedom and extramural activities.
No additional information will be released by the University with respect to the above actions or other personnel matters concerning Professor Peter Kirstein. This is in accord with University practice.

Professor Kirstein and the University community deeply regret the incident that began this chain of events. Saint Xavier University remains committed to the pursuit of teaching and learning in a campus community where all are treated with respect, caring and justice and where academic freedom is enjoyed for purpose of promoting quality teaching, careful research, critical analysis, thoughtful discussion, and programs of direct service to metropolitan Chicago and beyond.

-- andreas
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