“Colleges can’t take away a professor’s academic freedom rights because they want to stem criticism on social media”
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education got involved here and helped make the difference.
From the FIRE blog:
VICTORY: Chancellor affirms professor’s academic freedom after Arizona college panicked over test questions about Islamic terrorism
Scottsdale Community College’s mishandling of a professor’s academic freedom drew an apology from the district’s interim chancellor Monday, just days after the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education sent a letter defending the professor’s rights. The college tried to force professor Nicholas Damask to apologize for three quiz questions about Islamic terrorism that a student said were “in distaste of Islam.” Damask added that the college suggested he would be required to meet with an Islamic religious leader to review the content of his course.
“I’m happy that the Maricopa Community College governing board has acknowledged the importance of the First Amendment and academic freedom, even into subjects that may be controversial — without that freedom of thought and inquiry, America just isn’t America anymore,” said Damask, who has been teaching at SCC for 23 years. “And I’m grateful for groups like FIRE that are willing to stand by me in the fight to defend that freedom.”
FIRE sent an urgent letter to SCC on Thursday, outlining the college’s free speech and academic freedom missteps and demanding that it abandon any suggestion that it will investigate or suppress his teaching.
Damask, chair of the Department of Political Science at SCC, exchanged emails with a student on April 29 about three quiz questions in an international relations course. Within a day, someone shared this student’s concern about Damask’s quiz questions online, and the questions generated negative attention on the school’s official Instagram account.
The quiz questions asked about the context in which terrorism is justified by some in the Islamic religion, where in Islamic doctrine and law terrorism is encouraged by those who justify it, and who terrorists believe they are emulating, based on the material assigned in the course.
“Colleges can’t take away a professor’s academic freedom rights because they want to stem criticism on social media,” said Katlyn Patton, author of FIRE’s letter.
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