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Colorado Conference Responds to CSU-Pueblo President Lesley Di Mare Regarding the Censure of Professor Tim McGettigan

January 20, 2014

As reported in today’s Inside Higher Ed, CSU-Pueblo President Lesley Di Mare has upheld her institution’s censuring of Professor Tim McGettigan by invoking the violent incidents at Virginia Tech and Colorado’s Columbine and Arapahoe High Schools. The relevant excerpt from the IHE Report:

On Monday afternoon, a spokeswoman for Colorado State-Pueblo sent an email to Inside Higher Ed saying that McGettigan had violated the policy on use of electronic communications. Further, she released a statement from President Lesley Di Mare, in which she invoked recent incidents of violence in education. “Considering the lessons we’ve all learned from Columbine, Virginia Tech, and more recently Arapahoe High School, I can only say that the security of our students, faculty, and staff are our top priority,” Di Mare said. “CSU-Pueblo is facing some budget challenges right now, which has sparked impassioned criticism and debate across our campus community. That’s entirely appropriate, and everyone on campus – no matter how you feel about the challenges at hand – should be able to engage in that activity in an environment that is free of intimidation, harassment, and threats. CSU-Pueblo has a wonderful and vibrant community, and the university has a bright future. I’m confident that we can solve our challenges with respectful debate and creative problem-solving so that we can focus on building that future together.”

The Executive Committee of the AAUP Colorado Conference has issued this response to President Di Mare:

The American Association of University Professors Colorado Conference emphatically rejects Colorado State University Pueblo President Lesley Di Mare’s reckless and damaging conflation of legitimate faculty criticism of proposed mission-compromising cuts to faculty and staff at CSU-Pueblo with the brutal and mindless slaughter of innocents at Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Arapahoe High School.  While any university president is obligated to insure the physical safety of their university community, associating peaceful and legitimate dissent with the violent intentions of deranged gunmen is the very height of absurdity and reveals an appalling lack of professional judgment in a university president.   The email to which President Di Mare was allegedly responding, written by sociology professor Tim McGettigan, is a passionately phrased appeal to faculty and community solidarity in defense of CSU-Pueblo’s faculty, staff, and academic mission. It deserved an intelligent and informative response, not an illogical damnation and a suspension of his basic faculty rights.

The AAUP recognizes that the right of faculty to communicate among themselves about their conditions of employment is as robust with electronic communications as with any other medium. While this right is not absolute, it is so fundamental to academic freedom that any suspension of access must come only after the filing of formal charges and the rigorous application of due process. Such formal charges must also be made for only the most serious of reasons, such as a faculty member creating and communicating a destructive electronic virus. As the University of California’s electronic communications policy notes, “In general, the University cannot and does not wish to be the arbiter of the contents of electronic communications. Neither can the University always protect users from receiving electronic messages that they may find offensive.”

Issued on a day dedicated to one of America’s greatest champions of free dissent and public justice, the Rev. Martin Luther King, President Di Mare’s statement, and her censure of Dr. McGettigan’s email in the absence of any due process procedures, suggests a profound misunderstanding of the fundamental role of academic freedom and legitimate dissent in American public life and on American university campuses coast to coast.

Steve Mumme, Co-President AAUP Colorado Conference and Professor, CSU-Fort Collins

Jonathan Rees, Co-President AAUP Colorado Conference and Professor, CSU-Pueblo

Co-Signatories: AAUP Colorado Conference Executive Committee Members Don Eron (University of Colorado, Boulder), Raymond Hogler (CSU-Fort Collins), and Dean Saitta (University of Denver)

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