Some More Thoughts on Gonzalez and Academic Freedom

Some followup from the earlier post:

If Gonzalez thinks ID is science, and not religion, he may have an even harder time arguing that there is discrimination here. Professors, rightly so, have freedom of religion and can believe whatever they want in their personal lives. However, if he thinks ID is science, I don’t think it is discrimination to count that fact against a candidate, just as it wouldn’t be discrimination to give a student a lower grade for having a wrong answer on a test. Writing a book about DI applied to astronomy would be exactly the type of extramural statement that would “demonstrate[] the faculty member’s unfitness for his or her position.”

Final thought: It’s really impossible to say whether this is an academic freedom issue without knowing the process and substance of the ISU tenure review. Perhaps more details will emerge on the institutional appeal, but chances are, the decision of the committee will be upheld. Gonzalez could choose to sue, but in the process, Gonzalez would bear the burden of proving that 1) protected speech was involved (easier to prove if ID is a religion), 2) ISU impermissibly discriminated based on this protected speech, and 3) Gonzalez’s interest in expressing the ID hypothesis outweighs the institution’s interests. In the discovery process, Gonzalez would have to open his files and emails to the institution’s counsel, who would pick through it and may find embarrassing communications with the ID groups.

(In fact, if any of you are real jerks and want to have fun with this guy, I’d suggest filing a freedom of information act request under Iowa state law for Gonzalez’s emails with outside DI groups. His email may be exempt (I don’t know the particulars of Iowa law; in other states, requestors have obtained professors’ email), but it’s a fairly simple and low-cost intervention.)

And even if Gonzalez wins his case, what does it get him? A court-ordered appointment in a department where he’s not welcome! Generally, if you’ve lost your tenure case, it’s best to move on quietly and try again at another school. No other school will want to hire you if you make a federal case of it.

7 thoughts on “Some More Thoughts on Gonzalez and Academic Freedom”

  1. Not to take his side, or anything (it sounds to me like he’s a jackass) but most tenure requirements are intentionally vague. I know a guy who failed to get tenure despite several Cell papers and loads of continuous funding. The problem? Most of the faculty hated him. But tenure requirements basically are vague enough that not playing well with others is sufficient reason to get hosed.

  2. Yep, from my experience in the legal world, a dozen different factors could sink you, and the whole process seems to have a lot of arbitrariness.

  3. Tenure isn’t guaranteed to anyone, and isn’t a product of academic freedom.

    “a dozen different factors could sink you” – yes, such as not getting any research funding. Was he really trying to get tenure? Did he want tenure, but still was too involved in ID to keep up his research? The big factor in being awarded tenure as I understand it is the faculty’s estimate of your future research. Everything else is a proxie for that.

  4. Was he really trying to get tenure?

    Considering that the great majority of Gonzalez’s publications came from his postdoc work, and that once he published that Regnery book he spent the next several years basically coasting, and that he put out so little effort getting outside money, one really does have to wonder whether he even wanted tenure. He certainly didn’t act like he was planning for his tenure review.

    One can be excused from the cynical hunch that GG essentially took it as a given that he was going to bomb out on his tenure review (I can’t believe this came as a surprise to him), and that at that point he fully well planned to raise a big ‘religious martyr’ stink. This is basically win/win for him: either (a) Iowa caves and gives him his job, making him a hero fighting the Darwinists (unlikely), (b) Iowa doesn’t cave, and he gets snapped up by East Jesus Bible Polytechnic, or (c) he joins the pantheon of creationism’s martyrs, quintupling the sales of his next eight books on intelligent design.

  5. It’s worth pointing out to people who don’t know what academia is like that typically a pre-tenure academic spends an enormous amount of time and energy trying like crazy to do a bunch of teaching, research, writing, and service to the university before going up for tenure review. They may slack off somewhat after they get it, but it looks like this guy starting slacking off well before, and that’s not gonna get you tenure unless times are really easy for academics.

  6. If Gonzalez thinks ID is science, and not religion…

    Which Gonzalez are you writing about? The Guillermo Gonzalez who in 2005 was reported to have said:

    “Intelligent design is a method of detection, looking for and detecting particular objective elements of design in nature,” Gonzalez said, noting that “objective” means it does not depend on any prior philosophical or religious assumptions. “Anybody with any religious background can look at the data and reach the same conclusions,” he said.

    Or did you mean the Guillermo Gonzalez who was quoted in today’s Nature as saying:

    Gonzalez, who has been at Iowa State in Ames since 2001, was denied tenure on 9 March. He is now appealing the decision on the grounds that his religious belief, not the quality of his science, was the basis for turning down his application. “I’m concerned my views on intelligent design were a factor,” he says.

    Direct link to Nature news item for those who subscribe.

  7. Selkirk, sorry but that sorry article in Nature does not really quote Gonzalez. See update here.

    The Nature article also fails to even consider the obvious: maybe the tenure committee did their work properly by the usual standards.

    Since the topic here is academic freedom, what kind of freedom is it if political pressure forces a university to grant tenure to someone they don’t want?

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