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Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Fired for Emailing George Washington's Writings?

That's the surprising situation facing a tenured professor at Glendale (AZ) Community College.

On the day before Thanksgiving, Professor Walter Kehowski sent out the text of George Washington’s "Thanksgiving Day Proclamation of 1789" and a link to the webpage where he’d found it—on Pat Buchanan’s web log. After several recipients complained of being offended by the e-mail, MCCCD found Kehowski guilty of violating the district’s Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) policy and technology usage standards. Kehowski then contacted the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help.

Let's be clear here. He's not being fired for quoting George Washington, or (surprisingly perhaps) for mentioning God. He's being fired for linking to Pat Buchanan's website, as this article states:

Greg Lukianoff, president of the Philadelphia-based group, said Kehowski is being targeted because of the e-mail, sent Nov. 22, with the 1789 proclamation and the link to the site of Buchanan, a conservative commentator and former presidential candidate. Lukianoff said five employees filed complaints because the Buchanan site criticized immigration policies.

In fact, it looks like the immigrant issue has been one that has gotten Kehowski in trouble in the past.

To begin at the beginning, in October 2003, Kehowski objected to a “Dia de la Raza” event scheduled at the Glendale Community College and organized by the Movimiento Estudiantil de Aztlan.

Kehowski suggested instead a celebration of Columbus Day and Western culture. In a mass e-mail to his list containing links that challenge multiculturalism, Kehowski asked why the district was “endorsing an explicitly racist event.”

I'd certainly agree that the latter incident was a clear example of academic freedom, and sent to an email list presumably made up of people who wanted to receive emails from him. On the other hand this incident is murkier:

This year, district Chancellor Rufus Glasper notified the professor March 9 that he intended to recommend to the governing board that Kehowski be dismissed. He said Kehowski's Nov. 22 e-mail violated the district's electronic communications policy, which prohibits using district e-mail for private or personal matters.

Glasper's letter says the professor continued to disregard district policies despite previous sanctions and directives. Kehowski was suspended without pay for five days in September 2005 for a similar violation.

Of course, I would like to see some evidence that other employees of the community college district had been fired for similar violations of the email policy; I'm going to take a guess that this is one of those rules that is routinely ignored.

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