North Texas Objectivist Society (NTOS) Message Board › Tenure Shrugged: A Scholar's Affinity for the Philosophy of Ayn Rand Cost Hi

Tenure Shrugged: A Scholar's Affinity for the Philosophy of Ayn Rand Cost Him His Job

Old Toad
OldToad
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 572
I thought this might be of general interest:

The Chronicle of Higher Education
Thursday, July 5, 2007
Tenure Shrugged: A Scholar's Affinity for the Philosophy of Ayn Rand Cost Him His Job
By DAVID GLENN

The subject of the article is John D. Lewis.

http://chronicle.com/...­
Sherry
SherryTX
Plano, TX
Post #: 535
[q]"He was ultimately granted tenure and promotion," said Mr. Finks. "I think it was a win-win." [/q]

Someone explain to me how John Lewis won giving the fact that he had to agree to resign in order to get tenure and a promotion?

This is just another case where some people believe totally in freedom of religion, but not freedom FROM religion.

I think the Anthem Foundation should sue the university if they feel that they accepted grants and used the money for other than intended.

What a mess.
A former member
Post #: 113
As someone who has had the opportunity to meet, talk with and correspond with Dr. Lewis I find this completely OUTRAGEOUS! As Dr. Thompson moted, John Lewis is a scholar of the highest order.

I find this emotionally, intellectually, and physically disgusting.
Old Toad
OldToad
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 573
I believe that most news articles are quite garbled as to the facts and should be taken with a grain of salt. That being said ...

I do not understand the reported lawyer's argument on behalf of Dr. Lewis:
Among other things, he argued that only two of the 21 scholarly publications he had submitted in his tenure file mentioned objectivism at all. His book on warfare, which is under contract with Princeton University Press for publication in 2009, will contain no explicitly objectivist arguments, he says.

Does this mean that Dr. Lewis should get tenure because he was not explicitly promoting Objectivism? Then after receiving tenure, would he be free to speak his mind without fear of being fired? Or does the fact that his upcoming book to be published after he was up for tenure mean that he would be expected to continue to be muzzled in the classroom and in publications? I question the soundness of this argument -- and the implications -- but perhaps having a fuller context would explain it.



Another question regards this:
Ashland has had a commitment to Judeo-Christian values since its founding 128 years ago," he said. "In our faculty rules and regulations, and even in our bylaws, we talk about having a faculty committed to Judeo-Christian values. We don't require faculty to be specifically of Judeo-Christian persuasion, but we do require faculty to support the mission.

This appears to be accurate, based on Ashland University's "About" page [funny how relevant those can be]: http://www3.ashland.e...­

With this kind of statement of purpose, why was Dr. Lewis teaching there in the first place or expecting to be able to get tenure? Were these words viewed as being merely historical, innocuous, and of no real import such that they could be ignored? Was there a contract or policy regarding tenure track that said something different?

To the extent Ashland is a private institution, which it appears to be, what legal or moral ground of complaint does Dr. Lewis have for not being accepted for tenure there? I'm not saying there can't be grounds, I just don't see enough in this article to do more than speculate about what such grounds might be, if any.

Finally, it seems Dr. Lewis did not have much legal ground if he settled on the reported basis. It saves face and further negative publicity for both sides, but not much else.
A former member
Post #: 114
Old Toad,

You are right, as a private institution Ashland is of course within their rights to deny tenure to Dr. Lewis. Or even deny him a job at their institution. What I find disgusting about it, is John Lewis is a wonderful human being and a learned and rigourous scholar, yet many professors who do not even come close to being either continue to receive jobs and tenure.

The fact that I know John personally only compounds my sense of frustration and anger.

Pytheus
Old Toad
OldToad
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 574
Hi,

You are right, as a private institution Ashland is of course within their rights to deny tenure to Dr. Lewis.

I'm not totally sure about this -- I really just have questions. "Tenure track" at a university may be a contractual undertaking. The article hints that there may have been some legal basis for Dr. Lewis's complaint for not getting tenure, and the article also mentioned some sort of appeal process -- though it sounded like a private or internal appeal process rather than a legal one.

What I find disgusting about it, is John Lewis is a wonderful human being and a learned and rigourous scholar, yet many professors who do not even come close to being either continue to receive jobs and tenure.

Althouth I am not personally knowledgeable about John Lewis or his works (it's on my to-do list, and perhaps we could get him to speak to NTOS?), I do gather that he has a well-respected reputation in Objectivist circles.

After reading Ashland University's "About" page, though, I just can't help but wonder about the wisdom of Dr. Lewis' personal time investment or the Anthem Foundation's money investment in Ashland. Never having heard of any of this before, that's just hindsight on my part, of course.
A former member
Post #: 116
I defer to your superior knowledge of the legal aspects of this issue. If John did/does have some legal standing then I support him 100%.

As far as speaking at NTOS, John would be my first pick hands down, no question. He is an engaging speaker and veritable treasure trove of knowledge.

As you might have gathered, John is a scholar of classical history. Dr. C. Bradley Thompson was also a Professor (Dept head I think) at Ashland and, (this is speculation), I believe Dr. Thompson hired John. Brad has since left Ashland. I feel certain that at the time, and in that context, it was a good course of action. Hindsight of course, is always perfect.

Of course Anthem's "investment" in Ashland was more of an investment in Brad and John.

It might be of interest to you to know John had a successful career in the private sector before returning to school to earn his Doctorate (Cambridge I think, but could have been Oxford) and pursue teaching.

Personally I consider John Lewis a scholar of the first order.
Sherry
SherryTX
Plano, TX
Post #: 536
[Q]After reading Ashland University's "About" page, though, I just can't help but wonder about the wisdom of Dr. Lewis' personal time investment or the Anthem Foundation's money investment in Ashland. Never having heard of any of this before, that's just hindsight on my part, of course. [/Q]

I have to admit, that this did cross my mind, but wasn't really sure if I should comment on it, since the only thing I have read about this is the article you posted. I am a strong believer that a potential or current employee has a huge responsibility to manage their own career. And if working for an institution that frowns upon your philosophy to this extent doesn't make much sense to me. AND, I also found it very ironic that an Objectivist would think there would be legal repercussions here. After all, why would they give tenure in this situation? Wouldn't you only want to give tenure to professors that really and truly share such fundamental views? Doesn't an employer have the right to hire and keep employees that share their common values? There are many employment laws in place, a lot I don't agree with - but I have to obey them all. But this doesn't seem to be something where he would have a foothold to sue. (I have no idea what his contract stated, so I won't pretend to imagine how it is viewed under contract laws. We have Todd and Dan for that, hahah.)

In this respect, I think perhaps it may have been a mistake to continue there. BUT, I am not familiar enough with the whole tenure process. I don't think it is wrong for anyone to work for a company that may not share their own philosophy - but I am confused why this would be surprising, or even why he would apply for tenure there in the first place.

Still, though, I do have respect for Dr. Lewis based on the pieces that I have read by him. I think it is unfortunate that the college would risk losing someone so intelligent. But, employers do have a right to make stupid mistakes.

I wonder if Founders College would have a place for him that would be suitable? Whatever the case, with his reputation, I am sure he will land somewhere that deserves and appreciates him, and I wish him the best.

I also agree with Jeff - I would be very interested in attending a lecture if he happens to get down to the Dallas area.

On one last note - although this is not a happy story, I am thrilled that it is being reported on.
A former member
Post #: 9
"...and he shares her belief that democracies should respond to external attacks without much concern for civilian casualties."

Does anyone know where Ayn Rand expressed anything similar to this? It sounds rather harsh as written. I would like to examine the broader context of "her belief" in this regard.

I am sure that the author, David Glenn, was quite proud of the dramatic value he elicited with such a statement in his opening paragraph, but I am guessing that if the broader context of the source is examined it does not come off so cold. I worry about the impression that such interperetations leave with the casual reader.
Chad Henson
user 4136954
Savoy, IL
Post #: 8
First, addressing the immediately preceeding post, Rand argued that allowing civilian casualties to inhibit war objectives against illegitimate governments ensured that the worst side would win because (1) evil dictators typically place themselves and their military targets close to (or in) civilian population centers in order to prevent effective attacks and (2) that these same people would not show similar restraint when it came to targeting others. To allow the dictator to use his (oppressed) population as a shield to ensure their continued oppression is to implicitly sanction the use of individual lives by another. For Rand, the moral fault was that of the person who USED the population as a shield, not the person who takes out the target. Rand never said we should target civilians in order to win a war, but rather that we should achieve the objective and refuse to allow incidental civilian casualties to deter us.

Second, given this story, does anyone wonder why the people who would like to have a successful career in academia refuse to publish on Objectivism, even if they are Objectivists? I think Todd and I were having this discussion at one of the meetups. Nobody in their right mind will do major work on Rand's philosophy. First, anything at variance with what Rand said is going to get them attacked by Objectivists. Second, they'll be isolated from the academy because Rand's ideas aren't taken seriously (partially because of the reactions of the first group toward those who undertake Objectivist scholarship). It's a lose/lose situation for any potential scholar who wants to write.
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