By Professor Doom
“Excuse me professor, but can you write me a letter of reference?”
Every semester, one student, sometimes more, will ask me for a letter of reference. Even with large classes, I still have standout students, and so if I can remember even a little about the student, I do so, presenting what I know in as favorable a light as honesty allows.
There have been a few times where I’ve had students ask me for character references for court proceedings, and, again, if I feel I can honestly contribute, I do so.
Never once has it occurred to me that my university may punish me for honestly trying to help my students, but apparently this is a thing now:
The issue here really isn’t the professor’s actions, or even the university per se. The problem is the university has an entire fiefdom filled with Vice Presidents of Troublemaking, eager to justify their cushy jobs by seeking out someone who might cross an invisible (and undefined) line, and punish them.
So, let’s see what “crime” professor Fischler committed:
Fischler's former student, Kristie Torbick, is a high school guidance counselor in her 30s. She was arrested for allegedly having sex with a 14-year-old student. She pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to serve between two-and-a-half and five years in prison.
Before Torbick plead guilty, her defense team asked Fischler if he would be willing to submit a letter testifying to Torbick's good behavior in his class. Fischler did so. He did not address the allegation—to do so would be inappropriate. He merely testified to her excellent "performance as a student." He essentially played the role of a character witness.
Wow, I’ve dodged some bullets, I see, as I’ve done the “character witness” thing a few times as well. Harmless enough, right? Fischler actually got off light:
The university declined to re-hire one teacher for defending Torbick,…
You can literally lose your job over providing an honest opinion in a court case. How chilling will this be for future students asking for even a little help? Fischler was higher up the food chain, and so not as easily dismissed. So, not fired, but punishment will be meted out:
Administrators at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire are forcing an education professor to undergo sexual harassment training.
Does anyone else think there’s a bit of overreach here? The “training” will come from the Title IX fiefdom on campus. While Title IX was supposed to be about preventing the cover-ups of sex crimes on campus, it also addresses a wide range of issues, such as spending on various college sports, and, apparently, the squelching of free speech.
I clarify: the professor here merely submitted a written statement to the court system regarding one of his students from years in the past; in no way did his actions impact anyone on campus, or education in any form. He did not lie, he did not violate any agreement with the university…he simply provided a letter of reference for someone the university decided they did not like.
And he’s being punished for it, while at least one other faculty lost his job. A few comments indicate how the general public still doesn’t “get” what’s happening on many of our campuses:
This is a state university. They cannot discriminate against someone for testifying in a court. If they could, the government could fire any employee who testified to something they didn't like.
I remind the reader, it took nearly 20 years before an open academic fraud at state university UNC was finally established as fact, even with thousands of students partaking in that fraud. Moreover, UNC paid no penalty, and no administrator who took part in the cover-up lost his or her job.
So…yeah, in theory, if the professor here wants to fight, he could spend a decade or two, along with hundreds of thousands of dollars, trying to convince the university they’ve overstepped their bounds…or he just suck up 8 hours (I’m guessing, could be quite a bit less or more) of mandatory sexual harassment training. I completely respect his decision not to fight here.
But my point remains: there will be a chilling effect on other faculty, who at the very least will be reluctant to help students out, since no matter how honestly they do so, the faculty will be risking their career with every letter.
This is more than about a professor's right to engage in free speech. This is about the government's ability to deprive anyone of employment or a benefit because they testify for the defense in a trial. That is a big deal.
This comment is closer to the mark, although we’re not yet at the point where our government does this (much). We are, however, at the point where our campuses, a great source of expert witnesses in trials, do clearly have the power to deprive defendants of those experts.
Right now it’s just character references, but what’s to stop this from progressing further?