Iowa State University President Gregory Geoffroy: Denied!

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Statement from Iowa State University President Gregory Geoffroy

On Friday, June 1, I informed Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez, assistant professor of physics and astronomy, of my decision to deny his tenure appeal.

As part of this decision process, I appointed a member of my staff to conduct a careful and exhaustive review of the appeal request and the full tenure dossier, and that analysis was presented to me. In addition, I conducted my own examination of Dr. Gonzalez’s appeal with respect to the evidence of research and scholarship. I independently concluded that he simply did not show the trajectory of excellence that we expect in a candidate seeking tenure in physics and astronomy – one of our strongest academic programs.

Gonzalez has 20 days to appeal the decision to the Iowa State Board of Regents.

The Des Moines Register reports on the Tenure Denial

But Geoffroy said that Gonzalez’s advocacy of the “intelligent design” concept was not a factor in the decision to turn down his request for tenure.

“I based my review strictly on what he submitted himself as part of his dossier when he requested tenure,” Geoffroy said. “I did not consider any of the issues that have been circulating around about intelligent design.”

Which seems reasonable although there is no doubt that ID proponents will continue to make the claims of viewpoint discrimination and religious bias.

According to Geoffroy

Geoffroy said he considered refereed publications, Gonzalez’s level of success in attracting research funding and grants, the amount of telescope observing time he had been granted, the number of graduate students he had supervised, and the overall evidence of his future career promise in the field of astronomy.

As the Register points out, Gonzalez’s record, will superficially impressive shows some real gaps.

The Des Moines Register reported Thursday that university records showed that Gonzalez had raised significantly less research and grant money than his peers in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Iowa State has sponsored $22,661 in outside grant money for Gonzalez since July 2001, records show. In that same time period, Gonzalez’s peers in physics and astronomy secured an average of $1.3 million by the time they were granted tenure.

77 Comments

Iowa State has sponsored $22,661 in outside grant money for Gonzalez since July 2001, records show. In that same time period, Gonzalez’s peers in physics and astronomy secured an average of $1.3 million by the time they were granted tenure.

And, that, Ladies and Germs, is the bottom line. Research costs money. You can’t do it if you can’t pay for it.

Certainly it may explain why he failed to get much of any funding while at ISU, why his publication record seemed to suffer, etc. Intelligent Design is costly to scientists because is it scientifically vacuous.

Gonzalez Responds (although provides little supporting evidence)

learned on the morning of June 1, 2007 that President Geoffroy has denied my tenure appeal. I understand that this was a very difficult decision for him to make given its far-reaching implications. It is now clear to me that this decision, in effect, had been predetermined by August 2005, when Hector Avalos and other ISU professors began circulating a petition statement condemning Intelligent Design. At the same time several of the same ISU faculty spread misinformation about me and the nature of my Intelligent Design research in the local press. These events poisoned the atmosphere among the faculty and administration on campus towards Intelligent Design, and, ultimately, impacted negatively on my tenure evaluation. It is unfortunate that the personal religious and ideological beliefs of some faculty have been so influential on this issue.

Ultimately, the decision to deny or grant tenure is a subjective one, based not only on published objective academic criteria, but also on such ill-defined criteria as the perceived standing among peers and whether the mission of the university is advanced. My publication record must be balanced against other aspects of my professional research. It is in the way the separate factors are weighted that personal biases and political pressures can influence the final decision. I continue to believe that I have met my department’s and the university’s criteria for tenure. I have not yet decided whether I will appeal the decision to the Board of Regents.

Isn’t it about time we publicly recognize that, religious sensibilities not withstanding, intelligent design in any of its disguises is simply not science and is in no way compatible with the study or teaching of science. Gonzalez should not only be denied tenure but terminated and the reason for his termination should be clearly stated as his belief in intelligent design. Enough medieval codswallap.

Who ya kiddin?

nope, no putting anything past YOU. might as well fess up.

our rampant conspiracy against a concept whose proponents never publish anything based on actual data to support it knows no bounds.

next on the list:

we will be targeting all professors who purport that “The Secret” is a tenure-worthy area of research in evolution.

why is that Kansans who feel the need to label themselves “reasonable” are typically the nuttiest of the bunch?

who ya kiddin?

Gonzalez brought in less than 2% of the average of his peers.

Not up to par? Gonzalez didn’t even know where the golf course was.

PvM Wrote:

Gonzalez Responds (although provides little supporting evidence)

Linky?

Gonzales did not bring in any grant money yet he had the time to write books/papers on his personal project (intelligent design). How was he spending his time? If I was on the tenure review committee, I would wonder if he was distracted by or spending too much time on his personal outside interests instead of trying to write research grants and carry out his duties to the department/university.

It also appears that his being denied tenure was by design (no pun intended) so that he could be seen as a martyr for intelligent design and the Discovery Institute. Why did he even submit his paperwork for tenure if he did not have any grants? I have seen people with better records in terms of grant funding, publications and Ph.D. students denied tenure.

MWN

It does seem reasonable that once Gonzalez had hitched his wagon to a religious horse, he had restricted his funding to religious sources. Maybe the problem was that religious sources simply don’t relate to actual scientific research enough to fund it - genuine astronomy research is likely to bring few lost souls to Jesus. I think Sir Toejam is probably correct that there’s a conspiracy within the scientific establishment against funding antiscientific claptrap.

So Gonzalez failed to learn the Behe Lesson - don’t abandon science for strictly religious pursuits until AFTER being granted tenure. After all, Behe illustrates the entire purpose of tenure in the first place - to protect the jobs of those whose research may lead them in unpopular or unremuniterive directions.

The statement by Iowa State University President is supportable, assuming (as all evidence indicates) it is an accurate characterization of Gonzales’ record.

The criteria he gives for not awarding tenure are fully consistent both with Iowa State’s published guidelines and the AAUP guidelines. This IMO, puts the burden on Gonzales to show that the evidence does not support what the Iowa State President says, and/or that those reasons are not the true reasons. As long as the tenure procedures were followed, Gonzales will now need a smoking gun to prove his case.

I continue to insist however that these criteria-rather than other criteria- are the relevant criteria in deciding whether or not to award tenure.

I do not support denying tenure because someone’s political or religious beliefs are “embarassing” to a University or department-that means I am opposed to the proposed firing the Colorado University President of Ward Churchill.

Though I am an opponent of ID and a proponent of evolution, I continue to profess some profound level of disagreement and even concern about some of the attitudes expressed here on PT. To wit:

1. A continual running together of Hopper and Pempel; 2. The view that one’s beliefs qualify or disqualify one for tenure even if one’s professional contributions qualify one for tenure; 3. The implicit denial that there is a social and philosophical aspect surrounding the justification of scientific theories.

I’ll temper my above remarks with the frank admission that as an economist my own work lies significantly outside the mainstream. I will also state that I recognize that the natural sciences legitimately can often make much stronger claims to justification of theories than we can in the social sciences.

That said, it still seems to me there is a blindness here to even the theoretical possibility that the social process of scientific research may preclude at times the rise of valid challenges to mainstream theory. I am notably not arguing that ID is such a valid challenge.

Still, it remains my view that academic freedom does protect the right to publish and discuss even “weird” theories. Thus if someone wishes to attempt to reconcile science and theology they should be free to do so.It does not protect one against the consequences of those weird theories if a theory is so weird it is unable to lead to publications and grants.

That said, it is possible that the grant process itself can be corrupted by political and commercial processes.

Again, I emphasize that it does not appear to me that this is the case with Gonzales.

Also, I will point out that economists who work outside the mainstream do in fact have multiple journals that they can and do publish in. Grant money can be hard to come by but then again, grants tend to be not so important in the social sciences.

Again, I emphasize that it does not appear to me that this is the case with Gonzales.

…but here you are, YET AGAIN, raising an issue which has NOTHING to do with this case.

*sigh*

here’s a question for you, chip:

were you denied tenure?

Iowa State University President Gregory Geoffroy Wrote:

Because the issue of tenure is a personnel matter, I am not able to share the detailed rationale for the decision, although that has been provided to Dr. Gonzalez.

Anyone taking bets on whether Gonzalez will ever release this information so we can judge for ourselves whether his claims have any merit?

Iowa State has sponsored $22,661 in outside grant money for Gonzalez since July 2001, records show. In that same time period, Gonzalez’s peers in physics and astronomy secured an average of $1.3 million by the time they were granted tenure.

Average??? It perhaps doesn’t tell much. What was median? It could be more interesting fact to know. If there were for example one who got 10 million, and 1, who got 2 million, and 4, who got 0.4 million, and 4 who got 0,1 million, then average is 1,4 million, but median is 0,4 million.

Ps. Di says, that:

Dr. Gonzalez did receive outside grant funding during his time at ISU:

From 2001-2004, Dr. Gonzalez was a Co-Investigator on a NASA Astrobiology Institute grant for “Habitable Planets and the Evolution of Biological Complexity” (his part of the grant for this time period was $64,000).

From 2000-2003, Dr. Gonzalez received a $58,000 grant from the Templeton Foundation. This grant was awarded as part of a competitive, peer-reviewed grant process, and his winning grant proposal had been peer-reviewed by a number of distinguished astronomers and scientists.

Earlier in 2007, Dr. Gonzalez was awarded a 5-year research grant for his work in observational astronomy from Discovery Institute (worth $50,000).

Sir Toejam,

I have in the past thought of you as a mendacious person. I have since changed my mind. I now think of you as someone who simply lacks basic reading comprehension skills.

I have never said my comments applied to Gonzales’ case. In fact, I have on several occasions said that I think they don’t apply to the Gonzales case.

My comments nevertheless, are relevant to the thread because multiple people have resorted to pleading in the alternative. Even though they don’t think Gonzales was denied tenure due to his beliefs, if he was denied tenure due to his beliefs, then it was justified. A few others have expressed opinions that struck me as leading to a justification of the overt politicization of the tenure process. In the process of this discussion people have also expressed some more general philosophical views on science.

My comments are purposely not directed to the Gonzales case but to the multiple pleading in the alternative arguments that have been advanced on this forum.

but here you are, YET AGAIN, raising an issue which has NOTHING to do with this case.

But, even granting that the DI is Making Stuff Up and that tenure was denied on fully justified grounds unrelated to creationism, there is still the (possibly interesting) question of whether a scientist who publishes (and debates) that evidence only counts if it passes religious muster (mutatis mutandis, of course), and if it cannot be even liberally interpreted appropriately, then it is not evidence and must be disregarded, should for that reason be denied tenure.

Let’s put it another way. We have an at least reasonably compelling case here that Gonzalez was in the process of pulling another Behe, using his position as an academic scientist to add the requisite aura of sciencyness to his creationism, and using tenure to retain that position. I’d be surprised if even Chip would regard Behe as an asset to science, or to Lehigh, or to his department, or even to himself. Behe is even worse, IMO, than having Timothy Leary tenured into the nutrition department.

The entire debate causes me to wonder whether tenure itself does what it’s designed to do.

My comments are purposely not directed to the Gonzales case but to the multiple pleading in the alternative arguments that have been advanced on this forum.

raise your hands, anybody, if you agree with Chip’s assessment of the opinions expressed in this thread or the other gonzales thread.

no, chip, you are constructing strawmen of the arguments made herein, and in the other threads as well.

the teaching of ID as science is NOT an issue of academic freedom, but then, at least at some level, you know this.

which is why I am wondering if you have some particular axe to grind, and asked if you were denied tenure yourself.

I also noticed you didn’t answer the question.

OK, I’ll raise my hand. I agree with Chip’s assessment, but not his opinion. Chip doesn’t want extraneous political or personal matters muddying a tenure decision. And indeed, cases have been cited where (for all practical purposes, but not for the record) tenure has been denied to people whose kids were playground bullies, or whatnot. Chip is incensed by the casual acceptance of tenure denial for personal (usually petty) reasons irrelevant to the professional qualifications of the applicant. I can see his point.

But Chip doesn’t seem to wish to give any credibility at all to the argument that allocating the majority of a candidate’s time to anti-science popular publications should be considered valid fodder when considering a scientific tenured position. I think Chip will continue to be frustrated until he grasps that there are certain things that are sine qua non in science. Things like the relevance of evidence. And that any scientific tenure candidate whose published position is that evidence is properly hostage to religious filters is properly, appropriately, and relevantly DISQUALIFIED from tenure for that reason alone. This is not petty, political, or personal. It’s central.

There is no practical way that any university can compile a list of everything a candidate might do that would disqualify him for tenure. The best we can hope for is a continuous feedback process to keep the candidate from taking any wrong turns or running off the road. Gonzalez, from what I read, had FIVE such feedback occasions, and flunked every one of them. I have no idea why. But I don’t see how ignoring all attempts at steering him in the right direction should be considered irrelevant in the final grade.

Flint,

Thank you for agreeing with my asessment. And also thank you for advancing your argument so explicitly, thus showing that I am not creating a straw man.

Actually, I think if you were to go back and read my myriad posts you will see that what I have argued is that one should apply the “but for” test (as that is the relevant, legal standard).

My position is that if one’s activities are deemed to go against the conventions of science and the result of those activities result in a failure to publish in appropriate journals, get grant money or detract from the ability to teach the material, then it is the failure to meet the stated criteria that should result in the denial of tenure and not the other views.

Let’s say a young scientist spends so much time posting on Panda’s Thumb in defense in evolutionary theory that he or she neglects to get grants, publish in journals, or prepare for lectures, and so does not meet the tenure requirements, then the University is justified in denying tenure. Or for that matter, suppose someone spends too much time on the golf course.

The standard you are proposing is prima facie a discriminatory one. It amounts to both viewpoint and religious discrimination and no university president would state is a reason for failure to deny tenure unless he or she wanted to risk a lawsuit or the wrath of the AAUP (of course risking the latter is a bit like risking death by eating sushi).

Let’s put the matter a bit differently. I know a woman, passionately dedicated to and enamored of science. In her late 30’s she decided to pursue her undergraduate degree in biology in the hopes of pursuing a lifelong dream of being a marine biologist. Along the way, she’s racked up a few feathers in her cap and even has a bone fide publication in the works.

Now, in spite of the fact that this woman is one of the most amazingly intelligent people I know, she also has an interest in shamanism and wicca. Her interest, unlike mine which is purely anthropological is personal. We have had many conversations about how she can reconcile both sets of beliefs which she accomplishes basically by compartmentalizing.

Now are you telling me she should be denied the opportunity to pursue a career in marine biology because she also happens to engage in some activities that some scientists might think flaky? What if she also writes a book about how one see DNA structures through meditation and taking ayahuasca?

Would you deny her admission to graduate school? Would you deny her tenure?

How can you justify your attitude as anything but discrimination?

You’ve raised also the very complex question about the demarcation debate which I will pass on for right now.

In regards to Chip’s comments, I think a distinction hast to be made between ID belief and ID practice. If believing in ID existed totally independently of everything else, having no impact on the person’s research, teaching, allocation of time and resources, or anything else pertaining to their job then I think it probably should not have an impact on their tenure decision. It may affect how much I respect them as scientists but that is ultimately their freedom.

This case did not exist in such a vacuum. It is clear that his ID beliefs affected how he allocated his time and money. The fact is that, for the most part, it is hard for people to keep such aspects of their lives completely seperate. And, in the past, strong connections with the DI have been closely connected with this. Gonzalez, Behe and others have shown a fairly consistent pattern of letting their ideology get in the way of their job. So I think that it is probably a fair default assumption that someone closely affiliated with that group will follow a similar pattern, and it is up to them to prove otherwise. So in a borderline or even slightly above borderline case it is probably fair to judge them based on this affiliation because of the history of people with such affiliations. Perhaps it should not automatically disqualify them, but they would need to have other merits well above average to compensate. And I would not be overly upset if they were disqualified for it outright. This is not a question of their beliefs, it is a question of their ability to do their jobs. “Scientists” affiliated with the DI have shown a remarkable and consistent inability to do their jobs.

It is certainly possible to be a creationist and also a productive scientist in a discipline not dependent on creationist beliefs. For example, Dr. Robert Kieta, who is on the staff of the Princeton Plasma Physics Labratory, and who is apparently a productive scientist in the area of plasma physics, is also an old earth creationist. Another example is my thesis adviser who was an old earth creationist but was a productive scientist in the area of elementary particle physics. However, in the case of Prof. Gonzalaz, it is manifestly evident that his creationist views had a deleterious impact on his scientific productivity. It appears that Prof. Gonzalez was not a productive scientist and his colleagues at ISU concluded that there was little chance of his becoming one. They had only to observe the plight of Lehigh University, stuck with the tenured and unproductive whackjob Michael Behe.

an Wrote:

From 2001-2004, Dr. Gonzalez was a Co-Investigator on a NASA Astrobiology Institute grant for “Habitable Planets and the Evolution of Biological Complexity” (his part of the grant for this time period was $64,000).

This grant was awarded to the University of Washington, not Iowa State. He evidently carried some of his postdoctoral funding with him from there. It isn’t independent funding, and $21 K a year total costs is negligible.

Earlier in 2007, Dr. Gonzalez was awarded a 5-year research grant for his work in observational astronomy from Discovery Institute (worth $50,000).

Too bad the DI came through after review of his tenure file was complete at the departmental level. Not that $10 K a year would have made any difference.

Chip:

Now are you telling me she should be denied the opportunity to pursue a career in marine biology because she also happens to engage in some activities that some scientists might think flaky?

I find it difficult to believe that you could sincerely misrepresent my argument this self-servingly through any honest mistake, but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.

My argument wasn’t that someone should be denied tenure as a scientists because of some weird but unrelated hobbies. Rather, I argued that one should be denied tenure as a scientist if one has taken the public position that the essence of science itself should be distorted or otherwise disregarded for religious reasons.

In your case, it would perhaps be that someone is looking for tenure as an economist, but has written a popular book arguing that there’s no such thing as a market, nor do supply and demand actually exist, but rather that what *looks* like an economy is an artifact of the machinations of the Secret Illuminati.

I would personally deny tenure as a lawyer to Alabama’s own Judge Roy Moore, who as State Chief Justice argued that his own personal religious faith trumped all US law up to and including the Constitution.

The core argument is pretty simple, as I wrote earlier:

I think Chip will continue to be frustrated until he grasps that there are certain things that are sine qua non in science. Things like the relevance of evidence.

I called these things central. Not peripheral, not “flaky”. Like granting tenure as a physician to someone who publicly espouses injuring his patients if God tells him to.

How can you justify your attitude as anything but discrimination?

Because, dammit, the task of a tenure committe is to DISCRIMINATE good candidates from bad ones, based on their records within their field! And like it or not, ID IS the denial of science. Central, I repeat, central. Not extraneous.

And to answer your question, no, I wouldn’t dream of denying tenure because someone is a wiccan, or worships devils, or has a long criminal record, or attributes their health to eating dog shit. I would deny a YEC tenure as an astronomer, but not as an economist; conversely, I’d deny tenure as an economist but NOT as an astronomer to the person who argues that the Illuminati secretly run the market. I make these discriminations because the candidate should be competent. If you believe (as you seem to be arguing) that no conceivable level of demonstrated incompetence in the candidate’s specialty should be taken into consideration, because *noticing* incompetence is ipso facto improper discrimination, then we will never agree.

“Scientists” affiliated with the DI have shown a remarkable and consistent inability to do their jobs.

Exactly so. It’s a question of competence.

Flint,

I’m trying to determine how you define the boundaries of the discipline. At what point is someone engaged in an activity that when one applies the “but for” test, it is appropriate to discriminate. You seem to be advocating that if people express opposition to core principles of a discipline, then denying them tenure is justified.

I am saying that competence in a discipline is not determined by profession of belief but by practice. To wit: if an economist is able to publish in the appropriate journals and demonstrates competency in teaching the material in the University’s catalogue then I don’t care if they also publish crap about the illuminati. If on the other hand all they write is crap about the illuminati and so never get anything published, then they should be denied tenure for not publishing. I’ll pass on the discussion about who gets to decide what about how the standards of core principles are defined in economics (see however the recent discussions on TPM cafe and Brad Delong’s web log).

Suppose someone is a very competent physicist but also writes crap like “The Tao of Physics”? Where do you draw the line?

It seems to me that if someone is getting the research grants and is publishing and is teaching to the University’s standards, then by definition, they are meeting the standards. If in the process they write a book that challenges the relevancy or applicability of those standards, that is their right.

Do you see the difference?

Imagine a corporation with a respectable employee who spends his hours after work undermining the corporations products. Would he get promoted? No, he’d be fired.

It is absurd to think that Iowa State should reward such an employeed with tenure. Actively promoting the anti-science agenda of ID is not academic freedom, it is undermining the educational mission of Iowa State and a subterfuge to honest science.

I’m sure that Ken Ham will be interested in hiring Gonzalez, so Gonzalez must take refuge in the free market he entered.

An wrote:

Ps. Di says, that: Dr. Gonzalez did receive outside grant funding during his time at ISU: From 2001-2004, Dr. Gonzalez was a Co-Investigator on a NASA Astrobiology Institute grant for “Habitable Planets and the Evolution of Biological Complexity” (his part of the grant for this time period was $64,000). From 2000-2003, Dr. Gonzalez received a $58,000 grant from the Templeton Foundation. This grant was awarded as part of a competitive, peer-reviewed grant process, and his winning grant proposal had been peer-reviewed by a number of distinguished astronomers and scientists. Earlier in 2007, Dr. Gonzalez was awarded a 5-year research grant for his work in observational astronomy from Discovery Institute (worth $50,000).

This is too easy. The NASA grant was not to Dr. Gonzales. The principal investigator was Peter Ward and the principle institution was the University of Washington, Dr. Gonzales was a team member. Besides it looks like the grant was awarded in July 2001 and so it appears that it was applied for and granted prior to Dr. Gonzales’s appointment to Iowa State. Even if Dr. Gonzales was at Iowa State at the time, the grant would still not count towards tenure because Dr. Gonzales was not the principle investigator and he was bringing funds from someone elses grant and research topic, not generating Dr. Gonzales’s own funding and research.

Oh, and the “Co-Investigator” sounds important right? Well it isn’t. In 2001-02 there were 70 team members, comprising the Principle Investigtor and 69 other team members (they don’t use the phrase “Co-Investigator”). In 2002-03 there were a total of 54 members, in 2003-04 there were a total of 54 team members.

The information can be found here: http://nai.arc.nasa.gov/team/index.[…]9&year=7

The Templeton Foundation grant was not a research grant and did not result in any original research. Not only that, the results of the grant were panned by his peers.

The DI grant is not worth discussing. Given the source (though it would be interesting to see the research topic, the application and peer review process involved) and the fact that $50,000 over 5 years couldn’t keep a decent research program supplied with stationary.

I have not seen any information of the number of grants that Gonzalez may have prepared and submitted.

If he had not prepared many as PI, he could still have contributed as a junior investigator with other faculty. If none of his grants were ever funded, or if he never bothered to prepare any, he can kiss his academic career good-by. I have been offered tenure, and denied tenure- but never have I ever worked as a school (single class ‘fill-ins’ excepted) whre I did not generate more funding than I was paid.

Chip:

I understand what you’re saying. I think of this as the Marcus Ross problem. And it’s a puzzle to me. I wouldn’t have thought of denying Ross’s degree on the grounds that his beliefs are plain flat totally refuted, in full 4-part harmony, by his research. And Gould had no problem granting a PhD to Kurt Wise.

Is granting tenure qualitatively different from granting a PhD? I really don’t know. I understand you to be arguing that it’s not - that in both cases the requirements should be explicit, there should be no hidden agendas and no broad scope for subjective judgments. If Marcus Ross generates all that a tenure-track professor is supposed to - gets the funding, does the research, produces the publications, has the doctoral candidates, etc. then should it really matter if he finds enough spare time to publicly promulgate the position that his entire career is a sham, all make-believe, that his employers are suckers, and that his success in his field simply demonstrates what naive idiots his fellow scientists are?

I suppose it shouldn’t matter, and I’ll agree with you. If he’s doing good science, he’s doing good science, even if he doesn’t believe a bit of what he does. But I’m concerned that Gonzales, like Behe and Wells and other creationist “scientists”, are not so remarkably able to compartmentalize their beliefs. For most such creationists, genuine science slams to a stop (or, in Behe’s case, seriously undermines the quality of what little scientific work he contributes to).

So maybe we’re saying that someone’s belief only becomes relevant if it inhibits them from doing good (or indeed, any) science. And it’s going to be hard to convince me that Gonzalez’s scientific work drying up and his religious work becoming predominant are unrelated. For most people, the knowledge that one’s career is dishonest (or sinful) DOES inhibit good work. But yes, I agree the standard should be the quantity and quality of the work (and related issues like students and funding), not the belief. Marcus Ross, if he continues to do all that’s required of a good geoscientist, deserves tenure. But probably funding sources will find others in his field to be more promising and less problematical.

Chris Nedin Wrote:

This is too easy. The NASA grant was not to Dr. Gonzales. The principal investigator was Peter Ward and the principle institution was the University of Washington, Dr. Gonzales was a team member. Besides it looks like the grant was awarded in July 2001 and so it appears that it was applied for and granted prior to Dr. Gonzales’s appointment to Iowa State. Even if Dr. Gonzales was at Iowa State at the time, the grant would still not count towards tenure because Dr. Gonzales was not the principle investigator and he was bringing funds from someone elses grant and research topic, not generating Dr. Gonzales’s own funding and research,

In fact, Gonzalez started his independent career with a huge lead over his peers. Not only was he allowed to continue his postdoctoral project (advisors often won’t give permission to do this) but his postdoc. advisor actually found him 3 years of minor funding to keep it going while he started other things. Not one assistant professor in a hundred gets a start like that.

Astronomy’s a tough field, but this guy had advantages most people wouldn’t dare dream of.

A major part of the foundation of science is honesty.

The Discovery Institute, the major pusher of ID, is based on a lie: that the theory of evolution is a theory in crisis, a theory on its last legs about to be toppled by the “scientific theory of intelligent design.” Balderdash.

How can a fellow of an institute that is based on a lie be entrusted to teach real science?

A fellow of the DI has no place where real science is done and taught.

A major part of the foundation of science is honesty.

The Discovery Institute, the major pusher of ID, is based on a lie: that the theory of evolution is a theory in crisis, a theory on its last legs about to be toppled by the “scientific theory of intelligent design.” Balderdash.

How can a fellow of an institute that is based on a lie be entrusted to teach real science?

A fellow of the DI has no place where real science is done and taught.

Flint,

Yes, academia does go by different rules (to some degree) and that’s a good thing.

On the other hand, its not really true that all private sector employees are “at will” employees. If you are covered by a union contract, for example, you cannot be fired at the drop of a hat. While corporations like to bray about “accountability”, many failed CEO’s get paid large settlements to voluntarily resign.

While it may seem like a good thing to attack tenure and academic freedom as a way of making it easier to fire a few kooks, the reality is that is not what will happen.

So as to your apparent enthusiasm for having University Presidents be able to just fire professors whenever faculty get under their skin, well, no thanks.

Such a system would not be likely to strengthen intellectual integrity-it would weaken it. That would make every college professor who offends religious students for example, by teaching the theory of evolution vulnerable. It would make every sociology professor whose views were offensive to group A,B or C, vulnerable.

Doug,

I realize Ward Churchill is a poster child for just about everything wrong with cultural studies. I’m not defending him. I’m defending his academic freedom.

Chip:

So as to your apparent enthusiasm for having University Presidents be able to just fire professors whenever faculty get under their skin, well, no thanks.

Do you sincerely believe this is an accurate characterization of what I’ve written here? I can’t find anywhere I’ve said this, implied this, or defended anything like this. I can only find that you MADE THIS UP, for reasons I can’t begin to guess. You are not honest. I see no further reason to talk to you. Go smear someone else.

flint-

you could have saved yourself the trouble if you had gandered at the other threads chip has posted in on this issue.

funny, it seems to be this issue: “academic freedom” in which he mischaracterizes other’s arguments so frequently.

He doesn’t appear to do this with other subjects, interestingly.

It’s why i keep wondering if his interjection into these threads whenever the subject comes up, even tangentially, is based on some personal axe he wishes to grind.

don’t take what he says about academia at face value, his is a rather extreme position, to say the least.

“I’d deny tenure as an economist but NOT as an astronomer to the person who argues that the Illuminati secretly run the market.” You mean they DON’T?

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Flint and Toejam,

Here is the complete verbatim quote of what Flint said:

Academia starts to sound like more than a foreign country; more like somewhere inhabited by nonhumans. In the state where I work, the law is that an employee can quit, or be fired, at any time unilaterially by either party and no reason need be given. It’s my understanding that this is the law in many if not most states. It is up to the employee who values his job, to learn the idiosyncratic sensitivities of his employer and tread carefully. Some employers are fairly indifferent about attire; others take detailed dress codes very literally. Similarly with expressing “inappropriate” political ideas (i.e. a political view not shared by the boss). Here in Alabama, if you don’t think you’ve been “born again in Christ” you’d better keep it under your hat. Are these conditions “unAmerican”? Are basic First Amendment rights being violated? Is there anywhere outside the ivory tower where one can be granted total immunity against all retaliation for telling one’s devout boss he’s a superstitious ignoramus for believing in self-contradictory invisible magic sky daddies? Or, more to the point, where someone can become unfirable for the offense of simply never doing any more work? Just say something offensive now and then, to lay the groundwork for “discrimination” if your boss wants you to DO anything. What a hustle!

After reading this through a second time, it seems to me that yes-you are advocating that the existing state of the law wrt employment in the private sector be extended to the University. Explain to me why that is an unreasonable interpretation of the above. If that is not what you are saying, then what are you saying?

Toejam,

Do you have any academic position? Have you ever had any academic position?

If you take the time to go to the AAUP’s website you will see that most of what I say (not all, but most) is simply a recapitulation of AAUP standards on academic freedo, tenure and due process. Some of it is elaboration and based on my experience as a professor in a unionized environment. Is my position on academic freedom extreme?

In practice, probably-academic freedom is seldom honored as it supposed to be ideally.

I am indeed a proud First Ammendment radical. I would rather be on the side of radically defening the First Ammendment than on the side of finding ways to pare it down. If you can’t have something approaching near complete, total free speech in the University, where can you have it?

I see a philosophical difference between myself and some others on this forum:

Like most on these forums I agree that ID is total nonsense. Unlike what some have said without thinking the position through-I do not celebrate decisions or positinos that infringe on academic freedom just because they go against ID advocates or fringe people like Ward Churchill today. Tomorrow these decisions will be used to enforce political correctness in some other University-or they will be used to fire people for teaching evolution, or for teaching sociobiology or any other such thing.

As to your constant speculations about my employment status I am a tenured associate professor.

Having been a quasi-tenured senior lecturer at a major research university for over 30 years, I can tell you that (surprise, surprise) it ultimately comes down to money. The emphasis on research grants is primary because that’s what pays the bills. At my institution, the university rakes off over 50% of every dollar that comes in via grant money, calling it “overhead.” And indeed, that’s exactly what it is; paying for laboratory construction and maintenance, equipment purchase and maintenance, paying utility bills, etc. Lecture halls, libraries, and so forth are at least partially funded via student tuition and alumni giving, but research is virtually entirely funded via grant money. At a university like mine, that means that if professors don’t bring in enough grant money to support themselves and their graduate students, that support comes out of the grant support “overhead” earned by their colleagues.

This means that when people come up for tenure review, the amount of grant support they bring into their department is the first and most important thing that everyone considers. “Dead weight” is literally that; it’s a kind of parasitism on the department that can make or break it. If, as the public record shows, Gonzalez brought in minimal grant funding (and the bulk of that was in the form of support from his department/university), while other department members brought in much more, he has literally been parasitizing the other members of his department when he should have been doing exactly the opposite.

This is why it takes several years to make a tenure decision. Department members want to be able to identify trends, so that they can predict what a prospective tenure candidate will do in the future. On the basis of his performance over the critical six-year assistant professor period, Gonzalez showed every indication of being a financial burden on his department, without any corresponding benefits.

If his research had been outstanding (despite low grant funding) and reflected credit on the rest of his department, they might grant him tenure anyway, because that would reflect credit on them and therefore make grant funding more likely for them. This is why people like Isaac Asimov are kept on the faculty of their universities, despite bringing in virtually no grant funding (indeed, Asimov was promoted from associate to full professor, without pay but without debate).

That was clearly not the case with Gonzalez, who made the rest of his department look like a bunch of creationist yahoos. My guess is that the vote against granting tenure was virtually unanimous, and that they are all heaving a great sigh of relief, especially as the professional politicians at the Discovery Instititute daily confirm all of their worst fears.

His department dodged a bullet, IOW, and I’m sure they’re happy they had the opportunity to do so. Gonzalez, OTOH, has been crucified, but by the Discovery Instititute, not his department. The best Gonzalez can hope for now is that the Discovery Instititute can line up some kind of financial support that can provide for him and his family for the foreseeable future. Like Dembski, his career in mainstream academics is effectively over.

There’s an old lesson here; don’t rock the boat until you have tenure. Once you have tenure, generally the only way you can be removed is for malfeasance (which nowdays means having sex with one of your students or stealing departmental funds) or alienating a major contributor and having your departmental line removed from the budget as a result. “Academic freedom,” in other words, is mostly for tenured faculty members and non-tenure-track academics.

Gonzalez abandoned a golden opportunity to establish himself as a credible researcher, apparently prefering to build a career as a guiding light of the “intelligent design” movement. That was a serious strategic error on his part, and he has paid the price. If Gonzalez were in theoretical physics or mathematics, he could still go on to make a name for himself, as he could do them anywhere (a Swiss patent clerk did just that, and not without some midling success). However, Gonzalez’s chosen field requires telescope time and access to high-speed computers to analyze the data obtained from telescope observations. Both of these are now out of reach for him, probably forever. Bad career move, and worse, because now the only people who will pay him anything are the ID supporters, but his academic credibility has now been permanently damaged, with no prospect of earning it back via observational astronomy.

Which means that there is now only one tenured academic in a mainstream university doing even quasi-scientific work in “intelligent design theory” - Michael Behe, at Lehigh University. He has tenure, of course, and so until he retires he can essentially do what he wants…unless he so alienates a major source of funding to his department that the administration decides to eliminate his budget line. The trend for “doing science” among IDers is therefore steeply downhill, and talented people with an open mind and curiosity about the possibilities of design in nature should be re-thinking their career tracks. Showing support for ID is now the kiss of death in mainstream academics, and only those very few who already have tenure and are in secure positions can still publically do so.

As we know from past experience, this does not mean that the ID political machine (as exemplified by the Discovery Institute) will shut down. On the contrary, it will shift into high gear, pumping out more propaganda for as long as its financial supporters will fund it. But as far as penetrating mainstream academics, it’s all over…for now. They will be back, of course, but it will take a generation or more, as it did for ID to take up the cause of “scientific creationism.”

In the interests of full disclosure, I am a non-tenure track professional teacher at a major research university. This means that I come up for reappointment every five years, and as long as I’m doing a decent job teaching, I get reappointed. This leaves me free to do what I want with my free time, as I’m not required to do research. I do some anyway, without the usual restrictions placed on professors.

Allen McNeill has it exactly right, and I really can’t add much to what he said. But I can reinforce it. Achieving tenure in science departments these days almost always requires that you score on at least one mainstream grant (with full overhead costs) in your pre-tenure period. Publications are nice, mentoring one or two quality graduate students is nice (and usually contributes to that publication output), and doing a good job teaching in your classes is also a good thing to do. But without a major grant, all of that is most likely not enough to get you a positive tenure decision.

In many respects, those high expectations, born in previous decades when funding rates were higher, are unfortunate, since grant funding rates are down across the board these days. It is a bit ironic that the grant funding rates are a product of the slash-and-burn tactics of Republican legislators and executives, who seem to think that public funding of science (particularly basic science like physics) isn’t as important as pre-emptive endless wars and tax cuts. I suspect that most of the weeping and gnashing of teeth at the DI and other sites is being mounted by folks who agree that taxes should be cut and science isn’t important enough to fund at a proper level. So in some sense, Gonzalez has been hoisted on their petard. If grant funding rates were as high as they were prior to 2001, Gonzalez might have scored a big NSF grant and the caterwauling would have more legitimacy…

In case it matters to anyone, I am a tenured associate professor in a biology program, and have served on our tenure/promotion committee in the past. Biology is not much different from physics (or chemistry, or biochemistry) in this regard. You are expected to bring in grant money, and if you don’t demonstrate an ability to do that in the early stages of your professorial career, you will be looking for another job quite soon.

“I realize Ward Churchill is a poster child for just about everything wrong with cultural studies. I’m not defending him. I’m defending his academic freedom.”

Are you saying that saying controversial things gets you a free pass on academic misconduct such as Churchill has engaged in?

It’s like George Deutsch’s doctored resumé. If he hadn’t been come to prominence censoring scientists maybe nobody would have spotted his faux degree for quite some time, but his resumé was still false. It’s like science. Things stand or fall on evidence, not on the motivations of the people putting them forward.

If you’re going to engage in misconduct and want to get away with it, keep your head down.

Mike,

I just finished reading the report and I have to say it is a pretty damning indictment of Churchill, all the more so since those who wrote it are clearly sympathetic to ethnic studies in general.

After reading the report I find myself really torn. What the report accuses Churchill of doing and carefully documents, is a general patten of blatant misrepresentation and even manufacturing of sources. The report ends with a split recommendation by the committee on penalties-ranging from two years without pay to dismissal.

My own view of the matter is this: I support the lesser penalty because of the circumstances.

What I am trying to say is I admit a somewhat complex point and one that is probably mystifying to many outside of academia. I’ll only repeat it here (as this thread has now wandered far off topic) because I think it is relevant to the general point about standards for granting tenure and what academic freedom means.

Academic freedom includes, in my view, the right to be wrong and to be spectacularly wrong. It even includes the right to be spectacularly wrong and to be inflammatory in the process. What it does not include is the blatant manufacture and misrepresentation of sources. This is different however from a misunderstanding of sources or a wishful thinking reading of sources.

The Committee investigating Churchill likened this case to a police officer writing speeing tickets to a motorist because he found the speeding motorist’s bumper sticker offensive. The committee states that this does not relieve the motorist of the guilt of speeding and goes no to state no court in the country would let the motorist off due to the officer’s motivations (that may or may not be true).

Well, let’s push the analogy: suppose that police officers start pulling over every speeding motorist whose bumper sticker they deem to be offensive, while allowing those who have bumper stickers they like to speed at will. Therefore, those who have offensive bumper stickers must now drive more carefully because they are treated differently by police officers.

Does that make them not guilty of speeding? Of course not. But like any other case where the police act due to dubious motives, or get evidence improperly, damage is done to the First Amendment (or the fifth).

In other words, I see the Churchill case as more like that of a police department that finds something to go after an anti-war activist for and just happens to stumble onto genuine wrong doing. In such a case I can’[t say I’m particularly happy with anyone’s conduct here.

So, let’s relate this to Gonzales: ID is IMO an example of a spectacularly wrong theory. Some of those who support may be guilty in a few instances of outright misrepresentation-or it could just be a matter of wishful thinking. Either way, I think that academic freedom includes the right of working scientists to explore ID.

What it does not include is the right to be granted tenure when the requirements are not met.

At the risk of being accused of going on, let me give another example. Suppose a female employee accuses a boss of quid pro quo sexual harassment. Suppose she also has really good evidence and that in fact, the boss is in fact guilty of the alleged misconduct. Let’s suppose then that the boss finds out the woman lied on her job application 10 years ago and violated company policy on several occasions since. What if the boss ignored the behavior? What if it was tolerated by other people at the company? What if the boss would have been willing to let the misbehavior go if she had gone along with his demands?

So what starts out as a simpe case of misconduct isn’t so simple after all.

But do not let make two points (again): I do not support Gonzales as he has shown no evidence that he was inappropriately denied tenure.

I do not support Churchill. I support his academic freedom.

“I realize Ward Churchill is a poster child for just about everything wrong with cultural studies. I’m not defending him. I’m defending his academic freedom.”

Are you saying that because Churchill said controversial things he should get a free pass on academic misconduct?

Because otherwise, the fact his academic shenanigans were brought forward by folk upset about what he said about 9/11 is irrelevant.

Mike,

What I am saying is explained in the previous post.

Got caught in the multi-posting space-time warp after it looked like the first one didn’t get through.

In other words, I see the Churchill case as more like that of a police department that finds something to go after an anti-war activist for and just happens to stumble onto genuine wrong doing. In such a case I can’t say I’m particularly happy with anyone’s conduct here.

Instead of questioning the motives of those who dug up Churchill’s academic malfeasance, perhaps you should be questioning the motives of those who FAILED to dig it up much earlier. Were they not concerned with their own integrity and credibility? Was supporting Churchill’s ideology more important than sound academic practices? Were they not doing their jobs at all?

We in the DC area had a similar issue with ex-Mayor Marion Barry: when faced with clear evidence of corruption and crack addiction, Barry’s supporters started crying about a white racist conspiracy to frame Barry and undermine DC home rule. And I’m quite sure there were, and still are, racists with exactly that goal; but that does not address the crucial question: Why did Barry walk into that trap, especially when he knew he had enemies who would gladly spring it? Yes, “the bitch set him up,” but only after he made choices that set him up to be set up by any old bitch.

The same goes for Churchill and his supporters: the mere fact that he has enemies, and some of those enemies have less than honorable motivations, does not excuse any wrongdoing of his own, nor does it make him less responsible for the consequences of his actions.

If we applied your exculpatory logic in criminal justice, then every criminal who got busted by an @$$hole cop would get off easy, even if said cop followed procedure to the letter.

Another thing to consider: if it’s okay for liberals to dig up academic malpractice by right-wing professors, then it should be okay for right-wingers to return the favor. What goes around, comes around.

Okay. I don’t get it. With all the brouhaha over Gonzalez’ denial- why *wasn’t* he denied tenure for his ID views? I mean, he can have those views all he wants, but if he starts advocating them in the public sphere, and he’s a science educator, that really seems to detract from his doing a good job. It’s not a matter of religious bias, it’s a matter of scientific bias. We can, and should, discriminate against bad science. He can believe whatever he likes. But when his beliefs impinge on doing science correctly, or teaching it correctly, that’s a different matter entirely.

Proponents of ID or creationism are denied grants, promotions, or fired. Then the evolutionists say: “no scientists believe in ID.” The real problem is religion: ID and creationism challenge the dominant religion of naturalism; and that cannot be tolerated. Note the extreme emotionalism involved whenever this subject comes up.

ID is more of a science than evolutionism or creationism since it restricts itself to what is actually observable (I say that as a creationist). In the case before us, we see the religious status quo being upheld.

Jerry

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This page contains a single entry by PvM published on June 2, 2007 12:51 PM.

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