This Is How College Bureaucrats Pettily Tyrannize A Professor Who Crosses Them

This Is How College Bureaucrats Pettily Tyrannize A Professor Who Crosses Them

Even at a small New England college of modest reputation, one voice of dissent is one too many, and the entire apparatus of the college administration moves to silence him.
Peter W. Wood
By

Dennis Gouws again. You remember him: the English professor at Springfield College who got into trouble with campus feminists because he taught a course titled “Men in Literature.” I’ve been tracking his travails for over a year, and summarized them for The Federalist in March.

Gouws stands as a near-perfect example of feminist-inspired tyranny in American higher education. Even at a small New England college of modest reputation, one voice of dissent is one too many, and the entire apparatus of the college administration moves to silence him.

The end of the semester provides a good moment to bring the story up to date. When last we heard, Springfield’s dean of arts, sciences, and professional studies had placed Gouws on “Official Warning Status.” This was a preliminary step towards firing the tenured professor. Of course, the dean, Anne Herzog, had her reasons—all of them procedural irregularities stemming from Gouws’ refusal to be steamrolled.

He was accused of denying “the Department Chairperson” admittance to his classroom.(Actually she arrived uninvited and walked out). He was accused of refusing to meet with the dean herself. (Actually he said yes, but wanted to bring a witness, which she refused to allow.) And he was accused of failing to provide a doctor’s note to verify an illness that prevented him from attending a meeting. (Gouws dutifully provided the doctor’s note.)

I repeat the petty details just to capture their sheer pettiness. This is what academic deans do? Well, this is what academic deans do when faced with a renegade professor who keeps trying to slip “men in literature” into his English courses.

It Would Be Funny If It Weren’t So Cruel

This part of Gouws’ saga does have a happy ending of sorts. Gouws met with the dean, met her three demands, and on April 24 received a terse note from Herzog, which reads in its entirety:

This letter is to confirm that I am ending the ‘Official Warning Status’ you were placed under via my letter of March 27, 2017.

You have met the requirements specified in the letter, including completion of a classroom observation by your Chairperson, Dr. Knox-Eaton, and have also met with your Chairperson and me to discuss the necessity of your scheduling and complying with the required classroom observation.

I do want to confirm that placing conditions on responsibilities associated with your role as a faculty member is viewed by the Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost (Dr. Martha Potvin) and me as a ‘refusal’ to meet these responsibilities. You will recall that we discussed this point in our meeting of April 5, 2017.

Wishing you a good end-of- semester.

Note that ending paragraph. Lest Gouws think he had escaped the wrath of the administration for his wayward conduct, Herzog reminds him that anything other than abject submission to her demands is a refusal to meet his responsibilities. He has escaped the noose this time, but Springfield College has lots more rope handy.

Grace Under Pressure, My Dear Sir

It didn’t take long for the college to find a use for that rope. Gouws’ department “chairperson,” Alice Knox-Eaton, had approved (in advance and in writing) Gouws going off for a conference in Australia during the mid-semester break. Then Knox-Eaton had a change of heart and decided that Gouws’ travel costs ($1,865.09) would not be reimbursed because the sponsoring organization (the Western Sydney University Sceptics Society) was “not a scholarly or professional organization within [his] discipline.”

Knox-Eaton also knocked Gouws for his failure to get her approval for his cancellation of his classes. And, she announced, “This letter is a formal warning that will become part of your permanent record.”

Gouws has, of course, replied, standing his ground, citing the evidence, and complaining of the disparate treatment. As far as he can tell, this particular barrage of rules has never been applied to anyone else on his department or the college.

What a troublesome fellow Gouws has proven to be. That is what comes from reading about men in literature. Perhaps he thinks he is “The Mayor of Casterbridge.” Or, given his South African roots, Allan Quatermain, questing for King Solomon’s mines. In any case, Herzog has found a sturdy helpmate in Knox-Eaton.

Under difficult circumstances Gouws has behaved with integrity. He has been much put upon by his college, but has remained civil in his determination to pursue his scholarship and teaching as best he can within this hostile regime. From time to time, I’ll continue to report on his progress.

Peter W. Wood is the president of the National Association of Scholars.

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