Recent terminations call into question academic protections
- A Concordia University professor has been fired after refusing to apologize for comments she made about Colin Kaepernick's ongoing social protests during NFL games, Mlive.com reports.
- Adjunct professor Susan Quade was taped making disparaging remarks about Kaepernick and making what she called "sarcastic" remarks about killing the player for perceived disrespect of the country and the flag.
- University officials say it is highly possible the professor would have been retained if she had made a sincere apology to students who felt her remarks were insensitive and a threat to the comfort of black students specifically.
There are two critical elements in this discussion offering valuable takeaways for academic executives. The first is that professors and students are now in a mode where both groups are anxious to test the limits of free speech and the clamor for cultural safe space. Often, this tug-of-war will put institutions in the middle of crises for public relations and recruitment solvency, but they are legitimate claims that are best managed ahead of incident rather than in reaction to the same.
The second takeaway is that if traditional classroom space is going to become a battleground for racial comfort and the exercise of constitutional rights, does this expedite the inevitable expansion of higher ed in the digital space? After all, if it costs too much to hold classes in buildings and it is far easier to manage conflict and resolve issues playing out in virtual classrooms, could this growing culture of exchange push the industry further into its technological age?