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A University should be a place of light, of liberty, and of learning.
~ Benjamin Disraeli
A disturbing trend is developing in our institutions of higher learning - a trend that evokes visions of George Orwell or the Soviet Politburo. There have been an alarming number of unexplained terminations of professors who have dared to challenge the orthodoxy of the left. The most recent examples occured at Oregon State University and UCLA within the past few weeks.
In the middle of the academic session in May 2012, a renowned and well-liked professor of chemistry was fired at Oregon State University with no explanation. As Fox News reports (via The Daily Caller),
Oregon State University chemistry professor Nicholas Drapela was fired without warning three weeks ago and has still been given no reason for the university’s decision to 'not renew his contract.' Drapela, an outspoken critic of man-made climate change, worked at the university for 10 years.
The University has so far refused to comment on the firing of one of its most popular professors, but speculation is rampant that he was purged due to his skepticism regarding the theory of anthropogenic global warming (AGW). This speculation has been fueled in large part by the circumstances surrounding his firing:
The timing of the termination was odd because Oregon State University was still in session, with finals approaching. Students were impacted, he told TheDC, because "I was unable to hold office hours in my office because I didn’t have a key."
Drapela told the Daily Caller he was “blindsided” when the department chair called Drapela into his office to fire him on May 29. 'He read a prepared statement and took my key,' Drapela said, adding that he was given no reason in this meeting as to why he was being let go. It was also odd given that teaching decisions are often made on a hiring cycle, which gives professors ample opportunity to apply to other university teaching positions. The timing of OSU’s decision did not allow Drapela this opportunity, as most open positions had already been filled by the time of his firing.
The article goes on to report the extensive runaround Professor Drapela was given when seeking a reason for his termination, including an appointment with the HR department that was canceled with no warning or explanation. Drapela states that he is not aware of any controversy surrounding him. He is the author of several textbooks and the recipient of at least one award recognizing his quality as an instructor. By all accounts, he is an exemplary instructor and an expert in his field. Of course, not a peep from the paper of record, The Oregonian. Once again, the citizens of this state are left in the dark by the local media, and are reliant on whistleblowers and national media to report the dark underbelly of local politics and news.
This questionable action comes mere months after a similar refusal to allow public debate in Oregon on the actual science of AGW. In November 2011, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry canceled a presentation by three prominent local climate researchers. The presentation was to have offered criticism on the interpretation of data that claims to support the theory of AGW.
And of course, this is not the first time Oregon State University has been rumored to have punished members of its academic team for their political activity - or that of their family. In 2011, the children of Republican Congressional Candidate Art Robinson were dismissed from the graduate nuclear physics program at OSU despite having outstanding academic records. [The full story can be found here.]
Not to be outdone by their neighbors to the north, the California university system has gotten in on the act, firing a PhD professor of epidemiology with 35 years' worth of experience:
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) has filed suit on behalf of Dr. James E. Enstrom, a UCLA research professor who was terminated after he blew the whistle on junk environmental science and scientific misconduct at the University of California (UC).
"The facts of this case are astounding," said David French, Senior Counsel of the ACLJ. "UCLA terminated a professor after 35 years of service simply because he exposed the truth about an activist scientific agenda that was not only based in fraud but violated California law for the sake of imposing expensive new environmental regulations on California businesses. UCLA's actions were so extreme that its own Academic Freedom Committee unanimously expressed its concern about the case."
Dr. Enstrom, a research professor in UCLA's Department of Environmental Health Sciences, published important peer-reviewed research demonstrating that fine particulate matter does not kill Californians. Also, Dr. Enstrom assembled detailed evidence that contends powerful UC professors and others have systematically exaggerated the adverse health effects of diesel particulate matter in California, knowing full well that these exaggerations would be used by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to justify draconian diesel vehicle regulations in California. In addition, the complaint argues that he exposed the fact that the lead author of the key CARB Report used to justify the diesel regulations did not have the UC Davis Ph.D. degree that he claimed. Instead, according to the suit, this “scientist” bought a fake Ph.D. for $1,000 from a fictional "Thornhill University."
Finally, Dr. Enstrom discovered that several activist members of the CARB Scientific Review Panel on Toxic Air Contaminants have exceeded the legislatively mandated three-year term limits by decades. The suit contends that shortly after Dr. Enstrom revealed this systematic wrongdoing, UCLA not only issued a notice of termination, it denied him any compensation for his work by systematically and wrongfully looting his research fund accounts. Dr. Enstrom worked for more than a year without pay as he in good faith appealed his wrongful termination using UCLA procedures. Ironically enough, the fake "scientist" was only suspended for his misconduct while Dr. Enstrom was terminated for telling the truth."
That the halls of academia are dominated by liberals is not breaking news. For instance, as we return to the state of Oregon, we are reminded of this opinion piece from a student in the Department of Journalism a few years ago:
This latest twist, however, is far more disturbing. Not only are those who hold alternate views less likely to hold positions at institutions of higher learning, those who do, tend to be rooted out and purged. Seemingly gone are the days when our colleges and universities lived up to their mission to allow students and faculty to learn by engaging in healthy debate of the facts. Have we stopped teaching students to be critical thinkers in order to bombard their brains with what to think? More and more, if a student or professor doesn't toe the party line, you are branded as dangerously unorthodox and unworthy of achievement. And of course, in each of the examples cited above, one must only follow the money to discover the true motivations.