Re: [asa] Muggings and the tenure process

From: David Opderbeck <>
Date: Tue May 15 2007 - 12:17:02 EDT

Rich said:* David, perhaps you can shed some light on this but it appears
from my lay eye that a pretty solid civil rights lawsuit could result.*
One of the odd things about this situation to my eye is that the university
must have known this decision would provoke a firestorm, including a
possible lawsuit. It seems that it would have been easier to just grant
tenure, even if his record put him "on the bubble." (I'm not suggesting his
record did put him on the bubble -- it seems to me that his record solidly
supported tenure, but I agree that it's wise to suspend judgment a bit on
that until the facts are fully known).

Given the certainty that this decision would provoke a major public
reaction, my sense is that there must have been some intense internal
opposition in order for the university to place itself into the center of
this mess, not merely the bland "consensus" reflected in the University's
press statement (which statement, BTW, is obviously a useless bit of public
relations and defensive legal fluff, whatever the ultimate merits of the
case). And, my sense is that the only apparent reasons for such intense
opposition is Gonzales' public affiliation with the ID movement. But, this
is only my spidey sense, based on having seen this kind of thing in
employment cases before, and knowing from that experience that you
often have to dig hard in such cases to uncover the truth. I could be
wrong; maybe he was a difficult person as a colleague or a rotten teacher or
something along those lines (though I haven't heard any such scuttlebut), or
maybe his paper record looks more impressive than it is -- maybe writing a
trade press book about ID was an error of judgment pre-tenure that took away
from funded research or something. But all those excuses at this point seem
like a hard sell given the blatant and open persecution that he faced from

Whether a lawsuit is viable procedurally, I don't know. Religion is a
protected class under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Tenure procedures,
however, can have strange legal status, particularly in a public university,
because they are a matter of overlapping legal regimes -- general employment
law, education law, civil rights law, contract law, and labor law (most
public university faculty are unionized). You can't deny tenure to a
science professor because he's religious, but you probably could deny tenure
to a science prof. who teaches religion instead of science on school time.
My guess is that he would first have to exhaust other avenues of appeal,
such as a union grievance before a state public employee board.

On 5/15/07, Rich Blinne <> wrote:
> On May 14, 2007, at 11:02 PM, PvM wrote:
> Iowa State responds
> Tenure is a complex process. It is among the most important decisions a
university makes and is never taken lightly. *Outside of academia, however,
there is little shared understanding of tenure, its rigor and significance.
> For that reason,* and because Gonzalez's appeal has generated a number of
questions, the following "Frequently Asked Questions" may be helpful in
understanding the tenure process at Iowa State.
> For that reason? I don't think so. That sounds a tad defensive. Don't look
at the man behind the curtain. David, perhaps you can shed some light on
this but it appears from my lay eye that a pretty solid civil rights lawsuit
could result. The key differences from Dover are it's a university and not a
high school, there's solid science in the form of peer review in Gonzalez'
resume, and Gonzalez did not teach ID at ISU. Thus, this is about the free
exercise rather than establishment clause. Discovery concerning Avalos and
Patterson and the 120 could be very interesting. Also, putting the entire
review process including the president of the university under oath could
put the whole sausage-making process of wink wink nod nod under the
microscope. Ward Churchill was nothing compared to what kind of damage to
the tenure process could ensue. I hope that President Geoffrey's lawyers are
advising him well.

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Received on Tue May 15 12:17:15 2007

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