Inside Higher Ed posts on Edison and Related Issues

Once again, the sagas at Edison are mentioned in Inside Higher Ed. Quincy Essinger's lawsuit makes the "Quick Takes" section.

In related news, another article, one of the top headlines on Inside Higher Ed, throws some sand in the eyes of those watching the recent lawsuit against Edison. The article begins with ominous news from a recent case at Idaho State University: "a court has suggested that faculty members at public colleges and universities do not have First Amendment protection when criticizing their administrations."

The article cites two cases, one in which a professor was fired for comments the administration "believed crossed over lines of professionalism, but that he said represented the appropriate right to express dissent. He was fired despite a faculty panel's finding that there was not cause to do so, and his suit against the university charges that the university denied him his First Amendment rights by dismissing him."

The other case involves a professor who believed he was denied a merit raise because of an all too familiar complaint: "that his department was relying too much on part-time instructors to teach lower-division courses, and that students were entitled to full-time professors." This case is under appeal.

The article connects both rulings to a supreme court ruling called Garcetti v. Ceballos, which the American Association of University Professors says creates a dangerous precident. Indeed, the judge in the second case stated in his ruling that the professor should have realized "'that he has limitations of his speech that he accepted when becoming a state employee.'"

Garcetti v. Ceballos states:

When public employees make statements pursuant to their official duties, they are not speaking as citizens for First Amendment purposes, and the Constitution does not insulate their communications from employer discipline. Pp. 5–14. (a) Two inquiries guide interpretation of the constitutional protections accorded public employee speech. The first requires determining whether the employee spoke as a citizen on a matter of public concern.


(b) Proper application of the Court’s precedents leads to the conclusion that the First Amendment does not prohibit managerial discipline based on an employee’s expressions made pursuant to official responsibilities.

and finally:

(c) Exposing governmental inefficiency and misconduct is a matter of considerable significance, and various measures have been adopted to protect employees and provide checks on supervisors who would order unlawful or otherwise inappropriate actions. These include federal and state whistle-blower protection laws and labor codes and, for government attorneys, rules of conduct and constitutional obligations apart from the First Amendment. However, the Court’s precedents do not support the existence of a constitutional cause of action behind every statement a public employee makes in the course of doing his or her job.

If the court were to decide that Quincy was acting as an employee rather than a citizen at the board meeting, then it doesn't look Quincy has a chance. This, of course, will lead to an interesting slippery slope to what degree of activity employment contracts encompass (particularly for adjuncts). I'll leave the legal debate to others.

We are, as Bender from Futurama says, boned.


Anonymous said...

Quincy's suit alleges 8 separate harms, not all of which are dependent upon his status as either employee or non-employee.

It would be hard to see how videotaping KY's hissyfit at the board meeting was in any way related to "the course of" being an adjunct professor of the humanities, unless one were preserving examples of theater of the grotesque for one's students to enjoy.

Garcetti is problematic if one defends things like using committee meetings to complain about the administration, or using class time to fuss about institutional politics.

Sabib's case was dismissed by an Idaho State judge; it's about as authoritative in Ohio as a fatwa from Osama Bin Laden. The facts are different and Garcetti is irrelevant.

No one of importance said...

That's good to know. I'm fairly pessimistic anything will come out of Quincy's case, but the way it's broken down is pretty brilliant. Let's just hope the judge sees it the way you do.

TR said...

Of course, when the college president in his annual address proclaimed that the institution's critics were important (as Pres. Yowell did a couple of years ago) then any attempt to retaliate against Edison's internal critics might be seen as a form of entrapment.

I trust that Qunicy's attorneys will be receiving this observation. Perhaps someone with access to the president's transcribed fall convocation addresses will look up the right one and print out or save it in case it gets deleted "by accident".

Naively Hopeful said...

My first thought, I cannot believe that the trustees will do nothing while once again Edison is nationally disgraced by our "leader". I would be intensely ashamed of the image we have presented to other colleges and universities.

In regards to criticism, remember that Dr. Yowell just said at the Holiday Luncheon that he was only a temporary leader at Edison and that he was always open to others ideas. Of course this statement was made probably for the trustees that were present.

Chance said...

Edison being nationally-disgraced (again) means that Ken Yowell has accomplished his long-standing goal of gaining "national recognition" for Edison. Local disgrace is never enough.

Now Yowell can leave.

The Board can even recognize his Yowell for his "accomplishments".


Bring 'em down, Quinney.