not often that a university’s personnel decision is so egregious that even the
editorial pages of the local newspaper denounce it. That occurred with Hamline
University, whose seemingly rescinded appointment to Tom Emmer generated a
blistering editorial from the Minneapolis
Between 2004 and 2010, Emmer served as a prominent member of
the Republican caucus in the Minnesota House of Representatives. In 2010, he
gave up his legislative seat to launch a bid for governor, running on a very
conservative platform; despite trailing by considerable margins in polls
throughout the race, he wound up losing by less than one percent of the vote.
After a year in the private sector, Emmer decided to try out academia, and
Hamline’s Business School made arrangements for him to teach a course in
business law and serve as an “executive in residence” for a
state/local public policy program that the school was starting. It seemed that
both sides considered the semester as a trial run for a possible permanent
Continue reading Emmer and Keeton–Two Terrible Decisions on Academic Freedom
Hard cases make bad law. Nowhere is that legal maxim clearer than the case of former Augusta State counseling student Jennifer Keeton, who was removed from the counseling program because of her rather extreme anti-gay views. A lower-court judge upheld the university’s actions. FIRE and NAS have filed a powerful amicus brief, penned by Eugene Volokh, spelling out the potentially damaging—extremely damaging—effects if this decision is upheld. At the same time, however, the evidence presented in the case strongly suggests that Keeton doesn’t belong as a counselor.
The university’s response to Keeton reflects the same sort of behavior seen in many education departments in the dispositions controversy—i.e., Orwellian re-education efforts to punish students whose views on controversial contemporary political or social issues conflict with those of the academic majority.
Keeton, a student in ASU’s Counseling Education M.A. program, repeatedly expressed anti-gay views, both in and out of class. (These views were quite extreme; they included Keeton’s support for “conversion therapy,” and, according to the lower-court decision in the case, her admission that she would find it difficult to counsel gay or lesbian clients.) In response, as the FIRE/NAS brief notes, the Counseling department designed a “remediation” program for Keeton, which required her “attending three workshops, reading ten peer-reviewed articles, attending an unspecified number of activities such as the Gay Pride Parade(!), and writing a two-page paper each month.” Perhaps most chilling, she also had to meet with her advisor each month to discuss the effect of these activities on her “beliefs.”
Continue reading A Hard Case—Are FIRE and NAS Wrong about Jennifer Keeton?
Jennifer Keeton, age 24, is a student in the graduate counselor education program at Augusta State University, Georgia. Faculty members at ASU have informed Ms. Keeton that she will be dismissed if she does not rid herself of beliefs that the school opposes. She holds traditional Christian views about sexuality and gender, and believes homosexuality is a “lifestyle,” not a “state of being,” as her school teaches. She agrees with her faculty that counselors should never impose their views on clients, and is not accused of saying or believing that she should. She also says she affirms the inherent dignity of all persons, regardless of their views or sexual behavior.
That wasn’t good enough for ASU. The school ordered Keeton to attend a “remediation program” in multicultural re-education and sensitivity training. An assistant professor suggested she attend the Gay Pride parade in Augusta, and she was told to file written reports on how she is moving toward the sexual belief system her school requires. She reluctantly agreed to accept the remediation, then backed out, saying in an email to faculty members, “I understand the need to reflect client’s goals and to allow them to work toward their own solutions, and I know I can do that… (but) I can’t alter my biblical beliefs, and I will not affirm the morality of those behaviors in a counseling situation.” She says she was told by two assistant professors that “it was a life and death matter to not affirm a client’s sexual decision, and that failure to do so has led and could lead to suicides by clients who are not affirmed in their sexual preferences.”
On Keeton’s behalf, the Alliance Defense Fund filed suit yesterday against teachers, deans and regents of ASU, charging violations of freedom of speech and religion.