FIRE Goes to Bat for Student Booted Out for Differing Views

A Catholic college in Syracuse, New York, is under fire for allegedly dismissing an education student last semester after he wrote a paper advocating strict discipline for students.

Master's student Scott McConnell says the chairman of the Le Moyne College Education Department expelled him because of what the official called a “mismatch” between the degree candidate's beliefs and the goals of the school's graduate education program. McConnell, who had a 3.78 grade point average for the fall semester, received an A- on the paper in question, and an A as his final grade in the course. Nevertheless, the student feels he was expelled basically for having views that were contrary to those espoused by the department administrators.

Greg Lukianoff of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) says that, even though Le Moyne is a private college, the school is risking legal liability by censoring and arbitrarily dismissing McConnell. While Lukianoff is not sure how administrators at a school like Le Moyne normally settle debates in higher education, he notes, “I think that you show tremendous lack of faith in your principles if, rather than discuss someone's position that disagrees with yours, you would just kick them out of school.”

Ironically, the FIRE spokesman points out, Le Moyne College's own policies include a statement that students who interfere with others' free expression are subject to “the maximum penalty of suspension or dismissal.” He says the New York State school has no right to bar McConnell's expression, especially in light of its own avowed standards.

“The school seems to have no tolerance whatsoever for ideological diversity,” Lukianoff asserts, “and rather than actually debate someone, which is the right process, rather than challenge his views, they've decided that his views are tantamount to some form of academic treason — as if the Department of Education cannot handle dissent.”

Lukianoff feels the censorship at Le Moyne sends a chilling message to parents that many of the teachers they send their children off to learn from have been taught in an atmosphere that shows little respect for dissent and individuality. On February 3, FIRE sent a letter to the administrators of the school, expressing grave concern about McConnell's case.

In the letter, the advocacy group reviewed the facts of the case and requested that McConnell be reinstated, that his right to free expression be affirmed, and that the school guarantee that neither he nor any other Le Moyne student would have to endure censorship or retaliation for expressing controversial personal beliefs henceforward. However, in a letter dated February 8, the academic vice president responded that Le Moyne “does not believe it is appropriate to enter a public debate” with FIRE concerning the school's admission decisions regarding any particular student.

Lukianoff says FIRE will not drop the issue. However, according to a WorldNetDaily report, the organization has not decided at this time whether it will pursue legal action on McConnell's behalf.

(Jim Brown, a regular contributor to AgapePress, is a reporter for American Family Radio News, which can be heard online. This article courtesy of Agape Press).

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