Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Not exactly

KU: Mirecki left leadership post voluntarily:
Kansas University stands firm, maintaining that religious studies professor Paul Mirecki voluntarily left his post as chairman of the department and disputing Mirecki’s recent allegations he was fired.
While I agree that he was not fired from the post, I think that it's inaccurate to say that he left wholly voluntarily. My understanding is that he left as a result of pressure from the department, and he is asserting pressure from above as well. To call that voluntary is overly generous to KU, though to call it a firing is not quite right either.
I'm inclined to side with the university here. My guess is that Mirecki is frustrated with the lack of progress by the police, is frustrated that his honor is being attacked, rather than the honor of his attackers, and he wants to lash out. If there were suspects in custody, he'd know who to lash out at, but there aren't, so he's going after people whose names he knows.
Setting aside the lawsuit and the precise claims each side is making for a moment, I am troubled by the idea that he may have been pressured from above. I'm walking a line here, because I think it was probably wise for him to step out of his position of authority in the department for the time being. And if that's what his colleagues said that in a supportive way, and if his superiors approached him as colleagues and said the same thing, there's really nothing objectionable.

But if he was forced out, it compounds the effects of the attacks by conservative legislators and commentators. If he stepped aside to protect himself, his department and his colleagues, it's great, but if he was pushed aside to give in to appease the forces arrayed against academic freedom, it's a problem.