by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Lee Jones writes for the Martin Center about the sad cases of contrarian college professors.
Remember the stereotype of the lazy college professor living an almost stress-free life while enjoying tenure, virtually a sinecure, often supported by taxpayer dollars? Tomes and articles identifying examples of this professor abound. Along with this job protection comes the opportunity to impose political correctness with impunity.
Try telling that story to true contrarians.
For an example, consider Michael Jay Shively, who taught biology for 26 years at Utah Valley University. Shively, The Chronicle of Higher Education reports, “was rigorous” and “took pride in the anatomy courses he built and the hard work they required.”
On March 25, 2019, Shively received a one-page letter from his university president and was quickly suspended and escorted from campus. The letter contained allegations related to the difficulty of Shively’s courses and to maltreatment of Shively’s colleagues. In the months that followed, the university investigated while Shively experienced what his wife called “a spiraling decline.” Before the investigation concluded, Shively took his own life.
The courts will have to sort out any responsibility Utah Valley University may bear for Shively’s suicide, even as debate goes on over how, as Chronicle reporter Emma Pettit acknowledges, “experts stress that suicide never has a single cause.” She also wonders what this case says about due process, academic freedom, and “why Shively’s classroom practices were under scrutiny?”
Michael Adams, who taught at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington for 27 years, was a contrarian for reasons almost entirely related to partisan politics and religious conservatism. …
… Just days before his published retirement date, authorities found Adams’s body, dead from a gunshot to the head. The sheriff’s office stated, “No other people were in the home and foul play is not suspected.” Yet another contrarian professor had taken his own life, almost certainly influenced by pressure from his workplace.
One obvious difference between Shively’s case and that of Adams is that Adams, as his tweet referenced, reflected the stress of the pandemic. Adams lived alone, and authorities came to his home only when a friend and neighbor phoned in that the professor, who had been “erratic” and “stressed,” had not left his home for several days.