Memo to East Georgia College: If You Fire a Professor for Criticizing Your Policies, People Will Notice
September 18, 2009
The adjective "Kafkaesque" has been in frequent use this week, thanks to East Georgia College's, well, Kafkaesque treatment of Professor Thomas Thibeault. Thibeault was fired for "sexual harassment"—without due process, notice of charges, or a clue as to who, if anyone, actually filed any charges. EGC President John Black appears to have done this just two days after Thibeault voiced criticisms of flaws in EGC's sexual harassment policy. FIRE's publicizing of Thibeault's case and the appalling administrative contempt for basic rights at EGC have sounded alarms throughout higher education and beyond, and rightly so.
Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education were first to pounce on the story, and since then many others have joined in. Despite this mounting coverage, EGC has only broken its silence on the issue long enough to spin the story to the effect of, "move along now, nothing to see here." EGC President John Black even warned the Chronicle against reporting on the incident. As Adam wrote on Wednesday:
By the way, here's a gem from Black, speaking to The Chronicle of Higher Education: "it is not in The Chronicle's best interest to publish an article until due process in Mr. Thibeault's case is completed." Um, what about starting some due process?
Fortunately the wider world doesn't seem to be buying Black's and EGC's line, if the tone of any of the numerous blogs picking up on the case this week is any indication. Blogger David Thompson is particularly astute in his analysis, seeing connections at East Georgia with previous FIRE cases at Occidental College and Tufts University.
Notably, East Georgia College has also aroused the ire of George Leef from the North Carolina-based Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, and EGC's administrative injustices are significant enough that the Florida Board of Governors, which oversees the state's public university system, has seen fit to re-post Robin Wilson's Chronicle article on its website. The Florida BOG's headquarters are only a few hours away from the offices of the University System of Georgia, and hopefully Florida is heeding the cautionary tale of their neighbors to the north. The international University World News has also picked up Thibeault's case.
FIRE, of course, will further develop our public awareness campaign and is pressing the USG Regents to intervene now rather than later—with the help of the more than 100 people from around the country who have written to President Black and USG Regents Chancellor Erroll Davis Jr.—to bring justice for Thibeault and reverse the vindictive actions of the unaccountable (so far) EGC administration. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and fortunately there's been no shortage of that at East Georgia College this week.