State University of New York at Fredonia: Professor Punished for Public Expression
State University of New York at Fredonia Professor Stephen Kershnar, apart from his faculty duties, authored a biweekly opinion column for the Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer local newspaper. Kershnar's column had been critical of university policies including SUNY Fredonia's Affirmative Action policy; Kershnar also publicly criticized a new student conduct policy. In response, President Dennis L. Hefner denied his promotion to full professor due to his "deliberate and repeated misrepresentations of campus policies and procedures," without presenting evidence of any such violations. Hefner proposed a severely strict arrangement that would indefinitely require Kershnar to get "unanimous consent" from a university committee for all writing about the university, which Kershnar rejected. FIRE wrote Hefner on July 7, 2006, but Hefner upheld SUNY Fredonia's denial of Kershnar's promotion. FIRE took the case public, however, and Hefner then agreed to reevaluate Kershnar's application. On August 11, 2006, Kershnar was notified of his unconditional promotion to full professor.
- "Victory at SUNY Fredonia: Professor Promoted, No 'Prior Consent Committee' Required," August 14, 2006: In a dramatic turn of events, SUNY Fredonia has promoted the embattled Professor Stephen Kershnar to full professor. In April, SUNY Fredonia shamefully denied Kershnar’s promotion because he had publicly disagreed with the university’s policies and practices. Less than three weeks after FIRE brought this abuse of free speech and academic freedom to public attention, the administration reversed its decision and promoted Kershnar.
- "Promotion Letter from SUNY Fredonia President Dennis L. Hefner to Stephen Kershnar, August 11, 2006," August 11, 2006
- "FIRE in the ‘New York Post’ on Scandal at SUNY Fredonia," August 1, 2006: Today’s issue of the New York Post features an editorial by FIRE President Greg Lukianoff and Vice President Robert Shibley discussing SUNY Fredonia, where the administration recently denied Professor Stephen Kershnar promotion because he publicly opined on university policies and practices. SUNY Fredonia President Dennis Hefner even attempted to require that Kershnar submit all of his written material to a university committee before publishing—an egregious abuse of Kershnar’s academic freedom and free speech rights. As Lukianoff and Shibley wrote, “While free speech too often comes under assault on campuses these days, President Hefner’s brazen attempt to control a professor’s public speech is in a class by itself. Kershnar should get the promotion he merits and Hefner—or anyone else who seeks to use the office of university president to silence opinions they dislike—should be out of a job.”
- "SUNY Fredonia Punishes Professor for Political Expression," July 24, 2006: A professor at SUNY Fredonia has been denied promotion for publicly disagreeing with the university’s student conduct policies and affirmative action practices. SUNY Fredonia’s president later agreed to approve the promotion only if the professor would submit all of his public writings to prior university review. Professor Stephen Kershnar declined the offer and sought help from FIRE.
- "Contract Drafted by Stephen Kershnar," July 21, 2006
- "Contract Drafted by SUNY Fredonia President Dennis L. Hefner," July 21, 2006
- "Letter from SUNY President Dennis L. Hefner to FIRE, July 20, 2006," July 20, 2006
- "Letter from SUNY Fredonia President Dennis L. Hefner to Stephen Kershnar, July 20, 2006," July 20, 2006
- "FIRE Letter to SUNY Fredonia President Dennis L. Hefner, July 7, 2006," July 7, 2006
- "Letter from SUNY Fredonia President Dennis L. Hefner to Stephen Kershnar, April 27, 2006," April 27, 2006
- "Are Conservatives Being Shut Out of the Academy?," February 15, 2006
- "Against Affirmative Action at Fredonia," February 1, 2006
- "E-mail from Stephen Kershnar to SUNY Fredonia Faculty Listserv, April 2, 2005," April 2, 2005
- "E-mail Response from SUNY Fredonia President Dennis Hefner to Stephen Kershnar, April 2, 2005," April 2, 2005
- "Letter from SUNY Fredonia President Dennis L. Hefner to Campus Community, April 1, 2005," April 1, 2005
- "This Month in FIRE History: SUNY Fredonia Professor Targeted for Political Expression," by Bridget Glackin, July 19, 2011
- "Dennis the First Amendment Menace,"
by Mike Adams, Townhall.com, September 4, 2006
- "FIRE hails free speech win for conservative SUNY Fredonia prof,"
by Jim Brown, Agape Press, August 28, 2006
- "Fredonia professor granted promotion,"
The Observer, August 15, 2006
- "SUNY-Fredonia Denies Promotion to Faculty Member Who Criticized a Rule,"
The Chronicle of Higher Education, August 4, 2006
- "No free speech for SUNY profs?,"
by Greg Lukianoff and Robert Shibley, New York Post, August 1, 2006
- "Steve Kershnar of Fredonia’s philosophy department believes denial was due to his beliefs,"
by Michael Rukavina, The Post-Journal, July 31, 2006
- "Prof levels attempted viewpoint censorship charge at SUNY,"
by Jim Brown, Agape Press, July 28, 2006
- "Professor claims criticizing policies cost him a promotion,"
by Jay Rey, Buffalo News, July 28, 2006
- "Prior Restraint on Speech?,"
by Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed, July 26, 2006
- "SUNY at Fredonia Denies Promotion to Professor, Citing Public 'Misrepresentation' of Campus Policies,"
The Chronicle of Higher Education, July 26, 2006