Wednesday, March 3, 2010

UAH Tries to Keep Alumni Critic at a Distance in Wake of Shootings

Officials at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) have tried to separate student leaders from a prominent alumnus who spoke out about the school's poor work environment following recent fatal shootings on the campus.

Samuel Parks, a former student-body president who graduated in May 2009, says administrators have instructed him not to communicate with current student leaders. That came after Parks wrote a letter to the editor, titled "UAH Deserves Some Blame," about the shootings that left three people dead and three others injured. UAH neuroscientist Amy Bishop has been charged in the case, and news reports indicate the shootings were sparked by the university's decision to deny Bishop tenure.

Parks' concerns about UAH stem partly from a 2007 episode where the university investigated him and another student after they helped pass a resolution critical of the UAH computer network and services. The case sparked intervention from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), an organization that promotes free speech and due process on college campuses.

In his letter to the editor, Parks called the shootings a "heinous crime," but added:

By routinely treating the faculty and staff as expendable livestock, and by regarding the students as blank checks ripe for cashing, the university has spawned an atmosphere of doubt, fear and animosity. Such conditions will always breed radical responses from the chronically oppressed.

Parks' letter apparently struck a nerve with the UAH administration, led by President David B. Williams. Says Parks:

Since my graduation last May, I have volunteered with the student government to pass along some of the institutional knowledge I gleaned during my career as a student. After the publication of the letter in the Huntsville Times, the administration forbid me from communicating with any of the current student leaders. They cited an unwillingness to perpetuate my "dissension."

Thus further evidencing the larger problem with the system.

In the 2007 case, Parks and fellow student Donald Ganiere were investigated for roughly three weeks after they raised concerns about the university's computer services. A resolution they authored was passed unanimously by the Student Government Association (SGA). A few weeks later, Parks and Ganiere found themselves under investigation.

FIRE found that situation unacceptable. In a letter to Williams dated December 5, 2007, FIRE representative Adam Kissel said:

This situation is both legally and morally unacceptable. The First Amendment protects citizens from punishment for engaging in protected expression and for petitioning for the redress of grievances-precisely what the SGA resolution authored by Ganiere meant to accomplish. As a public university, UAH is bound to uphold these constitutional protections. As the Supreme Court noted in Healy v. James, 408 U.S. 169, 180 (1972), "[s]tate colleges and universities are not enclaves immune from the sweep of the First Amendment;" indeed, "[t]he vigilant protection of constitutional freedoms is nowhere more vital than in the community of American schools." It is a particularly grievous violation of this principle when, as in this case, students are investigated for exercising their right to petition for the redress of grievances. Not only is this right so important that it is included in the First Amendment along with freedom of speech and religious liberty, but the lack of this right directly contributed to the American Revolution itself. The ability to ask the government to change its behavior or policies without fear of punishment is one of the crucial distinctions between a free and an unfree society.

The FIRE case indicates that UAH has had problems with free-speech issues before. Now it appears the administration is trying to interfere with the right to free association.

Perhaps Samuel Parks had solid reasons for stating that UAH shared some blame for conditions that led to a campus tragedy.


Anonymous said...

I think it's simply wrong to blame the university for the actions of an obviously extremely troubled woman. If they are culpable in any way, it's for hiring her in the first place. She was obviously troubled for many years.

Richard Moss said...

Yes I agree the work environment
at UAH must be horrendous since
obviously corruption is the norm,
even with education

It could all be towards the goodness of mandkind, everyone realizing their full potential, and equality, but obviously the
work enviornment and in fact business as a whole appears to hold different values and a different agenda

host said...

Here's the speech by FIRE co-founder, Kors, as he gushes praise on the CNP audience. Lil Georgie was at the same 1999 CNP meeting, waiting to give his secret speech to these enemies of secular, open, democratic government:....

F.I.R.E. is the last .Org I'd ever expected you to write favorably about. Here is the background of one of it's board members... Cribb, Jt. It also has Ed Meese and Dershowitz on its boatd. Obama style, do nothing, right wing slanted "bi" partisanship!,_Jr.T. Kenneth Cribb, Jr.
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T. Kenneth Cribb Jr. is a former Presidential advisor and currently the president of the traditionalist conservative Intercollegiate Studies Institute.

Cribb was born August 7, 1948 in Spartanburg, South Carolina. His parents were T. Kenneth Cribb Sr. and Dicksie Brown Cribb. His father was an agribusinessman, merchandising and marketing expert, civic and religious leader, and a prominent trustee of Clemson University. He is doctor honoris causa from Universidad Francisco Marroquin.

Cribb graduated in 1970 from Washington and Lee University, and served as national director for ISI from 1971 to 1977. After that, he went on to University of Virginia Law School, graduating in 1980. He was deputy to the chief counsel of the Reagan campaign the same year. After working briefly as a Wall Street lawyer, he served as Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs in the Reagan Administration, serving as President Reagan’s top advisor on domestic matters. Earlier in the administration he held the position of Counselor to the Attorney General.

He was appointed to his current position in 1989. During his tenure, ISI has vastly expanded its revenues and programs.[1] He also served as vice chairman of the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board from 1989 to 1992. Other commissions of trust include president of the Collegiate Network, an association of conservative college newspapers; vice president of the Council for National Policy, a conservative umbrella organization; member of the Board of Advisors for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education; and counselor to the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy, a conservative legal organization. Cribb also serves on the Board of Advisors of the Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal, an educational organization that continues the intellectual legacy of noted conservative icon Russell Kirk.

Cribb has been published in National Review, The American Spectator, The Intercollegiate Review, Modern Age, and Human Events.

Heritage Foundation President, Edwin J. Feulner has stated that "the conservative movement had no better friend in the highest councils of state during the Reagan era than Ken Cribb".[1]