In short, English professor Samuel Joeckel’s job is being threatened by the administration of Palm Beach Atlantic University — a place he has taught for over 20 years — because of a lesson he teaches on racial justice and history. The administrators visited his classroom with the message that his contract had been held up (I have had this experience) while his lesson was being evaluated. He had taught this lesson for at least a decade prior to this year. Perhaps not coincidentally, Gov. Ron DeSantis visited PBAU that day.
A sympathetic alum started a petition which now has over 1,300 signatures. I invite readers to go sign it. You don’t need to be affiliated with PBA to sign it; you just need care about academic freedom.
Alums Call on PBAU to Guarantee Academic Freedom
A related letter has been started by the same alum just for the PBAU community. This letter is directed toward the president of the school Debra Schwinn to uphold standards of academic freedom.
The letter also calls on the president and administration to address three demands.
First, to issue a public statement on behalf of PBAU, assuming accountability for the mishandling of these events, and publicly apologizing to Dr. Joeckel for withholding due process.
Second, to publicly commit PBAU to protect academic freedom, the open exchange of ideas, and diversity in political and religious beliefs among its faculty, staff, and students without hostility.
Third, to take actions to pursue protections for faculty members that include assurances for due process in disciplinary matters.
Although more urgent, this effort is similar to an initiative by Grove City College alum Natalie Kahler and recently documented by GCC alum Jessica Wills on the FIRE website.
One action Natalie believes the administration could take to encourage the practice of free speech in the community would be to adopt the Chicago Statement, or a similarly strong commitment to free speech and academic freedom like the one adopted by King University, another Christian liberal arts college. (The Chicago Statement is a model free speech policy statement that over 90 universities have adopted, affirming their commitment to free expression.) She believes this kind of free speech protection would encourage the Grove City community to recognize “the value of having all voices in the conversation, even when it makes us uncomfortable.”