There is an enormous free speech controversy that is pitting an outspoken North Carolina faculty member against a public university administration. For once it isn’t me (so keep on reading liberals)! This controversy involves Jammie Price, a tenured sociology professor at Appalachian State University (ASU), who previously taught at UNC-Wilmington. The current controversy also involves porn so it should be a stimulating topic for my weekly political column (the liberals will surely keep reading now)!
Price has been placed on paid leave from the classroom after several students complained that she showed (allegedly without warning) a documentary about porn that actually featured people having sex. There are also student complaints that she accused the school of showing favoritism toward athletes (less controversial, I would think). Those statements are alleged to have been made in connection with sexual assault accusations against a couple of ASU athletes. Regrettably, the complaints about the athletic controversy have now coalesced into accusations of racism against Price. Jammie Price may be many things. But she certainly is no racist. I regret that race has become entangled in an otherwise interesting free speech controversy.
While I would defend Price against charges of racism, I would urge others to be cautious before they make Jammie Price a poster girl for academic freedom. Hundreds of professors have signed a petition on her behalf. But she has a history of showing poor judgment in the classroom. That history is certainly relevant to the current controversy. At times, she also has shown outward contempt for those who do not share her vision of utopia as involving limitless guilt-free sex for everyone.
Price arguably should have been suspended by UNCW back in March of 2003 when she cancelled all of her classes for an entire week in order to protest the Iraq War. Her unprofessionalism was compounded when she offered extra credit – but only to those who would join her in protesting the war. Predictably, a student complained and Price was reprimanded. She responded by correcting the problem. She organized an event for those who supported the war and gave students credit for participating. But the question remains: why did it take a student complaint for Price to understand the gross impropriety of her conduct?