Former UNC Dean Dan Plyler is like a lot of academics today. He forms strong opinions without taking the time to study an issue to determine whether his opinion is supported by evidence. Evidence is irrelevant for such academics who are more interested in preserving visions of how things should be - as opposed to evaluating how things are with some practical game plan for improving upon them. Plyler's disdain for evidence was on full display when he wrote a Letter to the Editor in response to my recent promotion to full professor. It is reprinted below with my usual witty commentary (and humility) interspersed between each paragraph.
The recent ruling by a federal judge that a faculty member at UNCW be promoted to full professor establishes a dangerous precedent that can have serious consequences for colleges and universities throughout the country.
Actually, the ruling didn't establish any precedent at all. After the jury ruled in my favor, both sides in the conflict (my attorneys and the attorneys for UNCW) were asked to submit their recommendations for relief. My attorneys asked for promotion and $60,000 back pay. UNCW attorneys recommended promotion and $40,000 back pay. The judge split the difference on the back pay and gave me $50,000. He did not have to split any difference on the promotion because it was not in dispute. My promotion set no dangerous precedent because it set no precedent at all. Ordering the things both sides agree upon is a routine judicial practice. There is no seismic innovation here.
The real question here is why Dean Plyler decided to go public with his views without familiarizing himself with the facts concerning the promotion? The answer is simple: He wishes to preserve a vision that the academy is under some sort of external assault by people with lesser judgment. (Please note that even judges have lesser judgment than academics, in Plyler's humble view). Since the evidence would have contradicted the vision, it was ignored. In fact, it was not even sought after by the learned Dean.
Academia, since its inception, has held firmly to the belief that accountability of its members is best determined by peer review and peer evaluation. This process at UNCW and most other universities is a multi-tiered one, with many steps designed to ensure that fairness prevails. Also, any member of the faculty having received an adverse ruling has access to a lengthy review process that can eventually lead to a hearing by the University of North Carolina Board of Governors.