For years, conservatives have alleged liberal bias at institutions of higher learning, with many schools distinguishing themselves as bastions for liberal thought.
As the years have progressed, right-leaning professors and students have complained and lamented the indoctrination and one-sidedness that they say characterizes the environments at most American universities.
Now, in the latest case of potential ideological discrimination, Tom Emmer, the 2010 GOP candidate for Minnesota governor, a radio host and a former state politician, is claiming that Hamline University in Saint Paul, Minn., hired him -- then reneged -- based on his political views.
Emmer, whose views are widely known in the state, claims that the university offered him a position to teach business law as an "executive in residence." In fact, he says he had already hashed the details out and attended a faculty meeting before he was later told that he wouldn't be able to teach at the school.
Hamline, thus far, has been relatively mum about the situation. The university recently released a brief statement addressing the incident, though it sheds little light on the reasoning behind the school's decision not to allow Emmer into the classroom. University spokeswoman JacQui Getty told the Pioneer Press that, at this point, the college would have no further comment on the matter.
"Hamline was in discussions with Mr. Emmer about the opportunity for him to teach a business law class, and we were working together on a proposal that would position him as executive-in-residence within our business school," the statement confirms. "Although there were conversations over several months about the opportunity for Mr. Emmer to join the Hamline faculty, there was no finalized agreement between Mr. Emmer and the university."
Emmer, of course, says that this isn't the full story and that his agreement with the college was set in stone. According to the former lawmaker, Anne McCarthy, dean of Hamline's School of Business (who apparently also ran as a Republican for Maryland comptroller back in 2006), had already agreed to hire him.
In an interview with the Blaze, Emmer explained that when he attended a faculty meeting at the school, it became clear that some professors were annoyed by the hire. He says these same individuals organized an effort to have him removed because of his conservative beliefs.
"It's political bigotry is what it is," he told the Press. "If this is what's going on in all these institutions of higher learning, the most important thing we can do is expose it." He reiterated these same statements to the Blaze, emphasizing the need to expose the alleged discriminatory hiring practices. Listen to Emmer discuss these issues on AM1130 News Talk Radio, below:
Emmer claims he was offered a position on Sept. 19 and that a written contract was later assembled (but not signed). A few weeks later, he filled out the necessary paperwork. On Oct. 7, Emmer says he received an e-mail from Kristen Norman-Major, an associate professor, confirming he would be teaching business law. On Nov. 23, though, the situation began to devolve. Emmer claims that McCarthy contacted him and they discussed faculty opposition to his hiring.
Based on the text of the October note, should it be legitimate, it does appear Emmer was confirmed to teach at least one section of the course. Here's the e-mail:
According to the Star Tribune, a separate e-mail from McCarthy to Emmer read, "Please note, if you have another development and don't want to come to Hamline on a full-time basis, you can always teach next spring as an adjunct to get your feet wet and embark on a teaching career."
In addition to these e-mails, some very curious statements have come from a professor at the college that add fuel to Emmer's discrimination claims. Jim Bonilla, an associate professor at the business school and co-director of the "Race, Gender & Beyond Faculty Development Program," has admitted to writing to McCarthy to voice his concern over Emmer's hiring.
According to the Press report, he also claims to know of two other professors outside of the business school who raised similar concerns with university President Linda Hanson. Bonilla reportedly told the paper that hiring someone so staunchly opposed to gay rights goes against the university's spirit of non-discrimination.
"That would be money wasted," he said. By not hiring Emmer, Bonilla contends that the college is making a decision "congruent with our values and a sound business decision."
"It's not just the issue of gay marriage," Bonilla said in another interview. "[Emmer] has said that you can't be a patriotic American and be a Democrat. There is an expectation that a teacher will think people can disagree and still be patriots."
But Emmer says, despite his strong views, he's an accepting person. "Anybody who knows me knows that I have my beliefs, but I respect yours," he says. In his interview with the Blaze, Emmer gave credit to Bonilla for being honest about his opposition to the hire. After all, Bonilla's commentary adds to Emmer's claim that professors railed against him due to his conservatism and that he was "fired" (or simply not hired) as a result.
Bonilla has said that he has no idea whether the professors' concerns played a role in the administration's decision not to hire the former politician.
There's also a curious article that was published in the Nov. 22 edition of The Oracle, Hamline's student newspaper. The piece, entitled "Emmer Gets Hired," confirms that the former lawmaker was slated to teach at the university. Here's a copy of the article, below:
On Dec. 5, the paper retracted this piece, writing, "In the Nov. 22 issue of The Oracle, it was incorrectly reported that Tom Emmer had been hired as a scholar-in-residence for the School of Business. Though there were conversations about the possibility of the former gubernatorial candidate joining the staff, it was never official." Here's more:
“We were in conversations with Tom Emmer exploring an opportunity within the School of Business,” Strategic Communications Director JacQui Getty said. “I think people jumped to an opinion, a pre-mature opinion, about what might be happening.”
When asked about how people may have come to the conclusion that Emmer was being hired, Getty said that Emmer had attended a formal meeting at the School of Business.
“I think Tom attended a meeting, he was brought to a meeting by one the members from the School of Business, and there was conversations about what was being explored,” Getty said. “There was never a formal offer.”
Getty's words seem to contradict the e-mails (again, should they be substantiated) that were previously sent by Norman-Major and McCarthy. The mention of a "formal meeting" is intriguing, seeing as Emmer characterized this assembly as a faculty meeting at the school.
In this same article, another business professor named David Schultz (he's the source in the Oracle's first article) says that staff began "drafting" e-mails to be sent to the school's administration that outlined their concerns over Emmer's potential hiring. The Oracle reports that Schultz highlighted faculty members' key concerns -- the first being that Emmer's political positions might be "incompatible with the university's mission" (especially his conservative stance on gay marriage).
In addition to this ideological issue, staff had qualms about the method through which Emmer was hired. McCarthy allegedly made the decision on her own, which others claim violates the university's handbook (new hires must go through a committee and faculty review).
The lack of commentary coming from the college on the matter only adds to speculation surrounding just how much of a factor discrimination played in the matter. Emmer claims this isn't the first time he's experienced roadblocks while trying to gain employment at the university level. "Institutions of higher learning are supposed to be about everybody's point of view," he says.
Emmer believes he is owed a retraction and an apology. Additionally, he has asked the school to withdraw the Oracle article and to release a statement admitting that his agreement with the institution was breached due to his conservative values. "What they're going to find is the public disagrees with them vehemently, and the students do, too," he said.
Getty has reportedly said that the school has no intention to do either.
(H/T: Young America's Foundation)