Saturday, September 23, 2017

Prof. Phylils Chesler Update: "No formal action" by Alabama U.

If you read my two previous posts on Professor Phyllis Chesler's disinvite by University of Alabama, one a breaking-the-story, and another, a follow-up, here is the final delayed response:

FAYETTEVILLE -- No formal action resulted from a University of Arkansas, Fayetteville dean's review of an April decision to cancel a Skype talk by a speaker known for remarks critical of Islam, UA spokesman Mark Rushing said Thursday.

The UA administration in May criticized "the decision to disinvite a participant for his or her views" as "not reflective of the values and practices of our institution," according to a statement made at the time by Rushing.

The university in May suspended geosciences professor Tom Paradise from his administrative duties as director of UA's Middle East Studies center for his decision to cancel a presentation by Phyllis Chesler at a UA academic symposium April 13-14 on honor killing in Western countries.

...Paradise resigned in June as director of UA's King Fahd Center for Middle East Studies, at the time stating in an email to the Democrat-Gazette that he stepped down "due to too many commitments outside of Middle East Studies." He remains a UA professor.

Rushing in an email Thursday said no disciplinary action resulted from the review completed this month by Todd Shields, dean of UA's J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences.

Shields did not respond to email, phone and text messages asking about the review...

..."After talking to all faculty, the Dean confirmed that the center will take an inclusive approach to special events in the future with the goal of maintaining an environment where a diversity of ideas is welcomed. The University of Arkansas believes in the free exchange of ideas and in a balanced presentation of viewpoints," Rushing said in an email.

Paradise, asked in a phone interview about the Chesler cancellation, said, "I'm accountable for that. The decision came to me."

Paradise said ideological concerns were "an extrinsic component" of the decision to cancel Chesler's appearance at an event co-sponsored by the UA School of Law and the Fahd center. In May, Lisa Avalos, a co-organizer for the symposium and a UA assistant professor of law, told the Democrat-Gazette that both her and Paradise agreed to the initial invitation.

Emails released by UA show faculty a week before the event asking the Fahd center to "publicly withdraw its sponsorship from this symposium," citing concerns about Chesler.

Paradise on Thursday said he had scheduling concerns related to Chesler's scheduled Skype talk, titled "Worldwide Trends in Honor Killing." It was scheduled for lunchtime, but meal service was in a separate room from where the Skype presentation could be viewed.

Paradise said he did not view the suspension of his administrative duties as punitive...


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