Did Dean Order a UC San Diego Professor Not to Publish an Article Critical of a Colleague?

So alleges the UCSD faculty assembly, “after hearing a detailed and strongly worded report from its Committee on Academic Freedom,” according to the San Diego Union-Tribune:

The issue involves Richard Biernacki, a professor of sociology, and Jeff Elman, dean of the Division of Social Sciences.

In June 2009, Biernacki submitted a manuscript titled “Inside the Rituals of Social Science” to Duke University Press. The manuscript examines what Biernacki calls “methodological problems in the field” and critiques the work of other sociologists, including one of Biernacki’s colleagues at UCSD.

The same month Elman wrote Biernacki a letter ordering him not to publish his work or discuss it at professional meetings. Doing so, Elman wrote, could result in “written censure, reduction in salary, demotion, suspension or dismissal.”

Elman did not respond to a request for comment. But his concern, according to his letter to Biernacki, was that Biernacki’s research and manuscript “may damage the reputation of a colleague and therefore may be considered harassment.” …

Moreover, according to a University statement quoted by Inside Higher Ed (which has more on the case), the University seems to be acknowledging the charges:

We deeply regret that statements made by an academic administrator have led to questions about the administration’s commitment to academic freedom rights…. The Academic Senate leadership and administration of the University of California, San Diego unequivocally affirms our commitment to the principles of Academic Freedom. We acknowledge the recent determination by the Committee on Academic Freedom (CAF) and agree with CAF that the administration has a fundamental responsibility to protect the rights of faculty to research and publish scholarly work, and we will jointly redouble our efforts to ensure that every member of our administration fully understands this responsibility.

Sounds very bad. The Committee on Academic Freedom report noted, “We cannot avoid the conclusion that the dean’s letter contains clear and unacceptable violations of core academic freedom rights, violations that were apparently implicitly or explicitly supported by others in the university’s administration at the time.” That sounds like the right conclusion.

If anyone has pointers to the underlying documents, such as the offending letter from the dean, the Committee on Academic Freedom report, or the UCSD statement, I’d love to see them.

UPDATE: I now have the full Committee on Academic Freedom report, which I quote in this follow-up post.

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