“Hiring [a Lecturer] Stridently Opposed to Gay Rights Goes Against the [University’s] Ethic of Nondiscrimination”

That’s what one Hamline University business school professor said, in opposing the hiring of another prospective business school professor, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press:

A Hamline University professor said Wednesday that hiring [former Republican gubernatorial candidate] Tom Emmer would have been a bad business decision for the school, while Emmer said “political bigotry” in higher education is discriminating against people with conservative views like his….

Asked whether the decision not to hire Emmer had anything to do with faculty concerns about his political views, [Hamline spokeswoman JacQui] Getty said Hamline would have no comment beyond a statement … [that] said “there were conversations” about Emmer joining the faculty but “no finalized agreement.”

Jim Bonilla, an associate professor in Hamline’s business school, said he wrote to McCarthy with concerns about Emmer’s appointment and that he knows of two other professors, outside the business school, who raised concerns with Hanson.

He said he doesn’t know whether faculty concerns about Emmer factored in the administration’s decision not to hire him.

For Bonilla, listed on the school’s website as a consultant on diversity in higher education and the founding director of “Race, Gender & Beyond” program, there is a business case and a social justice case to be made against Emmer.

In terms of business, he pointed to fallout from gay-rights groups after Target Corp. donated $150,000 to a political fund that in turn supported Emmer.

And hiring someone stridently opposed to gay rights goes against the school’s ethic of nondiscrimination and works against training the staff does on creating safe spaces for gay and lesbian students, Bonilla said.

“That would be money wasted,” he said. Not hiring Emmer allows Hamline to make a decision “congruent with our values and a sound business decision,” Bonilla said….

Despite the school’s statement that there was no agreement to hire him, Emmer said “there is no question” he was hired for the teaching job and that there was an agreement in principle on the “executive in residence” position….

For an e-mail that apparently supports Emmer’s view that he had indeed been hired (“I am the new Department Chair under which Business law falls. For the spring we are offering a session during the day and Tom Emmer is going to teach it.”), see this Minnesota Public Radio site. There’s also more from the Hamline Oracle, the university student newspaper, here and here. The latter item notes that, “Business Professor David Schultz … said that after staff began hearing about the possibility of Emmer joining the Hamline faculty, e-mails were drafted by some staff members to be sent to administration outlining their concerns over the hiring of Emmer.

“Schultz said that the faculty was concerned for two major reasons, including whether the political positions Emmer holds were incompatible with the university‚Äôs mission, specifically his stance on same-sex marriage.

“The second concern stemmed from the way Emmer was possibly being hired. Staff were being told that he was simply selected by McCarthy, which goes against the faculty handbook, Schultz said. The procedures for new hires includes a hiring committee and faculty review, which was not happening at the time faculty heard the rumors that Emmer was being hired.”

If the university did indeed refuse to hire Emmer because of his views on same-sex marriage, that would be a very serious breach of traditional and sound academic freedom norms, and a sign that the Hamline business school is seeking to be an ideological cocoon — for its faculty and its students — rather than a place where debate and academic freedom are genuinely present and valued. Of course it would send a pretty poor message to its students, who would rightly wonder whether a faculty that does this to an appointments candidate would likewise retaliate against students who express unorthodox opinions. And naturally it would have an effect far beyond the question of same-sex marriage: Students and prospective family members who see an institution being willing to exclude someone who shares the same views as about half the country would likely worry even more that it would exclude or retaliate against people who have (certain kinds of) less popular views.

Of course, this is a big “if”: We know what Prof. Bonilla believes about how the university should deal with dissenting viewpoints on the subject, and we have heard from Prof. Schultz about what “some staff members” thought, but we don’t know whether this was indeed part of the business school’s decision. I would like to know more about whether the business school takes the same approach to academic freedom and diversity of views that Prof. Bonilla does.

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