MOVING TO FRONT--SEE UPDATES
UPDATE: Professor Torcello writes:
I am confident that your letter and the letters of other supportive academics proved an important counterbalance to the conservative campaign of harassment. I have no doubt that such letters helped give my administration the appropriate encouragement they needed to take a stronger stand.
One reason I think a statement like this is so important is that if universities were to routinely issue a public acknowledgment of the scientific consensus on climate change in response to faculty harassment it would remove some of the incentive deniers have to instigate their campaigns in the first place. Universities still hold a significant level of institutional authority in the mind of many citizens so such statements affirming the existence of scientific consensus are meaningful in the public sphere. It is my hope that this new statement will get some attention in academic circles as an example of the sort of full-throat statement appropriate for universities to make in defense of faculty targeted by conservative propagandists. I hope some people will write thanking the RIT for taking a stronger stance. I have no doubt that some conservatives will be writing in again offering the opposite view.
ANOTHER: Philosopher Brian Schroeder at RIT shares this excellent statement sent to the faculty by the Dean of Arts & Sciences, James Winebrake.
Dear COLA Faculty and Staff:
You may have seen this morning’s email from President Destler regarding a recent essay by Dr. Lawrence Torcello (Department of Philosophy) on the academic sight The Conversation. I am including President Destler’s email below my signature in case you missed it [ed.-see above]. Larry’s essay has generated numerous harassing communications from people outside the RIT community. These communications were triggered by the misrepresentation of Larry’s work in various media outlets and websites.
While the college cannot effectively prevent those outside our institute from misrepresenting the work of individual faculty, we do have an obligation to defend academic freedom and our faculty's right to freedom of expression. We will not tolerate actions by others who use threatening, obscene, or harassing communications to intimidate our faculty in an attempt to restrict this academic freedom. In such cases, college resources will be accessed to defend and protect our faculty’s safety and rights.
The purpose of this communication is to first and foremost state explicitly that we stand by Dr. Torcello’s right to freedom of expression. This communication also informs other faculty to reach out to my office for assistance if you ever feel that external communications related to your academic work become intimidating or harassing. I am currently in communication with Dr. Torcello, the provost, and several others regarding hosting a panel discussion next fall about these types of situations and how faculty, administrators, staff and others (e.g., Public Safety, University News, Legal Affairs, etc.) may best handle these types of situations. More information on this panel discussion will follow at a later date.
RIT and its Administration deserve kudos for this robust response to the harassment of a faculty member for his scholarly work. All Universities should follow RIT's example.