Can a professor be fired for showing disrespect to his peers by emailing them on topics they don’t want to hear about? One case at Bowling Green State University in Ohio may just set such a precedent.
Christian Coons, an associate professor of philosophy at Bowling Green State University, is facing potential termination.
According to a summary of the complaints against him by a publication maintained by the American Association of University Professors: “Coons is accused of three crimes: sending emails to faculty who didn’t want to receive them, insubordination for violating an order not to send emails, and violating a provision in the union contract urging faculty to show ‘respect’ toward others.”
Coons is currently suspended as he awaits the verdict. Coons told The College Fix he “didn’t break any rules.” He said he wishes that there was “some way to escape without termination or more of the same abuse.”
Senior Director of Executive Communications for BGSU, Colleen Rerucha, did not respond to requests for comment about Coons or his employment status.
One point of contention is that Coons challenged the 2016 hiring of philosopher Brandon Warmke, claiming the hiring committee looked over a more qualified candidate. Coons told The College Fix he voiced concerns about what he believed to be a highly irregular search steeped in dishonesty and other irregularities.
In 2019, Coons also took issue with the fact that Warmke helped raise $1.6 million in funding from the Charles Koch Foundation, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported, and continued to complain about the hiring decision.
The Koch Foundation is a libertarian organization with a history of donating to colleges across the United States.
Professor Warmke’s faculty bio states he has written for multiple news outlets, including CNN, Forbes, and The Guardian. He is the author of “Grandstanding: The Use and Abuse of Moral Talk.” He declined to comment to The Fix.
The funding from the Charles Koch Foundation worried Coons, who said he believed that Warmke’s ability to acquire this money could have influenced the decision by the faculty hiring committee to select him over another candidate.
Coons told The Fix he “complained about the apparent corruption and obvious discrimination,” adding that when he raised questions, “no one would answer.”
“We were invited to talk about these matters in the faculty meeting,” he said.
“I’d never seen anything like it,” Coons told The Fix. “We just did some particularly illegal stuff, and now we couldn’t ever talk about it.”
One campus source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told The Fix that an outside attorney named Jennifer McHugh was brought in to investigate Coons’s claims. According to this source, McHugh found no corruption in BGSU’s hiring of Warmke nor merit to any of the other accusations made by Coons.
On Academe Blog, fellow scholar Molly Gardner claimed she “supported Christian Coons, and so they made my job there so miserable I ultimately resigned.”
Gardner said she asked to be removed from a job search committee between 2018 and 2019 because she “was hardly able to contribute any work at all” and that her “contribution was clearly not desired.” However, she was allegedly told resigning would violate a university rule that “a woman had to be on the search committee.”
Gardner is now a professor at the University of Florida. She confirmed her comments on Academe Blog to The College Fix.
Coons told The Fix “they tried to discriminate against her too–also overtly– but I didn’t tell on them.”
But the campus source with information on the situation told The Fix that Coons filed a Title IX complaint on behalf of Gardner and the claims were investigated with no evidence of wrongdoing found.
Editor’s note: This article has been amended to clarify the timeline of events.
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