ASU professor contests in-class speech sanctions

An Appalachian State University professor has become embroiled in controversy after a dispute with the school’s administration concerning her academic freedom and legal rights.

Last spring, ASU sociology professor Jammie Price was placed on paid leave following student complaints that she made racist comments against student athletes and showed an inappropriate documentary that showed pornography.

She was told she would be subject to a two-year professional development plan or risk losing her job.

In October, the ASU faculty grievance committee recommended that Chancellor Kenneth Peacock repeal the sanctions on Price after finding that the restrictions would undermine her academic freedom and that she had not created a hostile learning environment.

But last week, Peacock rejected the committee’s findings.

“The professional development plan … (doesn’t) unreasonably restrict (Price’s) academic endeavors,” he wrote in a letter to Price.

Price, who has taught sociology at ASU for nine years, maintains that the university has denied her freedom both in the classroom and due process without a formal hearing.

She said her comments were misunderstood and that the porn documentary came from the university library, available for any student or faculty member to view.

“There’s been no explanation as to why (Peacock) would do this,” she said.

ASU representatives say state law prevents the university from discussing the Price case, though university spokesman Hank Foreman said in an email that the school has policies in place to protect employees’ rights.

Robert Shibley, senior vice president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, said he believes that Price’s treatment by ASU administrators is a concern for all students and faculty.

“A quality liberal arts education is contingent upon academic freedom and fundamental fairness,” he said in an email.

If a faculty member were protesting administrative suspension, as Price was, at UNC-CH, the case would go to the University’s faculty hearing committee, said Jill Moore, chairwoman of UNC-CH’s faculty grievance committee.

“We’re not dealing with situations where a job is on the line,” she said. “(The faculty grievance committee) is a procedure provided as part of a faculty member’s due process rights.”

Price is adamant that ASU is acting out of line.

“This whole experience has been mindblowing,” she said.

Contact the desk editor at state@dailytarheel.com.

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