When Forbes wrote that being a professor was one of the least stressful jobs of 2013 they posted an addendum to their website by way of apology, after receiving enormous critical response. Online media, social media and hundreds of professors had something to say about that one. Professors emailed Forbes with detailed breakdowns of their 70+ hour work weeks and the difficulties of maintaining sanity from the stress and pressure that can come with their jobs.
Given the huge syllabus, lesson plan, exam, thesis and marking workload, the expectations for publication and scientific breakthroughs not to mention the demands of shaping young minds, it's no wonder that some individuals crack under the weight of the academic world. While some may fudge experiment data, others refuse to align their beliefs with those of the university they're working under. Throw in the odd pervert and hippie, and you got yourself a mixed bag of people entrusted with high profile jobs in which they're expected to maintain rigorously ethical positions. But the results of their professional choices can sometimes fall in a gray area of "right" and "wrong" depending on who you ask. Aside from the obvious, occasional case of student/teacher scandals, below is a list of professors over the last 60 years who've been sacked, some for the better and in other cases for the disappointingly worse. Either way, like many impertinent students before them, they were given the boot for their "bad" behaviour.
10 Professor Stanley Moore - 1954
Stanley W. Moore received his doctorate from Harvard in 1940 and served in the Air Force before settling down in his position with Reed College, where he became a popular tenured Philosophy professor. It was his Marxist beliefs and membership with the Communist Party that got him in trouble during the anti-communist McCarthy era, and made him a target of the House Un-American Activities Committee, who subpoenaed Moore in 1954 for a public hearing in Portland.
9 Ram Dass & Timothy Leary - 1963
What's a little LSD in the name of research? The Department of Psychology at Harvard once housed two leading figures of counterculture in the '60s, Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (Ram Dass). Together, the two brilliant young psychologists began to explore the effects of psychotropic substances on the human mind; basically, they got super high as part of their studies. Their rationale was that in order to study the mind and its relationship to the brain and body and environment, they had to see how it was affected by mind-altering substances. Naturally. They called it the "Harvard Psilocybin Project," and the two set out to document the effects of Psilocybin (naturally occurring in mushrooms) on human consciousness by administering it to volunteer subjects and recording the experience.
8 H. Bruce Franklin - 1972
Bruce Franklin was a tenured Stanford professor when he was fired in 1972 for leading a group of students to occupy the campus' computer center. He urged both students and faculty to strike in protest against the Vietnam war. His movement for revolutionaries was called the Venceremos Brigade and was a Maoist group advocating to overthrow U.S. imperialism. Franklin would go on to become one of the most notoriously popular and feared critics of the war, despite being blacklisted and continually targeted by the FBI who kept trying to "neutralize" him.
7 Dr Spautz, University of Newcastle - 1980
One of the stranger stories - if you can believe it - comes from Newcastle, Australia where Dr. Michael Spautz lost his position as Senior Lecturer in the Department of Commerce. Spautz apparently had quite an issue with one of his department colleagues, by the name of Alan Williams. In 1977 Spautz, who had studied Williams Ph.D. thesis, questioned the methods Williams used, claiming his colleague had conducted several cases of plagiarism with unacknowledged secondary sources. He informed Williams that he would make his evidence public if Williams didn't step down. Williams didn't step down, so Spautz took it up the ladder, demanding the administration get rid of the other professor. He threatened them as well, saying he would pursue the case publicly if they did not fire Williams.
The Vice-Chancellor decided it wasn't his job to investigate Williams - rather, it was the purview of the university from whence he'd received his doctorate. Spautz, essentially, lost it. In his own bulletin and in the media, he attacked senior University administrators and Council members and in late 1979, an investigative committee at Newcastle expressed their confidence in Williams and demanded Spautz reel it in. Spautz did not stop.
6 Herbert Richardson -1994
Herbert Richardson was a University of Toronto academic who was the founder of a scholastic publishing service and tenured for 25 years with the University's affiliate St. Michael's College. In 1994 he was fired for gross misconduct by an academic tribunal. Prof. Richardson, who was a 62-year-old Presbyterian minister and teacher of religious studies, was under investigation for four years before his termination. It began when he lost his temper in class, frightening students and firing a TA.
5 Denis Rancourt - 2009
Professor of physics, Denis Rancourt, may have been fired from his University of Ottawa position but he has the association that represents University of Ottawa professors on his side. The association came out to say that the decision upholding the university’s firing undermines academic freedom. Regardless, Rancourt was sent packing after he awarded A+ marks to all his 23 students who completed his advanced physics course. His reasoning? He had come to his own conclusion that traditional teaching methods of evaluating physics students were no longer effective.
4 Luk Van Parijs - 2011
One of the most universally shocking cases of a professor's "bad" behaviour on this list comes from Luk Van Parijs, an associate professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge. Van Parijs was confronted by his lab mates with evidence they'd accumulated of his data falsification. Cracking immediately, he confessed to a number of acts of data fabrication and agreed to cooperate with an investigation into his work by MIT.
After a year of investigation his position was terminated, and additional investigations popped up by Harvard Medical School and the California Institute of Technology, where he'd been a grad student and obtained a postdoc, respectively. And even that wasn't enough, as the US government's Office of Research Integrity wanted a piece of Van Parijs with their own investigation. The reports indicate that Van Parijs was solely responsible for over 10 incidents of data fabrication for grant applications and in his research papers published between 1997 and 2004. The data is pretty insanely complicated but it has to do with his study of disease related genes with virus-based techniques.
3 Prof. Zhang Xuezhong - 2013
Outspoken legal scholar Zhang Xuezhong, a Law and Political Science professor with the East China University, received a dismissal after his refusal to apologize for his beliefs. His publications, which champions the protections guaranteed by China's Constitution, and detail the Communist Party's growing hostility towards the nation's legal system, have put Xuezhong in the hot seat with officials at one of China's most respected post secondary institutions.
2 Don Samuelson - Feb 2014
1 Andrey Zubov - March 2014
Russian philosophy professor and liberal historian Andrey Zubov has been fired from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), after referencing a fairly popular comparison of Putin to Hitler. Specifically, Zubov wrote a paper earlier in the year calling out Moscow's actions in Ukraine with Nazi Germany's annexation of Austria in 1938. On the day that Russia voted to give Putin permission to move into Ukraine, Zubov warned against the move saying, in more sophisticated terms, that he didn't believe they ought to behave like the Germans. In response, MGIMO, which has ties to the foreign ministry, and where Zubov has worked since 2001, said outright that it dismissed him for badmouthing Russia's decisions. Apparently, they handed him his notice the day after his writing was published in a daily newspaper. The whole debacle suggests that freedom of speech leaves much to be desired in Russian academic institutions.
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