When a professor at the University of Michigan is put on administrative leave after his colleagues say he was convicted of putting his own children in a burning car, it raises questions about the power of academic freedom in higher education.
In January, U-M administrators sent an email to faculty members explaining that the university had determined that the professor, Michael T. Dolan, had violated the university’s policies and procedures for disciplining colleagues.
The email, dated Jan. 25, included a summary of Dolan’s disciplinary history.
“As part of the universitywide review, we have determined that you violated the University’s disciplinary policies, procedures and policies for disciplinating employees,” the email said.
“This includes one of your colleagues, Dr. Daren Landon, who you were the sole member of your team to assign to his position at U-m in early January, and who you had to leave your home and office after the initial investigation was completed.”
A few hours after the email was sent, a member of Dameron’s team emailed a message to the university that read, “I’m very concerned about what you have done to me.”
A day later, Landon was put on paid administrative leave.
Landon’s wife, Mary Ann, said in an interview that she was upset by the email, which appeared to suggest that Landon had done something wrong, and she expressed concern for the safety of her husband.
“I feel like my husband has done a lot of good things,” Mary Ann said.
The incident highlights the difficulty universities face in enforcing their disciplinary policies.
While the federal Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has been conducting a study of campus disciplinary policies since 2015, universities often don’t have enough data to know whether their policies are working or not.
“There are no data on what colleges are doing to monitor and enforce the policies they have,” said David Bernstein, the chief executive of the Institute for Policy Integrity, which advocates for academic freedom.
“If they’re not doing their homework, they’re going to be doing a terrible job.”
Landon told The Associated Press in January that he had been punished for the “mistake” of assigning his child to his office after he had told his wife to call a lawyer.
Lorkins actions were “inappropriate, unnecessary and inappropriate” according to the email.
Laux also said he felt “totally betrayed” and “betrayed” by the university.
“It’s very upsetting to me,” he said.
A spokesperson for U-MS said in a statement that the disciplinary action was “appropriate” and that the email “was made aware of the situation” and made a recommendation to Landon.
In a letter to the U-Mich students, UMS’s vice president for student affairs, Susan Koehn, wrote that Dolan had “shown a failure to follow all university policies” and suggested that he should be placed on administrative suspension.
The letter was sent by Koehm and was signed by Dolan.
Laulins wife said the university made the right decision.
“He is a good professor,” MaryAnn said.
Larents actions have also prompted protests from other faculty members, many of whom are calling for the university to end its support of the professor.
The professor is on administrative duty for the rest of the semester.
A group of faculty members at the school are planning a walkout, but they say they will not leave campus until they receive an official response from the university, which has not yet responded.
The university also said it will not allow Landon to attend classes this semester.
Dameron said in January he was not aware of any misconduct by his colleagues and would not be commenting on them.
He added that he is proud of his team and believes that he has done the right thing.
“To my colleagues and to everyone in the classroom, I want to be there to support them and to support the students, because it’s the right choice for them to do that,” Dolan said in his email to the students.
He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Dwayne P. Smith, a professor of sociology at the university and a former president of the Michigan Association of Colleges and Schools, said the incident highlights how much of a threat academic freedom is to universities.
Smith said in 2015 that when he was asked to write an op-ed on the dangers of academic dishonesty, he replied with a question, “Are we doing this for the right reasons?”
Smith said that even though he would not have agreed with the premise of the op-er, he agreed with its conclusion.
“The very fact that this is happening is a sign that we need to be vigilant and do more to ensure that this sort of thing doesn’t happen again,” he told The AP.
Smith added that while he does not agree with Dolan on many issues, he believes his views as a scholar have nothing to do with his decision to leave.