Troubling Developments at Appalachian State

The following is a guest post by Michael DeCesare, an associate professor and chair of the Department of Sociology and Criminology at Merrimack College.

Tenured Professor Is Placed on Leave After Showing a Film About Pornography” was one of the headlines screeching across the April 20 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education. The case of that tenured professor, sociologist Jammie Price of Appalachian State University, is deeply disturbing.

In fact, the headline itself is troubling, since Dr. Price neither showed a “film about pornography” nor was “placed on leave” because she showed it. What she showed in her class was a widely used anti-pornography documentary–which was produced by the acclaimed Media Education Foundation and which Dr. Price borrowed from ASU’s library–called “The Price of Pleasure.” And Dr. Price was placed on leave, apparently, for a variety of reasons, according to ASU vice provost Anthony Gene Carey: she showed the documentary in her introductory sociology course; she “failed to warn students” about the content of the documentary; she disparaged student athletes; she talked about her personal life and political views in her classroom; she stated that she did not like working at ASU; and she criticized the ASU administration.

Seriously? Which one was it?

Keep in mind that a grand total of four students–that’s right, four–allegedly complained about Dr. Price’s “inappropriate speech and conduct in the classroom.” Four students. So what’s next? One–or two or three or four–of my students takes offense to pretty much anything I say, do, or show in my classroom and I’m placed on administrative leave? The only thing that’s more ridiculous than an entire case being built around four of Dr. Price’s students allegedly taking offense to her teaching is that ASU administrators decided to take action against her teaching. After all, ASU administrators can’t even seem to figure out what to charge Dr. Price with.

What’s perhaps most disturbing about this case is that ASU has denied Dr. Price a hearing on the grounds that she was placed on “administrative leave” rather than being put under “disciplinary suspension.” If she had faced the latter punishment, she would have been entitled to a hearing. To add insult to injury, Dr. Price has also been denied access to classrooms and offices in the College of Arts and Sciences; her keys were taken away from her and ASU has forbidden her to speak about the case to her colleagues or students.

ASU, of course, has not returned phone calls from the Chronicle or anyone else. University officials have also not responded to the AAUP’s recent letter to the chancellor, which criticized the university’s administration for not consulting a faculty committee before placing Dr. Price on leave.

Small wonder. ASU administrators are probably too busy trying to control the damage. After all, anyone can see that ASU vs. Dr. Jammie Price is an administrative lost cause.

6 thoughts on “Troubling Developments at Appalachian State

  1. Several of ASU’s departments have a long history of disparaging and discrediting professors for a variety of pretexts. Libelous allegations are made to justify unfair and illegal actions and no one is ever made to prove that these allegations are true. Meetings at which decisions are made are secret and participants are usually sworn to secrecy so the accused ones do not have the ability to defend themselves. It is a pretty sick place but probably not unlike a plethora of other bastions of “intellectual truth”. Colleges are corporate now and the students are customers and the customers are always right. Students know this and make all kinds of allegations, sometimes in revenge for not getting the grades that they think they deserve or because they just don’t like the teacher. Being a professor is a popularity contest these days, where decisions on contract renewals are partly based student’s opinions on “Rate Your”

  2. Hello. I was one of the students who viewed the documentary. So I’d like to give a little bit of input.

    To play devil’s advocate on a few things, Dr. Price is hardly any student’s idea of a good professor, tenured or otherwise. Her grading policies are inconsistent, she uses pop quizzes as attendance instead of having an actual attendance policy, and her comments about how much she dislikes athletes and the school happen almost every class and become extremely irritating. If this place is as awful as she makes it out to be, someone with her credentials could easily find work elsewhere. Also, the material in the documentary was fairly graphic, and while I was able to handle it a forewarning would have been great.

    But, the above doesn’t mean I agree at all with the University’s actions. To begin with, although not everyone may like her teaching, she has done nothing in the classroom that warrants her being punished. If you can’t handle having your political and personal views challenged, Appalachian is probably the worst university for you to be at because the environment here tends to be highly contentious, even for a university, and everyone knows that. I never felt berated by Dr. Price’s comments, but felt that we were, as a class, having an intelligent conversation even if her opinions did bleed into it. Nobody was locked in the room during the documentary, anyone could have left. And the documentary and her lecture surrounding it was an excellent look into the impact of society’s porn addiction on our morals and behaviors,

    I think Dr. Price should be taken off leave and thoroughly apologized to. And just maybe she’ll learn a lesson about her teaching style too. Honestly, I think this has a lot more to do with her antagonizing the administration with her comments about the school, because I’ve seen entire classes go up in arms at professors and them never having to deal with consequences for being controversial.

  3. Pingback: Jamme Price: Justice Graded on the Curve | Men, Fathers and Sons

  4. Too bad no one has done the investigative work to get the whole story about Jammie Price. Before she put took them out of public view and placed them under password protection, anyone could read what Dr. Price shared about her experiences at Appalachian State, and I did read those. All of them. If you read those posts, and the copies of old emails and letters there, you would have seen that Dr. Price is a very troubled person who has been embattled with the institution for years. Over the past several years, she has been warned about her immature and unprofessional behavior. Countless letters between Dr. Price and the chair and dean were available on that website. It is Price who those letters, even the ones written by Price, make look bad. And yes, it sounds awful and dramatic that her office keys were taken away–until you realize that she has NOTHING in her office. Students who go there to see her must sit on the floor or stand to speak with her. And they have complained about that, too. This is Prices’ choice–don’t think the administration has also deprived her of furniture. She has alienated all of her colleagues, and told lies about them on her website and Facebook page. When asked for evidence of this so-called “poker club” she often refers to–a group of apparently powerful white male elite at the university who seem to exist, according to Prices’ posts, to plot evil deeds against Price in particular, she never comes up with any. When she was reported and warned about her retaliation against specific colleagues in her own department (something she probably regrets now that she did not win a big law suit and get to quit her job with money in her pocket), she put the site under password protection; eventually she removed the Facebook posts, including those she’d made to a public Facebook page (about Academic Freedom and Due Process at Appalachian State). Last year, like this year, Price taught only 2 classes a semester and only 1 course prep a year. She shows up only to teach those classes, then leaves–all the while making over $70,000 a year and complaining that the institution is oppressive (to her in particular). Has it occurred to anyone that someone so severely unhappy and embattled with her life, with her place of employment, and with the city in which she lives possibly not be the world’s best professor in the classroom? How could anyone think someone who hates their work and life situation that much will not have that impact the kind of job they do, including the energy they put into their instruction of students?

    All that said, yes, Price should have been given a Due Process Hearing once suspended. If she had, I expect the faculty on that committee would have viewed the evidence and realized what a terrible, lazy, and manipulative teacher Price has been in recent years.

    Appalachian administrators may have been trying to be nice by giving Price a paid leave instead of a punitive suspension–but ultimately forced leave, even with pay, is a suspension and she deserved a due process hearing from a faculty committee. Her students also deserve a much better professor, and her colleagues deserve a much better colleague, who will pull her weight in the department.

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  6. When I was in college I remember a couple of instructors badmouthing the administration. I remember a professor who was really angry, but it never occurred to me to rat any of them out. I remember two profs in my postgraduate work getting into it in the hallway. I was relieved when I didn’t get subpoenaed into court to testify about witnessing one of them take a swing at the other one and call him “a slimy snake.”

    WTF *is* academia anyway, some sort of asylum from the vicissitudes of the jungle out there which we call the real world?

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