Archive for Wednesday, May 7, 2003

Colleagues write letter supporting KU’s Dailey

State senator’s efforts called ‘direct threat to academic freedom’

May 7, 2003


Professor Dennis Dailey's colleagues have come to his defense, saying Sen. Susan Wagle has resorted to "personal intimidation" in an attempt to alter course curriculum at Kansas University.

In a letter sent Tuesday, 21 faculty members in the School of Social Welfare said their work with "vulnerable groups and individuals" made them defenseless to Wagle's attack.

"Given our school's commitment to marginalized groups, we are a logical first target," they wrote. "However, we will not be the last. Those programs that offer course work that does not fit the personal beliefs of legislators become fair game for these tactics."

The letter was addressed to the "university community" and distributed to media through KU's Office of University Relations. Rick Spano, associate dean of the School of Social Welfare, said he had no plans to send it to additional recipients.

Spano said the school's faculty had opted not to speak out during the early stages of Wagle's campaign against Dailey's class on human sexuality, which Wagle alleges contained pornographic videos and inappropriate language and photos, including some of nude girls.

Wagle's initial proposal would have cut $3.1 million in state funding to the School of Social Welfare if the videos were deemed obscene.

"We remained reasonably quiet in hopes the inaccuracy of some of the charges would go (away) on their own," Spano said.

But those charges haven't gone away. After Gov. Kathleen Sebelius line-item vetoed the proviso that would have cut funding, Wagle, R-Wichita, introduced a new amendment that would require universities to provide the Board of Regents their policies on certain materials and issues, including videos, discussion of pedophilia and sexual harassment.

"We see this as a direct threat to academic freedom," Spano said. "This is not acceptable behavior, from our standpoint."

Dailey said he appreciated the letter.

"It's extremely meaningful to have the support of my colleagues and to know they are willing to put their feelings on the line about the general issues at stake here," Dailey said.

Wagle's amendment was approved by House and Senate negotiators. Sebelius said Tuesday that she was undecided whether she would veto it.

"I understand it has been changed, but I really haven't seen it," she said.

Wagle said Tuesday that the faculty members who signed the letter should be more concerned about Dailey's teaching methods.

"They should do an investigation before they jump to his defense," she said.

"They're defending Professor Dailey. His teaching tactics, his statements -- and I think I've shown enough proof -- that he defends pedophilia in the classroom, and that's not in the best interest of the children of Kansas."

Wagle, who requested KU to make videos used by Dailey available to her, said she hadn't decided whether she would view them.

"I would rather not," she said, noting other legislators have expressed an interest in seeing the videos.

Provost David Shulenburger also is leading an investigation into Wagle's complaints. Lynn Bretz, a KU spokeswoman, said it would be a "thorough investigation that protects the interests of everyone involved," but she said there was no time frame for completion.

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