To the editor:
The American Association of University Professors' "Statement on Professional Ethics" in the Kansas University Faculty Handbook applies to professor Paul Mirecki's situation: Professors' "primary responsibility to their subject is to seek and to state the truth as they see it. To this end professors ... accept the obligation to exercise critical self-discipline and judgment in using, extending and transmitting knowledge," and they "hold before (students) the best scholarly and ethical standards of their discipline."
1. Former students (see the Journal-World online) praise Mirecki's fairness in teaching. Only his e-mails about one planned course raise questions. As comments to a student organization by its faculty sponsor, they seem more like teaching than private speech, and probably violate the standards above.
2. If Mirecki had been judged for academic misconduct under the handbook provisions, either a warning or formal reprimand would be suitable. Dismissal from the faculty would be disproportionate, and wholly inappropriate for a single act. Removal as department chairman is a debatable sanction.
3. Chancellor Robert Hemenway's response to the e-mails as "repugnant and vile," made in a clearly public forum in his official capacity, fails the above test.
4. Courses that discuss intelligent design should be taught, possibly under committee sponsorship. They should not be taught as science, unless qualified scientists and their departments sponsor them. KU administrators' support for the concept of such courses is appropriate.
We especially need national professional standards and due process rules when tempers are hot.
William O. Scott,