The Chronicle has a story on a professor of "Justice Studies" at Northeastern Illinois, Loretta Capeheart, who argues that she has been retaliated against for public criticism of the university. Capeheart is now appealing a lower federal court ruling against her, which held that as her criticism was within her official duties, as the court saw them, the university could discipline her for speaking out. The AAUP has called the lower court decision "chilling", and rightly so, it seems to me. While the professor wasn't fired or demoted (the retaliation consisted in denying her the chair's position in her department, despite gaining the support of department faculty, and denying her a faculty excellence award she was apparently entitled to), I don't see why the logic employed by the lower court couldn't justify firing. One moral: the courts may well not protect your free speech rights. That's why contractual tenure protection is so vital. Perhaps I have been too naive in not fearing retaliation.
Another chilling story, flagged for me by Jonathan Bean, discusses how a Rhode Island city has to put its bond-holders ahead of its pensioners. That is, when declaring bankruptcy, it gutted pensions for retirees, while guaranteeing payments for bondholders. Plutocracy in a rather naked form, it seems to me. Scary quotes after the break.
All the city promises now is that its retirees, many of whom do not get Social Security [note: like most SIUC employees], will not have their benefits cut to less than $10,000 a year. . . .
Illinois has some of the strongest bondholder protections anywhere, which explains how a state that began its fiscal year with $3.8 billion in unpaid bills from last year — and whose pension system has less than half of the money it needs — is able to keeping selling bonds.
State law requires Illinois to make “an irrevocable and continuing appropriation” of tax revenues into a special fund every month that can be used only to pay bondholders. Illinois’s pension system claims to have a “continuous appropriation” too, but it does not have meaningful deadlines and has proved much more porous over the years.