Wednesday, July 16, 2008



Mostly lost in the manufactroversy that was the tenure denial of Guillermo Gonzalez was a real firing that had to do with a college instructor's positions being contrary to the majority view.

Steve Bitterman, was teaching at Southwestern Community College when some students in his class threatened legal action over Bitterman's remarks in a western civilization class. It seems that he told some of his students that the Hebrew religion (and, presumably, the Old Testament) had extremely meaningful stories, but that it was proper to see it in a poetic, metaphoric or symbolic sense. If, instead, you took it literally, you were going to miss a great deal of the meaning. According to the news story, Bitterman used the term "fairy tale" in a conversation with a student after the class and some students complained that he had "belittled their religion."

Unlike the case of Gonzalez, who was merely denied a guaranteed lifetime contract and then only after having clear guidelines for what was required for tenure and at least two appeal processes, Bitterman was fired by the administration posthaste.

Well, as they say, fire in haste, repent in leisure:

An Iowa community college has reached a financial settlement with a professor who was fired last fall after he told students that the biblical story of Adam and Eve should not be taken literally. ...

The school's lawyer, Patrick Smith, said Bitterman is no longer on the Southwestern faculty and that a settlement should be finalized this week. He did not disclose the amount.
On the other hand, the attorney for Bitterman, Brad Schroeder, said:

What was for him a purely objective, academic exercise in studying the religious beliefs of different western civilizations became a group of fundamentalist students taking exception when it came time for their God to be put under the microscope.
Interestingly, Bitterman recently "taught on the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in Norfolk, Va., through Central Texas College's Instructor At Sea program for sailors."

That's one way to get used to firings.

Update: It is now being reported in the Des Moines Register that the settlement was $20,000.

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