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CSI Professor Peter Simpson,
Coordinator of the CSI Philosophy Program

Dear Editor,

President Springer’s decision not to grant tenure to Professor Chalmers Clark was an arbitrary act of autocratic power. Associated in this act, as the President’s immediate advisers in academic matters, and most probably associated in the guilt of it too, were Provost Affron and Dean Podell. Certainly Provost Affron and Dean Podell have not used their positions of responsibility to protest the President’s decision or to express any support for Professor Clark.

It is one of the absurdities of the CUNY system that it invests autocratic power in its highest officers. The Presidents have autocratic power over the colleges, and the Chancellor and the Board have autocratic power over the Presidents. One would think, looking at this system, that we were living in some totalitarian state and not in a democracy. Would that we could have a revolution here as the Founding Fathers did in 1776! Unfortunately that is very unlikely to happen.

Nevertheless, it is one thing to have autocratic power and it is another to use it autocratically. Presidents ought to use their power presidentially, since it is as presidents that they have it. To use power presidentially is to use it responsibly, and to use power responsibly is to be always ready, and to think oneself obliged to be always ready, to give an account of one’s decisions that shows them to be honest and just. If one cannot do this in a particular case, or if it cannot be shown that one has done so in a particular case, the decision should be reversed and the president in question should consider whether she is still fit to rule.

President Springer does not use her power responsibly. She uses it despotically. She uses it in a way that shows her unfit to continue as president. Her refusal to grant tenure to Professor Clark is only one instance of her despotic behavior, and indeed of her deceit. The reasons alleged in her letter to Professor Clark for refusing him tenure make no sense in themselves or in relation to the provisions of the Faculty contract. They cannot be the reasons that really prompted her to deny him tenure. They are a cover, a deceitful cover, for the exercise of naked power, in short for despotism. No one with feeling for the achievements of the American democracy can view her behavior with anything but disgust.

Peter Simpson
Professor of Philosophy

NEXT ==> Response from Professor Polito, Department of Education



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