ASU professor decries university action
Jammie Price, a tenured professor in sociology who has worked at ASU for eight years, was placed on administrative leave with pay effective March 16 after four students in an introductory sociology course complained that she had engaged in "inappropriate speech and conduct in the classroom," according to a letter signed by Tony Carey, vice provost for faculty affairs.
Among the complaints against Price are that she made disparaging remarks about student athletes, repeatedly criticized the ASU administration, discussed personal material not on the syllabus and showed the documentary "The Price of Pleasure" without warning students about potentially objectionable content in the film.
Price maintains that each of her class discussions has been relevant to the study of sociology and that ASU is violating her academic freedom.
She said she also believes the university is denying her the benefit of a Faculty Due Process hearing and is targeting her due to her outspoken critique of certain facets of the university.
"I think all this happened because I threatened those that are truly in power at Appalachian State," Price said.
Several ASU administrators refused to comment on the matter.
The recent trouble began, Price said, after a class March 5 dealing with racism in sports and education. She said she was called into a meeting a day later in which she was informed that a student had complained that Price was making disparaging remarks about student athletes.
Around that time, protests were occurring on campus regarding ASU's response to two sexual assault claims against student athletes, but Price said the material she presented was intended to address broader issues outside ASU.
At that meeting, Price said she was told that administrators would be meeting with the student and the student's parents to discuss the issue further, but that she was to avoid any appearance of retaliation in the meantime.
Price said she intended to discuss sexual assault, gender and sexuality the following day but changed her mind after the meeting.
She instead went to the university library and selected the film "The Price of Pleasure," one she said she hadn't seen before.
The documentary discusses how pornography affects the relationships between men and women and wider society and contains images and terminology common to pornography.
"I decided I would show the film in order to not appear to be in any way retaliating," Price said. She started the film as students were entering the classroom without discussion beforehand, she said.
The next week, during ASU's spring break, Price was called into a meeting with Carey, Linda Foulsham, the director of the Office of Equity, Diversity and Compliance, and others, she said.
There, she was informed that at least three students had complained that the film was "really inappropriate," according to the letter from Carey that followed the meeting.
The letter also named other allegations against Price, including that she made disparaging and inaccurate remarks about student athletes and created a hostile environment; that she required students to listen to her political views unrelated to the syllabus topics; that she had repeatedly criticized students for choosing to attend ASU; that she had criticized the administration and said that ASU is racist; that she upset a black student with comments about black students not being welcome at the school; and that she told the class about a former student's accusation that he and Price had had sexual relations.
Price was placed on administrative leave and told not to enter Chapell Wilson Hall or to contact students, former students or colleagues.
She was also told not to discuss the complaint or investigation with any person "who does not have a legitimate need to know this information," the letter states.
Price said the administrative leave amounts to a suspension and should earn her an automatic due process hearing, which she requested in a letter March 18.
In a response to that letter, Provost Lori Gonzalez wrote in a March 20 letter that no disciplinary sanctions were in process and that the EDC had simply initiated an investigation.
"Indeed, the University would consider it inappropriate to impose disciplinary suspension or a 'deprivation of some other substantial interest' prior to carefully investigating allegations against a faculty member …" the letter stated.
Gonzalez and Carey did not return a call seeking comment.
Edward Folts, chairman of the Department of Sociology, said Monday that he could not comment on the matter.
Foulsham, the EDC director, said she could not comment on personnel matters but did address the general system for investigating complaints.
The EDC office handles approximately 50 complaints from students and employees each year regarding harassment and discrimination, most of which are resolved informally, Foulsham said. About five to 10 full investigations are conducted each year, and outcomes vary from a finding of no violation of university policy to multiple violations of university policy.
Disciplinary actions could include letters of reprimand, mandatory educational programs or training, changes in work assignments or schedules, referrals to counseling or termination, Foulsham said.
A university administrator, not the EDC office, makes those decisions after completion of an investigation, she added.
Price said she feels confident that the investigation is headed toward termination, but did not know when the investigation might be complete.
In the meantime, she has hired an attorney and is waiting to see what happens.
A story on Price's situation appeared Friday in The Chronicle of Higher Education and also has gotten attention from Inside Higher Ed and other publications.
The American Association of University Professors also wrote a letter to Chancellor Kenneth Peacock on her behalf, expressing concern about the process and the lack of hearing.
Price said she plans to deliver a petition today containing more than 300 signatures to Gonzalez calling for her immediate reinstatement.