A new editorial committee that includes a public relations staffer

Alice Dreger has resigned from Northwestern.

Dreger, a noted researcher and author, submitted a resignation letter to Northwestern Provost Daniel Linzer on Monday. She said she’s stepping down because the university censored faculty magazine Atrium, forcing editors to take the digital issue offline after they published an article last March about a consensual blowjob involving a nurse in 1978.

In the wake of intense criticism, the medical school allowed the magazine to resume publication and to repost its online digital issues 14 months later, but it also imposed a new editorial committee that includes a public relations staffer and would have say over future issues.

A public relations staffer! That doesn’t sound very academic, or legitimate.

Dreger is the second faculty member to call it quits at Northwestern over the Atrium dispute. She went public about the conflict in June, after receiving the backing of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a free speech watchdog group.

The university’s lack of response to her concerns is partly why she decided to resign, Dreger said.

“It’s quite disappointing,” she told HuffPost. “Negative publicity around freedom of scholarship doesn’t matter to them as much as publicity about the hospital — I can only imagine that’s the calculation they’ve done.”

Greg Lukianoff, FIRE’s president and CEO, said he is “sad to see that Northwestern’s heavy-handedness led to them losing a champion of academic freedom.”

That’s how that works. Be too heavy-handed with a dissenter, and she just might walk out on you.

“The plain and simple fact is that Dean Neilson acted impulsively and wrongly in this situation,” Dreger wrote in her letter. “We all make mistakes, but this was a profound mistake that cut to the very heart of academic freedom. It should have been acknowledged and corrected immediately. That is most definitely not what happened. Instead, what happened was denial, avoidance, blame-shifting, and evasion. To this day, the university has not admitted its mistake, and it has not affirmed its commitment to academic freedom in a way that makes clear that similar incidents will not occur in the future. This failure should be embarrassing to an otherwise great university.”

Dreger conceded she was able to resign in protest because she’s lucky enough to have financial support from her book, scheduled appearances and other writing, but she said other faculty wouldn’t be so lucky.

It’s great to be able to resign.

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