Category Archives: letters

Provost Weixlmann on Administrative Leave

If you’ve been following the Avis Meyer story (and this blog) for the last couple years, you’ve heard a great deal from the Saint Louis University provost, Joseph Weixlmann – including his email responses to several alumni.

If you’ve been following the St. Louis Post-Dispatch or the press releases coming out of SLU this week, you already know that Provost Weixlmann has stepped down from his position to take a two month administrative leave.

Much like the Post-Dispatch journalists, we’re wondering what lead to his resignation and what’s coming next for both Weixlmann and the university.

For more info, read:

Letter to the Editor: SLU’s Vendetta against professor is shameful

Julian Long’s Letter to the Editor was published on STLToday on March 5. We agree with many of  Long’s points, including that all the dirty details of the case have not been outted by the Post-Dispatch. We’re sure details will come to light as time goes on, but for now, Long’s claim that SLU required Mrs. Meyer sign an agreement that she would owe the University $6,000 if Dr. Meyer passed away before the end of June 2009 is true. Our advice to Avis? Wear a bullet proof vest and look both ways before crossing Grand.

Read Long’s letter on STLToday.com

03.05.2009 5:10 pm

SLU’s vendetta against professor is shameful

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

I was present in the courtroom last Monday at the close of Saint Louis University’s lawsuit against Professor Avis Meyer. Having watched your reporter speak with SLU administrators I am not surprised that your story entitled “SLU and professor settle lawsuit” seems to consist almost entirely of university spin, though apparently Post-Dispatch representatives contacted Professor Meyer before the story ran.

Your story’s lead states that Professor Meyer has agreed “to pay the university $6000 plus certain legal fees” and “refrain from illegally using the university’s name.” Then the next five paragraphs give what appears to be the university’s version of the history of the lawsuit and imply that the university won its case. That simply isn’t true. The university “won” only one point, a claim that Professor Meyer had deleted certain email messages.

SLU lost this lawsuit on the merits, and not with any grace or dignity. In a final sorry gesture, SLU administrators demanded that Mrs. Meyer—yes, Mrs. Meyer—sign an affidavit agreeing to pay the university in case of Professor Meyer’s untimely death. The real story of the SLU vendetta against Avis Meyer is equally sorry. It shames Saint Louis University, and it shames the Society of Jesus. It’s too bad the Post-Dispatch won’t report it.

Julian Long

St. Louis

Charles in Charge

Charles Klotzer, founder of the St. Louis Journalism Review, wrote in to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch to tell readers a little more on the backstory between Avis Meyer and Larry Biondi this week:

Sin of omission: The back story on SLU professor controversy (click to see the story posted on STLToday.com)

The story “Most of SLU’s trademark suit against professor is rejected” (Dec. 27), about the controversy between St. Louis University and tenured professor Avis Meyer, typifies what ails American journalism more than the sins of commission: the sins of omission.

The article is accurate, factual and well-written, but it is only one paragraph in a story that has been festering for decades, which the Post-Dispatch apparently has decided not to cover in depth. That decision misleads readers into believing that what they have read is a complete report.

Remarkably, the report fails to mention even once the key actor in this story that is part comedy and part tragedy: SLU President Lawrence Biondi. He has been upset for decades with the school newspaper for exposing missteps by him many years ago. For decades, Mr. Meyer was the respected and beloved adviser of the school’s newspaper (while the school has barred him from continuing in that role, students still consult him privately). Mr. Biondi simply blames Mr. Meyer for failing to protect him. School newspaper advisers are not protectors of the school administration. Mr. Meyer is foremost an ethical journalist, not a handmaiden to the university. Mr. Biondi never has forgiven Mr. Meyer and has schemed to oust him ever since.

This is the core of the story that always should be included in any story of the Biondi-Meyer controversy. Not doing so reveals either ignorance or a willingness to protect Mr. Biondi.

Charles L. Klotzer | University City

Founder, St. Louis Journalism Review

Provost Weixlmann responds to U News Editorial

Yet another letter from Provost Weixlmann, this time in response to the latest University News editorial supporting Dr. Meyer.

Read the full text from the U News site here.

Reprinted for your enjoyment:

This letter is written in response to last week’s editorial “News mentor banned in body, not spirit,” which would appear to support Dr. Avis Meyer’s unqualified right to do anything he might wish to do in the workplace.

This impression is created most strongly in an emotional paragraph that suffers, among other things, from slippery-slope “logic.” There, the authors begin by posing four exaggerated rhetorical questions designed to make it seem that the principled, and limited, restriction that has been placed on Dr. Meyer following review of his actions with the paper’s advisory board is outlandish. And these questions, in turn, lead the authors to conclude, self-righteously, that “the University community should be alarmed by this violation of academic freedom.”

This emotional outpouring ignores the fact that professional behavior, by its very nature, assumes the existence of reasonable behavioral boundaries; that the University has provided increased support to the student newspaper in recent years, including the creation of a full-time adviser position; that Dr. Meyer has not been the University-appointed adviser to the paper for the better part of a decade and that the decision to limit Dr. Meyer’s access to the student newsroom followed a process and is not predicated on the base motive the authors attribute to University administrators.

Moreover, those who understand the cornerstone principle of academic freedom should recognize that this decision in no way violates Dr. Meyer’s academic freedom.

Law professor Stanley Fish observes in Tuesday’s online edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education that “the trouble with the term ‘academic freedom’ is that the emphasis almost always falls on the ‘freedom’ part rather than the ‘academic’ part, with the result that the concept is made to seem much grander than it is.”

The classic definition of the term was formulated in 1940 by the American Association of University Professors and contains three elements: (1) “teachers are entitled to full freedom in research and in the publication of the results, subject to the adequate performance of their other academic duties”; (2) “teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject, but they should be careful not to introduce into their teaching controversial matter which has no relation to their subject” and, even then, there may exist “limitations of academic freedom because of religious or other aims of the institution” and (3) when faculty “speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but their special position in the community imposes special obligations” on them-including to “at all times be accurate,” to “exercise appropriate restraint” and to “show respect for the opinions of others.”

None of these three guarantees applies to a faculty member assuming an extracurricular role he or she has not been assigned to undertake-especially when the University has assigned the role to someone else!

Notice, too, that the freedoms outlined within the concept of “academic freedom” are limited as well as specific. Each of the AAUP provisions carefully balances rights against responsibilities, since that is what professional behavior demands. Dr. Fish aptly concludes his Chronicle article by noting that “invoking academic freedom carries with it the danger of thinking that we are doing something noble and even vaguely religious, when in fact what we are doing, or should be interested in doing, is no more – or less – than our academic jobs.”

Contrary to what the editorial’s authors would have readers believe, SLU administrators value and aggressively defend the academic freedom of our faculty members. But the University does not, and never will, affirm the misguided assumption that any behavior, especially behaviors which interfere with the ability of other faculty and staff to perform their assigned duties, is OK.

Finally, for those who have tried to make this a First Amendment issue, the publication of the “News mentor” editorial last week should again make it clear that the University has never attempted to control the editorial content of the student newspaper.

Joe Weixlmann, Ph.D.
University Provost

It’s been awhile since we’ve heard anything from the Provost. What do you think of his letter?

Father knows best

The following is an excerpt from the Save Avis Yahoo! Group. For more information about the Group, visit http://groups.yahoo.com/group/saveavis/

Roy Malone, author of the St. Louis Journalism Review article, has sent a letter and package of info on behalf of Dr. Meyer to the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Biondi’s order. A couple of Save Avis members had this same idea. From experience working with a provincilate (sic), info that hits the head honcho’s desk (especially this type of info) is NOT ignored. At the very least, it will generate a phone call, some research and cause concern.

If you’d like to appeal to Biondi’s bosses, here are the addresses you need:

Biondi’s #1 Boss, in Rome:

Father General Adolfo Nicolás
Curia Generalizia
Borgo Santo Spirito, 4

Roma, Italy

Biondi’s #2 Boss, head of the Missouri Province:

Rev. Timothy M. McMahon SJ
Society of Jesus, Missouri Province
4511 West Pine Boulevard
Saint Louis, MO  63108
Telephone: 314.361.7765
Fax: 314.758.7164
moprov@jesuits-mis.org

Letter to the Editor in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch published a Letter to the Editor by Charles L. Klotzer of University City. Klotzer is the founder of the St. Louis Journalism Review.

In his letter, Klotzer argues that the most important issue is the freedom of the press at Saint Louis University. We agree wholeheartedly. And the first person to stand up for the freedom of the University News is Avis Meyer.

Here’s Klotzer’s letter.

SLU newspaper’s freedom, not the adviser, is the issue

The story “SLU vs. communications professor” (June 7, B1) failed to inform readers about the core issue: the freedom of student journalists to investigate shortcomings of the very institution to which they belong.

Tenured professor Avis Meyer is a nationally renowned scholar, teacher and adviser who has been blamed by the administration at St. Louis University for years for the university’s student newspaper’s investigation of questionable practices reaching to the very top. Most university administrators swallow hard, and proclaim, “See, we have a free press.” Not at St. Louis University.

This controversy has nothing to do with Mr. Meyer. It has everything to do with practitioners who believe in the freedom of the press to stand up to the most powerful people in our community. All protestations to the contrary by the university are camouflage.

Now is the time for students, faculty and alumni of this great university to rally in support of the First Amendment, or have they been too cowed?

Message for SLU Petition reaches 300 signatures

A sincere thank you to the 300 individuals who have signed the Message to SLU Petition.

If you haven’t already, please visit the virtual petition site and sign your name to show support for Dr. Meyer.

Already signed? Encourage your friends and family to add their names to the list!