Veterans Day Four Years Later! E-mail Colloquy between Richard Yanikoski and Peter N. Kirstein

Four years ago on November 11, 2002, I was suspended, removed from the classroom and reprimanded as a result of an e-mail I sent to a cadet at the United States Air Force Academy. The reprimand was placed in my personnel file on December 23, 2002 and removed on December 22, 2005. I subsequently reflected on the propriety of the reprimand on my blog and received this response from Dr Richard Yanikoski, former president of St Xavier University, who imposed the aforementioned sanctions. He is currently president of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities in Washington, D.C. I waited almost a year to release these e-mail that were initiated more than THREE years after the incident. (Note: The e-mail has not been edited. Graphics and links were added for contextualisation.)


E-mail: Richard Yanikoski to Peter N. Kirstein Fri 12/30/2005 10:24 AM


I hope you have been enjoying the holiday break, and that the new year will be a good one for you.  Things are going well in D.C.

I see that you have issued two new statements regarding your “nationally publicised academic freedom case,” as you put it.  I do not make a point of reading your various statements, but these came to my attention accidentally, so I will comment briefly. (In the past I also have seen copies of some your longer works on the subject since I continue to do research on academic freedom). I still regret that you mistate my intentions and some of my actions, but I understand that it is in your personal interest to continue slanting your writing in such a manner that you come out to be a hero of academic freedom. That, it seems, is what gives you pleasure and some traction among your peers. I know this because you once told me that the “case” was the best thing that ever happened to you, since it gave you notoriety. I only wish you could tell more of the truth when you tell your story. For example, you were NOT “suspended” in the sense the term is used in AAUP norms, and you know full well that AAUP found no wrongful act in this regard, since you unsuccessfully tried to get them to review my decision. A disinterested historian would find less accuracy and honor in your position than you presently imagine. I had hoped for better from you, and for you.

This is intended as a private communication and does not necessarily represent any one’s view except my own.  Best wishes….

– Dick

———————————————————————————————E-mail: Peter N. Kirstein to Richard Yanikoski Thu 1/19/2006 8:30 AM

January 19, 2006

Dr Richard Yanikoski,


I am glad you are enjoying your position as president of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities in Washington, D.C.

I am not going to exchange barbs and insults with you. I do wonder, however, why you felt the need to continue to chastise me for merely stating my opinions concerning the reprimand and the suspension? I had not denigrated you personally but raised serious criticisms concerning your actions. Yet having contacted me three years after these sanctions, I would like to offer a corrective to some of your assertions.

Your wrote: “For example, you were NOT “suspended” in the sense the term is used in AAUP norms, and you know full well that AAUP found no wrongful act in this regard, since you unsuccessfully tried to get them to review my decision.”

1) There are many times when the American Association of University Professors (A.A.U.P.) does not investigate instances in which academic freedom was violated. One can only claim an A.A.U.P. ruling or decision if they had investigated and issued a report supporting your actions. It is simply misleading to state that “AAUP found no wrongful act in this regard,” as if A.A.U.P. had conducted an investigation and subsequently found in your favor. Once again, there was no investigation and, hence no statement of culpability or exoneration. In fact, Jonathan Knight issued a statement in support of the Saint Xavier University A.A.U.P. chapter report that raised serious concerns about the lack of due process, and the need to develop appropriate measures that defend academic freedom when sanctions against academicians are imposed. As you know, the A.A.U.P.-chapter document strongly criticised your actions as president of Saint Xavier University that dealt with my case. This is the letter from Jonathan Knight, associate secretary, who serves as a staff member on Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure.

August 22, 2003

Professor Richard B. Fritz

President, AAUP Chapter

Saint Xavier University

Dear Professor Fritz,

My thanks for your letter of August 6. I applaud the chapter’s initiative in seeking a larger role in developing campus standards of academic due process in academic freedom cases. In this regard, the statement developed by the chapter in the aftermath of the Peter Kirstein case cogently identifies key principles of academic freedom and academic due process which should obtain if the administration believes that the conduct of a faculty member warrants the imposition of a severe sanction. To say the least, I hope that the chapter succeeds in securing acceptance of these principles at Saint Xavier University.

With good wishes.


Jonathan Knight   Associate Secretary

2) While there was no formal A.A.U.P. Committee A investigation, this was due, in large measure, to the fact that I was pressured by you into a hasty decision. On November 11, 2002 you imposed a three-day deadline to submit a signed document by Thursday November 14, waiving my right of grievance concerning the suspension. This was during a period that was certainly hectic, if not chaotic, and perhaps greater consideration of my rights might have been considered by you. This made it more difficult for me to seek external investigation of this matter, yet the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a conservative organization, strongly criticised your handling of these matters and the president of the conservative National Association of Scholars, Stephen H. Balch, condemned “formal penalties for speech” in his letter in the Wall Street Journal. The Faculty Affairs Committee, the Saint Xavier University union, issued a unanimous signed statement in September, 2003 that contained this finding concerning my being asked to waive my rights of grievance concerning my suspension:

“At no time, should a faculty member be required to rescind his or her rights to file a grievance or engage in other efforts to protect their due process rights. Faculty should have the right to consult counsel and to have the benefit of some time to consider acceptance of administrative action, particularly if that action is punitive in nature. Signing a statement that waives one’s right to file a grievance negates the ability to appeal an administrative decision, which is the cornerstone of due process rights.”

3) You mentioned you were “continu[ing] to do research on academic freedom.” I presume you have consulted the A.A.U.P. document, “Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure” (1957,1999):  Whether a suspension is called a “suspension” or a “reassignment to other duties,” it is clear that you violated in an egregious manner my rights as an academician in this instance. I quote verbatim from the document: One can be “suspended, or assigned to other duties in lieu of suspension, only if immediate harm to the faculty member or others is threatened by continuance.” (26) [Emphasis added]. No such justification for cause was provided in any statement or document that I am aware of that emanated from your office.

You wrote: “[Y]ou once told me that the “case” was the best thing that ever happened to you, since it gave you notoriety.”

Dr Yanikoski, I never made this comment to you and have not spoken to you on this matter since December 23, 2002. It is true that it has facilitated my work on academic freedom and I have used the publicity, surrounding this case, to critique the treatment of faculty that is inconsistent with A.A.U.P. guidelines. When I spoke to you by phone on Tuesday, November 5, 2002, you reiterated your assertion of the previous day that the incident had been resolved with subsequent e-mail exchanges with the Air Force Cadet (November 2) and that there would be no sanctions. You stated on the phone that while pressure was mounting to sanction me, you felt I had “constitutional rights.” Unfortunately, you acceded to pressure and altered your position when I was suspended six days later on November 11. I acknowledged on five separate occasions my shortcomings in my e-mail to the cadet. Yet your treatment of me has been antagonistic and demeaning, as evidenced by your highly charged comments to the press in the immediate aftermath of the incident, your derogatory comments to me in your office and your actions of sustained and unwarranted punishment of an antiwar e-mail.

I note in closing that a request for confidentiality by the sender of an e-mail without explicit prearrangement is not binding on the receiver and that any communication that I have ever received from you may be used at my discretion.

Sincerely and for the cause of academic freedom:

Peter N. Kirstein

Professor of History

Saint Xavier University

The principal defender of academic freedom and critical thinking, even if unpopular, within the academy.


E-mail: Richard Yanikoski to Peter N. Kirstein Fri 1/20/2006 7:56 AM


Thank you for your latest communication.

I am astounded by your selective memory and your careless interpretations of some past events and AAUP documents.  I also acknowledge that there were at the time some confidential considerations that you were unaware of, but to assume the worst in each case, as you do, is not responsible. I am pleased that you care so deeply about academic freedom and I regret that you feel the need to do so by mistating some of the facts concerning your case.  However, I will have nothing further to say on the matter since (1) your point of view is beyond persuasion, (2) I have no interest in engaging in a war of words with you, and (3) you express complete disrepect for privacy even when it is requested.  I wish you all the best and respectfully request not to hear from you again….Dick

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