Thursday, May 24, 2007

Acclaimed Astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez Denied Tenure

Iowa State University (www.iastate.edu) announced a few weeks ago that they have denied tenure to Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez, an assistant professor of astronomy at ISU. Gonzalez, who has been at ISU since 2001, was applying for tenure and a promotion to associate professor.

Similar to when Dr. Francis J. Beckwith was denied tenure at Baylor University, it seems that Gonzalez was more than qualified. For example, ISU's faculty handbook states that tenure is a tough process and hard to obtain. The faculty member applying for tenure must be highly qualified--for example, he or she should have published about 15 articles in peer-reviewed journals. Gonzalez, however, has nearly 70 such peer-reviewed articles--over 350% the requirements of ISU. Not only is Gonzalez well published in refereed journals, he serves as the referee for many of these journals.

In addition, Gonzalez is the author of Observational Astronomy, a college-level textbook published by Cambridge University Press and used in classes at Iowa State. Gonzalez's research has also led to the discovery of two new planets and he is currently building techonology to discover extrasolar planets. He has also served on advisory boards for both NASA and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

So why did Iowa State deny Dr. Gonzalez tenure? Because he accepts intelligent design theory. As World Magazine reported, professors at ISU admitted that Gonzalez's acceptance of intelligent design was a factor in his denial of tenure. This comes though Gonzalez does not teach ID in his classes. The reason for this is his book on ID called The Privileged Planet. This, in political science, is called "viewpoint discrimination" and because Iowa State University is a public school--they can be found guilty according to the U.S. Supreme Court.

This is greatly upseting, that though Gonzalez had exceeded ISU's own standards for tenure and is considered a leader in astronomical research, he has been denied tenure because of his view on a very controversial issue. As a student, I would think that academia--especially at a public university--would be more open and free than this.

If you would like to write to ISU president Dr. Gregory Geoffroy and express your disappointment with his decision, please write to geoffroy@iastate.edu.

For the World Magazine articlce on Gonzalez, see here.
For the Nature article on Gonzalez, see here.

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