The selection of a celebrated volume by University Professor I. A. Richards as a textbook was a ground for the sudden dismissal of a full professor at Mercy College in Detroit, according to a report just published by the American Association of University Professors' Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure.
In his seventh year on the faculty, Dr. Austin Jesse Shelton, professor of English and concurrently Director of Research and Assistant Dean, was fired by the college's president, Sister Mary Lucille, for adopting Richards' The Meaning of Meaning as a text in a senior course in advanced composition, although the choice had been cleared with his department chairman. Two students had complained about the book.
Novels Called "Amoral"
The other contributing factor was the publication of Shelton's novels, Brood of Fury and Hangman's Song, which had aroused external criticism from what the president called "our constituency."
In a letter to Shelton, the president stated she had sought an opinion from a person she identified only as the chairman of "the English department of a large university and a recognized man of letters."
This consultant reported: "Richards' The Meaning of Meaning I would definitely not use as a text. He is full of associationistic psychology and this shows up in many of his books." He also felt Shelton's fiction to be "completely amoral, if not immoral."
President Refuses to Cooperate
The president and the administration of the college refused to cooperate with the AAUP's Committee in its investigation of the affair. The Committee concluded that the firing "clearly violated the standards of due process."
Shelton was not given proper notice of the charges, according to the AAUP, nor a chance to be heard in his own defense with counsel present and a stenographer to record the testimony--although all these provisions appeared in the college's own printed regulations.
AAUP Will Censure
It is almost certain that the AAUP will, at its next annual convention, place Mercy College under formal censure for its actions in this case. The college will then join 15 other institutions currently under official censure.
Since the firing, Shelton has obtained a teaching post at the University of Nigeria.