Regents Deny Gonzalez's Tenure Appeal

William Dillon
The Ames Tribune
February 7, 2008
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The Iowa Board of Regents voted this morning to deny the tenure appeal of Guillermo Gonzalez, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Iowa State University who argues for the theory of intelligent design.

The vote marks the end of a long journey of appeals for Gonzalez. He first appealed his promotion last spring to ISU President Greg Geoffroy, who upheld his original decision to deny Gonzalez tenure.

Gonzalez contends he met the criteria for promotion, but his reputation and research was poisoned beginning in August 2005 when a petition circulated on the ISU campus denouncing the use of intelligent design in science. He has said he believes that action, in effect, predetermined the denial of his tenure.

Geoffroy was adamant his decision was based solely on Gonzalez's collection of research, teaching and service, and not on intelligent design.

The regents deliberated in closed session for just over an hour before reconvening in open session. They voted 7-1 to uphold the university's decision to deny Gonzalez tenure. The lone dissenting vote came from Regent Craig Lang. Regent Michael Gartner was not present at the meeting.

Although his request for an oral argument was denied, Gonzalez was present for the vote. Afterwards, he said he was not surprised by the decision. He said he believes the vote may have turned out differently had the regents accepted his request for oral arguments as well as considered a bank of e-mail messages obtained earlier this summer through an open records request by the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank leading the intelligent design movement.

Representatives from the institute characterized those e-mails - gathered from professors and administrators who reviewed and voted on Gonzalez's tenure - as proof that ISU trampled on the academic freedom of Gonzalez and did not give him a fair tenure process.

They say the e-mails point to "hostile colleagues who plotted behind his back, suppressed evidence and then misled the public" by saying Gonzalez's tenure denial was based little, if any, on his advocacy for intelligent design.

"I don't see how they come to reach an informed decision without all of the relevant facts," Gonzalez said today.

Gonzalez called the vote a "major blow to academic freedom."

"If academic freedom doesn't defend the professor with minority viewpoints, what good is it?" he said.

Since the initial tenure denial was reported in The Tribune, Gonzalez's academic record has come into question by the media and interested members of the public.

Gonzalez has not released his dossier, and only bits and pieces have been released through the Discovery Institute, where Gonzalez also serves as a senior fellow. Because a dossier and the tenure process are a personnel matter, Gnzalez's dossier is not a matter of public record.

Some who opposed his tenure have argued that the amount of research funding he brought into the university was far below the average when compared to former faculty members in his department who achieved tenure.

The regents' vote was the last stand for Gonzalez in the administrative structure of ISU. He said he is still undecided whether to further pursue the case in court.

William Dillon can be reached at 232-2161, Ext. 361, or William.Dillon@amestrib.com