The University of Kansas announced today that Paul Mirecki, chairman of the department of religious studies, had turned in his resignation as chairman of the department.
Barbara Romzek, interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said she was discussing his replacement with members of the faculty.
“Professor Mirecki said he thought it appropriate to step down and did so on recommendation of his colleagues in the department and I have accepted his resignation,” Romzek said in a statement sent out this evening. “This allows the department to focus on what’s most important — teaching, research and service — and to minimize the distractions of the last couple of weeks.”
I think this isn’t the worst thing, since the chairman is supposed to be able to speak for the department, and Dr. Mirecki will not be able to say anything in public for a while without the whole brouhaha being dragged up. And his comments on the pope were deeply regrettable, and tarnish his image as a spokesman for a religious studies department.
I thought Lawrence Summers should have stepped down as head of Harvard after he made some remarks about the inherent inferiority of women in certain fields, and I did so because his position gave him the power to turn his biases into concrete action. The same is less true of a chairman of a department, who generally acts within a highly democratic system that leaves little leeway for petty vengeance.
I would categorically oppose any effort to fire Dr. Mirecki or to limit his participation in campus activities, including teaching, advising, and research. He has a respectable record and his students haven’t come forward with complaints about his teaching. While RateMyProfessors.com seems to think he isn’t that hot, he scores well on all other axes. Apparently his classes are pretty easy, which is always a confounding factor in student evaluations, but there are no complaints about his treatment of students, other than that he takes attendance.
Update: I meant Lawrence Summers, not Small. Stupid. I may have overstated his claims.