UNF Candidate Poskanzer Defends Academic Freedom

By Kormanik, Beth | The Florida Times Union, April 22, 2003 | Go to article overview

UNF Candidate Poskanzer Defends Academic Freedom


Kormanik, Beth, The Florida Times Union


Byline: Beth Kormanik, Times-Union staff writer

University of North Florida presidential contender Steven G. Poskanzer became interim president of the State University of New York at New Paltz after a tumultuous time of questions about faculty and student rights.

His predecessor, Roger Bowen, drew the ire of New York lawmakers and Gov. George Pataki after allowing a 1997 women's studies conference whose topics included lesbianism, sex toys and sadomasochism.

Bowen, once a candidate in the UNF search himself, stirred nationwide debate on academic freedom and the place of politics on campus. When Bowen left in 2001 to become director of the Milwaukee Public Museum, Poskanzer took over.

After two years at New Paltz, Poskanzer, 44, will visit UNF today to interview for the job of president.

Poskanzer did not follow the traditional route to higher education. He has a law degree, not a Ph.D., but has spent his professional life in academia.

Of the six candidates for UNF president, Poskanzer brings a resume with the most prestigious past institutions, starting with his own education. Poskanzer earned his bachelor's degree from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University with a concentration in African studies. He went on to earn a law degree from Harvard University.

Poskanzer began his professional life in the general counsel's office at the University of Pennsylvania and later became the executive assistant to the president at the University of Chicago. From there he moved to the SUNY system as associate provost for campus liaison and rose to vice provost for academic affairs.

Over the years, he has continued research on higher education law and recently published the book Higher Education Law: The Faculty. It deals with issues including academic freedom, job security and faculty discipline.

Poskanzer said he has a strong belief in the rights of faculty but would not elaborate on the situation he inherited at New Paltz.

"Obviously I believe profoundly in the importance of academic freedom," he said. "I think anyone who cares about colleges and universities and their health should care deeply about it. It's the focus of a lot of my scholarship."

Consultant Jerry Baker described him to the UNF search committee as a future university president.

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