President Donald L. Birx, on behalf of Plymouth State University (PSU), and Professor Emeritus Michael L. Fischler announce a resolution of their concerns arising out of the character reference Professor Fischler provided in the case of State v. Kristie Torbick, and the University’s response. President Birx and Professor Fischler will move forward together on the following basis:
PSU and Professor Fischler are in agreement on the important values and principles at the heart of the matter. In particular, they agree on the critical value and importance of PSU being an open and welcoming institution for all students, including those who may have been victims of sexual misconduct, and maintaining a campus climate in which victims of sexual misconduct can obtain the support and services they need. They share a common abhorrence of all forms of interpersonal exploitation, in particular the sexual abuse of children. They are also in agreement on the absolute importance of citizen participation in criminal justice processes, including criminal sentencing. The bedrock of this commitment is PSU’s unwavering commitment to protecting free speech and academic freedom.
President Birx acknowledges, respects, and appreciates Professor Fischler’s many contributions to PSU, PSU students, and the PSU community made over the course of his long and distinguished career, first as a member of the faculty, then as the founder and director of Plymouth State University’s “Counseling and Human Relations Center,” and currently as Professor Emeritus. President Birx and Professor Fischler reaffirm their support for the University’s mission, which promotes (1) equal access to PSU’s programs regardless of one’s status, circumstances, or prior life experiences; (2) the value and importance of an open and welcoming campus community and culture, including students, faculty and staff; and (3) the provision of a safe, secure, and supportive environment for all. Toward this end, they will work together to raise funds for a newly created “Michael L. Fischler Scholarship for Trauma Survivors,” Said scholarship will be endowed and awarded annually to a courageous student survivor of a “traumatic event” (such as sexual assault, the sustaining of a physical or mental injury, experiencing domestic violence, having witnessed violence, surviving war, or surviving natural disaster).
The controversy arising over the testimony provided by many witnesses at the Torbick hearing reflects the challenge of reconciling free speech, civic duty, and victims’ rights. PSU will be exploring this complex interaction through public forums as well as internal training. The critical challenge in today’s culture is the role and effects of a social media driven news cycle that collapses complex issues into simplistic postings or soundbites that provide little context or opportunity for deeper dialogue and understanding. President Birx and Professor Fischler believe there is a real opportunity to advance and model thoughtful dialog and listening at a time when polarization and talking past each other are staples of the day. This tendency, especially important to today’s social media generation, will be an important topic for PSU students to address in and outside the classroom in the coming years. We believe that PSU has the opportunity, through this situation, to lead in this discussion with our students, faculty, staff and community.
Finally, President Birx and Professor Fischler are glad for the opportunity to announce the resolution of their concerns, look forward to Professor Fischler’s return to teaching as an adjunct faculty member and supporting the counseling center, and wish to express their appreciation for the efforts of all who helped to raise awareness on all sides of the important issues raised. They are also grateful for all who helped to make this resolution possible.
About Plymouth State University: Established in 1871, Plymouth State University serves the state of New Hampshire and the world beyond by transforming our students through advanced practices where engaged learning produces well-educated undergraduates and by providing graduate education that deepens and advances knowledge and enhances professional development. With distinction, we connect with community and business partners for economic development, technological advances, healthier living, and cultural enrichment with a special commitment of service to the North Country and Lakes Region of New Hampshire. For information about Plymouth State University visit www.plymouth.edu.