Fast forward to the next term and a different course "Joint Air and Space Power" with a new course instructor. My second grade appeal from the term previous had been submitted but had not quite been concluded when this new scenario developed.
I was engaged in a discussion with another student, an F-15C pilot, in the open class forum. He gave thoughts and opinions which I consider to be representative of his community. The discussion centered on the importance of unmanned versus manned technology and his comments framed warfare in the false dichotomy of today's wars versus a claimed conventional war of tomorrow. I responded with a lengthy post and essay. My tone was more caustic and indicative of frustration than was useful but was within the bounds of academic discussion. My response came with a healthy disclaimer stating my opinions were drawn from incomplete experiences. I mentioned that I knew there were exceptions to my blanket statements and that I even knew members from his community who did not merit the charges I leveraged. But I felt it was still justified to make a statement about his culture and warned him to bring a thick skin if he continued reading.
I proceeded to then point out cultural problems I believe are evident with the fighter community and the F-15C community in particular. I charged the community with careerism, nepotism, unprofessional conduct, perception at the expense of reality, petty agendas of promotion, unhealthy ties to the defense industry, and a lack of combat experience. I stated the leadership from his community had run our Air Force like a country club and, despite a healthy change of Air Force leadership, likely still worked against the efforts of patriots interested in winning the wars of today. I stated that careerism kills and claimed our ranks were full of careerist F-15C pilots unwilling to risk career to do the right thing. I then provided an essay on why unmanned technology provides a great many advantages beyond the manned fighter. There was likely more venom than required in my remarks and, as I explained in my disclaimer, these were my views based on my experiences. My experiences justify my comments regardless of tone. I must admit my tone could have been better, but I get frustrated having the same conversation with people who provide the exact same message as though it came off an assembly line. This frustration is a fault of mine. Be that as it may, my statements were within the bounds of ACSC discussion and nobody has challenged that.
Unfortunately the officer did not debate me in public. He did private message me, however, to let me know he felt it was a personal attack and he didn't appreciate my allusion to the former CSAF who he felt was the Billy Mitchell of our generation. He said he would not debate me online as such online discussion was "futile at best" and recommended I go talk to my OG/CC for a perspective. He said if he was ever in my neck of the woods he would love to have the discussion in person because I needed to have my perspective challenged. I informed him that I was TDY just down the road from him and would gladly drive to meet him and hear his perspective. He agreed but then the next day canceled due to a short notice TDY.
What he didn't tell me in the private message discussion, however, was that he had cut and pasted my comments (minus the essay) and sent them to his buddies at my base in my MAJCOM. His commentary included my name, position, background and instructions to enlist the help of other providers of Air Superiority with the goal of ensuring "haters" like me were not in the ranks. He mentioned to his buddies that he and they had a responsibility to educate people like me since they had "been there/done that." He made a couple comments including one about my callsign having probably been self given and then pasted my discussion and clicked send.
When he did so he violated my academic freedom. Air University Instruction 36-2308 states that our academic discussion was protected by non-attribution and warns that those who attribute comments to specific individuals without their permission, outside of PME, not only violate the regulation but violate Article 92 of the UCMJ (AUI 36-2308, 2.5.1). The purpose of academic freedom is to keep people from self censoring- something they will do if they believe controversial discussions and challenging ideas may result in them being punished.
Two weeks after he sent out the email I finally learned of its existence. It had circulated, as such emails typically do, and found its way to a two-star general in my chain of command (an F-15C pilot). The two-star energized my chain of command to find out if I wrote the comments in the email. My chain of command is comprised of all F-15C pilots with the exception of one F-16 pilot. I told my commander I did write the quoted section but the remarks were supposed to have been protected by non-attribution. Later I was told my chain of command was "satisfied" with my response.
In accordance with AUI 36-2308 I filed a petition for redress for academic freedom violation despite the Vice Dean recommending I not, since, he said, ACSC/DL was already investigating and thus my redress would be duplicated effort. He also mentioned the investigation was well under way and they likely had all the info they needed. At that point the student had already admitted to the violation and I provided the one incomplete email chain that had been sent to me.
That was more than a week ago. ACSC/DL hasn't yet officially concluded their process. They did, however, take action when I asked for the student to be removed from the class until the investigation was concluded since he obviously demonstrated a threat to further discussion. The action they took, however, was to censor him and me. Now neither one of us can post in the class discussion but we can both read the discussion from the other students.
I explained that this action doesn't protect the academic freedom of other students since the other officer can still read the conversation. I also mentioned that the purpose of academic freedom was to prevent people from self censoring and therefore officially censoring me did not help the goal of academic freedom but rather detracted from it. They said my comments were duly noted but nothing has changed.
This process will likely be elevated to the three-star general F-15C pilot in charge of my PME. If elevated I am confident he will take action to address the systemic lack of academic freedom in ACSC/DL to the credit of the Air Force by making any necessary corrections required from time to time.
EDIT: On 22 June 09 the petition was elevated. The course concluded on 28 June 09 and the F-15C pilot was never removed. My petition was received and is being worked at the Air University level.