Mistweetment

An Illinois AAUP committee has protested the firing of (or revocation of an offer to – it’s not yet clear) Steven Salaita. He had been offered a position by the American Indian Studies program at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Salaita has in the last few weeks issued a bunch of angry, ugly, anti-Zionist tweets, in response to the situation in Gaza.

The sources familiar with the university’s decision say that concern grew over the tone of his comments on Twitter about Israel’s policies in Gaza. While many academics at Illinois and elsewhere are deeply critical of Israel, Salaita’s tweets have struck some as crossing a line into uncivil behavior.

For instance, there is this tweet: “At this point, if Netanyahu appeared on TV with a necklace made from the teeth of Palestinian children, would anybody be surprised? #Gaza.” Or this one: “By eagerly conflating Jewishness and Israel, Zionists are partly responsible when people say antisemitic shit in response to Israeli terror.” Or this one: “Zionists, take responsibility: if your dream of an ethnocratic Israel is worth the murder of children, just fucking own it already.”

Grotesque, yes, but you don’t fire someone because of what he writes. Free speech and all. An American university decided to hire this guy; professors enjoy academic freedom. Remember Ward Churchill? He wrote of the people killed in the Twin Towers:

[T]hey were civilians of a sort. But innocent? Gimme a break. They formed a technocratic corps at the very heart of America’s global financial empire – the “mighty engine of profit” to which the military dimension of U.S. policy has always been enslaved – and they did so both willingly and knowingly. Recourse to “ignorance” – a derivative, after all, of the word “ignore” – counts as less than an excuse among this relatively well-educated elite. To the extent that any of them were unaware of the costs and consequences to others of what they were involved in – and in many cases excelling at – it was because of their absolute refusal to see. More likely, it was because they were too busy braying, incessantly and self-importantly, into their cell phones, arranging power lunches and stock transactions, each of which translated, conveniently out of sight, mind and smelling distance, into the starved and rotting flesh of infants. If there was a better, more effective, or in fact any other way of visiting some penalty befitting their participation upon the little Eichmanns inhabiting the sterile sanctuary of the twin towers, I’d really be interested in hearing about it.

A professor at the University of Colorado, Churchill provoked national outrage, plus an effort on the part of that school’s administration to toss him out. But they couldn’t because of his free speech rights. They eventually figured out a way to dump him on the basis of his shoddy research.

If UI truly wants this guy out, it will have to try to cobble something like that together. Otherwise, it gets a reputation as a school unable to uphold academic freedom, and that risks making it unpopular to all sorts of job candidates.

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UD thanks Wendy.

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UPDATE: According to this comment of Cary Nelson’s at Inside Higher Ed, “the [University of Illinois] faculty senate’s Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure will be reviewing the Salaita matter.”

Karen Dawisha’s Manuscript Gets Tossed Right Into the …

… Schuster.

Having been turned down by Cambridge University Press – her longtime publisher – for fear of libel actions against it by the corrupt Russian oligarchs her book features, Karen (who UD knew when she was at the University of Maryland) will now have to settle for being published by Simon and Schuster, whose publicity department sent UD, this morning, an announcement that the book will be published this September.

I’ll re-post Karen’s response at the time to Cambridge:

Last week the EU and the US Government issued a visa ban and asset freeze on the very inner core that is the subject of my book. Many works will now come out on the makeup of the list and why each individual was placed on it. The answers to these questions are in my book. Isn’t it a pity that the UK is a ‘no-fly’ zone for publishing the truth about this group? These Kremlin-connected oligarchs feel free to buy Belgravia, kill dissidents in Piccadilly with Polonium 210, fight each other in the High Court, and hide their children in British boarding schools. And as a result of their growing knowledge about and influence in the UK, even the most significant British institutions (and I think we can agree that CUP, with its royal charter, 500-year history and recent annual revenues in excess of $400m, is a veritable British institution) cower and engage in pre-emptive book-burnings as a result of fear of legal action…. [Perhaps some day we] can once again turn to CUP with the knowledge that it is indeed devoted to publishing “all manner of books” and not just those that won’t awaken the ire of corrupt Russian oligarchs out to make a further mockery of British institutions.

As The Economist wrote, “In the light of the news from Ukraine, and the resulting sanctions recently imposed on some of what America now officially calls Vladimir Putin’s ‘cronies,’ …[Dawisha's book] could hardly be more timely and important.”

Chicago State University, America’s Very Own Academic North Korea….

… once again cracks the whip. You recall its directive to faculty last year:

In an email sent March 22 to faculty and staff, Sabrina Land, the university’s director of marketing and communications, wrote that all communications must be “strategically deployed” in a way that “safeguards the reputation, work product and ultimately, the students, of CSU.”

The policy applies to media interviews, opinion pieces, newsletters, social media and other types of communications, stating that they must be approved by the university’s division of public relations. “All disclosures to the media will be communicated by an authorized CSU media relations officer or designate,” the policy says.

Failure to follow the rules “will be treated as serious and will result in disciplinary action, possible termination and could give rise to civil and/or criminal liability on the part of the employee.”

And they meant it, baby. Chicago State has a 10% graduation rate, and much else besides, to protect; and now you’ve got some faculty undermining the peace-loving progressive masses of CSU by starting a blog!

A blog written by Chicago State University faculty members that has been critical of the school’s administration was sent a “cease and desist” notice by university lawyers …

[CSU] said the blog “violates the University’s values and policies requiring civility and professionalism of all University faculty members.”

Cage demanded that site administrators “immediately disable” the blog and provide written confirmation of that no later than Friday to “avoid legal action.”

UD trusts free speech advocates are all over this one. I’d say it’s an outrage, but everything about CSU is outrageous and it still syphons huge tax dollars from the poor citizens of Illinois. So it’s wasted breath.

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Scott Jaschik takes note.

Horst “zip your lippers” Hippler

If you’re the plagiarism-positive German university establishment, the last thing you want is a bunch of bloggers investigating and outing biggies like education and defense ministers who plagiarized their dissertations. So it should come as no surprise that the Rectors Conference has come out with the helpful suggestion that these bloggers shut the fuck up.

[T]he Rectors’ Conference – Hochschulrektorenkonferenz, or HRK – seeks to restrict the activities of internet forums like Guttenplag or Vroniplag, which played a key role in developments.

Yes, you go ahead and try to do that. Already 1300-plus German and other academics have petitioned against you. (Ol’ UD is of course among them.)

Here’s the problem, as I see it, for Loose Lips Sink Plagiarists Hippler: He and his organization have no good options. Here are their options.

Option One: Become the butt of free speech jokes.

Option Two: Add publicity and outrage to the campaign to bring legitimacy to German academia, thereby increasing the number of people investigating plagiarism.

Option Three: Remind people of the hilarious details of the von Googleberg case — and of others — thus refreshing and deepening the ridicule your educational institutions have already suffered.

Since they’ve already showed their hand as a secretive, plagiarism-enabling guild, it’s too late for the good rectors to do what they ought to have done. Probably some day, after they’ve suffered enough contempt, they will do it:

Try reading the dissertations your students submit to you. Hell, try working with them as they write their dissertations.

I know how busy and important you are… How unbelievably degrading such scutwork is… I mean, where would you start? For decades you’ve sat on your ass and passed one unseen thesis after another. But a journey of a thousand miles starts with one step.

Children and Vaginas First!

The Titanic end of one politician’s career.

Everyone applauded Mayor Bloomberg’s wonderful comment about North Korea…

… when he weighed in on the controversy revolving around the boycott-disinvestment-sanctions speakers at Brooklyn College:

“If you want to go to a university where the government decides what kinds of subjects are fit for discussion, I suggest you apply to a school in North Korea.

Yet you don’t need crude totalitarian censorship to shut people down – or to chill their speech – on important political subjects. UD‘s blogpal, Tenured Radical, wrote a column praising Brooklyn College for holding the sort of discussion of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict that needs to take place. She went on, however, to take issue with the tactic of academic boycott:

I … don’t think that there is any good historical evidence that silencing intellectual, academic and cultural workers on a comprehensive basis, and preventing any exchange of ideas between the Israel and the United States, will have any effect on Israeli politics whatsoever beyond isolating progressive intellectuals in Israel.

This perfectly reasonable objection to the strategy in this circumstance has drawn volumes of vicious abuse to TR , via her column’s comment thread, and in other places. For questioning the utility of the boycott, she has repeatedly been denounced as a liar, a racist, and a reactionary by some of the boycotters.

The sheer personal cruelty of the comments is striking; and TR, also reasonably, wonders (in an email to UD) whether participating in the boycott debate is worth it:

[R]ather than be subjected to that kind of treatment again, and risk my reputation further, [maybe] I would be wise to never go near this topic again or ask questions about features of BDS that affect how it functions in a university setting.

There are a number of ways, short of outright censorship, to censor people. You can come down on them like a pile of bricks, for instance, when they say something you don’t like.

Andrew Sullivan on Commentary Magazine.

Commentary is a propaganda sheet, directed, as degenerate movements often are, by a beneficiary of nepotism, in order to advance a moribund ideology and the interests of one faction in a foreign country. It’s an almost text-book case of intellectual decline and fall.

Dean Fails the Professor-Specific Antipathy Test

The wildly controversial prostate-specific antigen test (PSA) continues to be the subject of studies and debates. Does it help prevent prostate cancer, or is its use actually destructive, subjecting people to unnecessary surgeries? Results and opinions vary too widely, at the moment, to conclude anything with certainty.

Yet the expression of opinions about it would seem fundamental to medical school professors involved in the issue, and you’d think a respectable school like the University of California Davis would encourage its faculty to be part of the debate.

Yet Davis, already dealing with one med school fiasco, now has another, because a dean there got so angry at a professor’s published disapproval of PSA that he told him

he would be punished in two ways. First, he would lose his position in the doctoring program [a special training program he'd put together], and second, he would lose the funding support for a Hungarian student exchange program that he organized.

Why so angry?

Well, money’s involved. The doctor decided to write an anti-PSA opinion piece when he realized that a seminar at Davis was “primarily a sales pitch about the prostate specific antigen (PSA) test, and that its main message was that men should get tested regularly beginning at age 40.” University seminars aren’t supposed to be homes for hucksters, especially when what they’re selling might hurt people. I mean, of course it happens, as in this case at the University of Toronto; but it’s not supposed to happen. Not to mention that professors have a right to say what they like without deans and university lawyers making threats against them, as they did in this case.

Oh Yale’s just right for Singapore…

They’ve made a school that you’ll adore

But freedom’s on a distant shore

From Singapore.

‘The campus attorney said the letter about defamation was not meant as a threat but just “a statement of fact,” the faculty report said.’

Yeah, we just thought you might be interested, next time you think about publishing an opinion piece the University of California Davis medical school doesn’t like… We just thought you might be interested to know that we can destroy your life…

Finito la Commedia! or: How the United Nations Spends Money

[A group of consultants for the United Nations has] called for the Divine Comedy to be removed from schools and universities

“This is a hard fought and important victory for free speech rights on the Internet,” said Laurence Pulgram, the partner who led the team at Fenwick & West, LLP in San Francisco. “Unless we respond to such efforts to intimidate, we’ll end up with an Internet that is far less fertile for the cultivation and discussion of the important issues that affect us all.”

It’s not quite over for copyright troll Righthaven (its owner will probably be appearing in court soon for a debtor examination), but as the attorneys at the Electronic Frontier Foundation note, EFF’s latest court victory – in which Stevens Media, financial backer of Righthaven, conceded that “posting a short excerpt of a news article in an online forum is not copyright infringement” – constitutes a decisive victory against the outfit that went after, among hundreds of other blogs, University Diaries.

“The marshal can go after personal property or real estate belonging to Righthaven. The order authorizes the marshal to use …

‘reasonable force’ to execute the judgment.”

UD‘s strange legal education continues. Righthaven, the copyright troll that last year sued her, now faces, Bloomberg Business Week reports, the police at the door. They won’t pay any of the many large judgments (more are on the way) assessed against them for their losses in court.

Strange to think that the frighteningly legitimate thing that came bristling up to UD‘s door with a summons last summer turns out to have been what looks more and more like a high-risk, inept conspiracy about to declare bankruptcy. I suppose it’s a measure of UD‘s naivety that this never occurred to her; that she fixed only on the threatening, baffling language of a complaint against her, and not on the possibility that behind the formal machinery and dread-inducing rhetoric lay seven swaggering cocksmen with a can’t miss scheme. Six, seven.

At the moment, Righthaven seems to be down to one guy. His cock must be steamrolled flat.

“Gloating over the misfortunes of other people.”

Christopher Hitchens got a big laugh when, asked what the purpose of life without a belief in God would be, he answered “Gloating over the misfortunes of other people… Crowing over [their] miseries…” UD laughs whenever she watches him say this too…

Yet the astoundingly tanking fortunes of the outfit that last year sued UD has her thinking with some seriousness about schadenfreude. No doubt she’s got her share of it… But as one story after another of the financial desperation of the now universally ridiculed and reviled Righthaven pops up as a Google Alert in her email, she finds herself remarkably deficient in this response. The copyright troll whose threats and legal papers so frightened her two summers ago is this year a virtually bankrupt joke, taking outrageous beatings in every court it’s dragged into by people and organizations who – unlike UD – fought back.

Instead of anything emotional, UD seems to be experiencing that rather calmer it-is-meet-and-right thing that involves witnessing the reversal of wrongdoing.

When UD teaches Intro Amer Lit…

… she often assigns David Mamet’s play (it’s also a film), Glengarry Glen Ross, all about slimy businessmen.

She’s delighted to see attorneys in one of the many Righthaven suits (for UD‘s involvement in this sorry story, go here) turning to literature to encompass the specific unpleasantness of the Righthaven scandal (for details of this filing, go here):

In Glengarry Glen Ross, Ricky Roma says to George Aaronow, “Always tell the truth – It’s the easiest thing to remember.” Had Righthaven followed this simple bit of wisdom, it would not find itself in its current thicket of predicament in Nevada, and it might find its fortune in Colorado to be more promising.

Righthaven’s scheme is based upon “Assignments” of copyrights from news entities to itself. When such assignments are honest and bona fide transfers of rights, they are remarkably simple – the copyright owner simply transfers all title to the copyright to the new owner. Righthaven’s scheme is much more complex, because there is so much dishonesty to obfuscate. In 1992, Glengarry Glen Ross was made into a film with the tagline “Lie. Cheat. Steal. All In A Day’s Work.” Righthaven should have watched the entire film and learned from Ricky Roma; instead it relied upon the tagline and has lied, cheated, and stolen from dozens of hapless defendants in Nevada and in Colorado. That conduct ends in Colorado with this Reply Brief.

More on Righthaven here.

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