Needless to say, this was not the end. There were many other meetings and months and years of additional verbal abuse where I was yelled at, called names, told to "shut up" when I tried to reply to someone or defend my position, told I was mentally ill, asked why I didn't quit if I didn't like the way things were done, and did I only continue to work at BU "for the money?" (this last bit of personal nastiness, this salvo of sarcasm, directed against me by my department Chairman Paul Schneider in a meeting in front of other administrators, including my boss, Dean Tom Fiedler, none of whom raised an eyebrow objecting to the verbal abuse my Chairman was inflicting on me--even as he himself simultaneously insisted, in front of his boss the Dean, that I was mentally ill or lying when I said I had been subjected to years of verbal insults and disrespectful treatment at his hands and those of others), and had my character, morals, and personality viciously and publicly attacked by BU administrators in front of large groups of people (including groups of my own students and groups of junior faculty members). There were many more repetitions of the threats to destroy me financially by bringing in the university lawyers to tie me up in legal actions against me. There were many more threats to make internet postings on the university web site against me to destroy my professional reputation and standing. And many more administrative and financial punishments were administered to me (and continue to be administered to this day).
In the end, with respect to my faculty web site, I was told that removing this and that passage or sentence, changing this section or another section, would not be sufficient. I was told I would not be allowed to have any faculty web site at all. None. I have no way of checking, but I may have the rare distinction of being the only faculty member in America who has been told (in writing, at that!) that he is not allowed to publish anything at all on the university server, that anything and everything he has published on it, down to the last sentence, must be removed.
But as the infomercials say, "wait, there's more." The administrative censorship policy not only spanned many years, but ultimately migrated into many other areas of my job performance and academic life (and, for the record, continues not only unchanged but even enlarged right up to the present in virtually every area of my academic activity)--beyond having my faculty web site taken away. I can only provide the briefest overview of the variety of forms the censorship has taken in this introduction. You would have to read this entire blog to see all the ways a faculty member can be muzzled and silenced--and even then the entire story would not have been told. To control what I said in my classes, my Dean deputed selected students to act as "spies" for him and to report back to him about anything I said in the classroom that might be considered "controversial." (Of course this was done without my knowledge and only revealed to me after the fact, when I was called into a meeting and berated in front of others for not having adhered to his announced--and, on everyone else's part, accepted!--censorship policy on what ideas I was allowed to communicate to my students in class presentations.) To control what I wrote in my emails, my Dean (Tom Fiedler again, and again without my knowledge or permission) obtained copies of emails I wrote to both students and university outsiders, xeroxed them and passed them around to other university administrators for comment and criticism (there's no respect for privacy or confidentiality at BU!), and called me on the carpet (both in writing and in a meeting in front of others) for writing things he disagreed with. In terms of interviews with the media (future interviews, beyond the interviews that I had already been punished for publishing on my faculty web site), my department Chairman (Paul Schneider again) wrote me a memo telling me that I was not supposed to talk about my situation at BU with reporters. (Talk about piling censorship on top of censorship! This last, if you can get your head around it, was a memo in effect attempting to censor my mention of the university censorship I had experienced! The comical weirdness of a memo censoring the discussion of censorship--all the while, on Chairman Schneider's and Dean Fiedler's part, completely denying that there has been any censorship at all!--almost made me laugh out loud when I read it.) And on and on the administrative attempts to control what I say in class, what I publish, what I write in my emails, and what I tell interviewers goes. In sum, month after month and year after year, dozens of explicit and abundantly documented criticisms, orders, acts of censorship, threats, and punishments--not only in the shouts, name-calling, attacks on my character and morals, ceremonies of public humiliation, swearing at me and table-thumping, but in my zeroed out performance evaluations and withholding of pay raises--have been administered to me following those initial meetings and that motion.
So much for academic freedom of expression at Boston University. So much for collegial respect. So much for a commitment to the free-play of ideas. I hear it's this way in Egypt, North Korea, and Iran; but you can now add Boston to the list. Watch what you say (or publish) at Boston University. Saying something administrators disagree with can be very hazardous to your (economic and bureaucratic) health.
If that summary is not sufficient, I'd refer the reader to almost any other page of this site for more detail, more events, more acts of retaliation against me for the expression of my ideas and opinions. Virtually every single page of this blog documents another more insidious, more diabolical, more despicable, more thuggish form of bullying, threatening, harassing, or punishing behavior doled out to me with the full knowledge and approval of the highest levels of the Boston University administration in the last ten years. The actions against me continue unchecked and uninvestigated by the university to the present day. What a place to work.
It may be worth adding that much of what I said in the interview was intended to be semi-comic (but only semi-comic) in nature, and was clearly understood to be so by the young man who conducted the interview. But I'd emphasize that that changes nothing whatsoever. Whether my words were intended to be comic or not, parodic or not, satiric or not, exaggerated or not, polemical or not, administrative censorship of what university faculty write or say in interviews is not the answer. Censorship is never the answer. The response to speech we disagree with is more speech, not the banning or suppression of speech. And, above all, not threatening and punishing the speaker--financially, administratively, emotionally--for having said what he or she has. If that is true in society in general, how much more true it should be in a university.
Every other university I've ever been affiliated with, or heard of, without exception, understands that--understands that free expression is the absolute life-blood of academic life and that censorship is anathema to the function of a university. Only the Boston University administration, including Provost Jean Morrison, President Robert Brown (who was BU's President when these actions were taken against me, and continues to be BU's President at the present date), and the Boston University Board of Trustees (currently Robert A. Knox, John P. Howe III, J. Kenneth Menges, Jr., Richard D. Cohen, Jonathan R. Cole, Shamim A. Dahod, David F. D’Alessandro, Katheryn Pfisterer Darr, Sudarshana Devadhar, Kenneth J. Feld, Sidney J. Feltenstein, Ryan K. Roth Gallo, Ronald G. Garriques, Richard C. Godfrey, SungEun Han-Andersen, Bahaa R. Hariri, Robert J. Hildreth, Stephen R. Karp, Rajen A. Kilachand, Cleve L. Killingsworth, Jr., Elaine B. Kirshenbaum, Andrew R. Lack, Alan M. Leventhal, Peter J. Levine, Carla E. Meyer, Jorge Morán, Alicia C. Mullen, Peter T. Paul, C. A. Lance Piccolo, Stuart W. Pratt, Allen Questrom, Richard D. Reidy, Sharon G. Ryan, S.D. Shibulal, Richard C. Shipley, Hugo X. Shong, Bippy M. Siegal, Nina C. Tassler, Andrea L. Taylor, and Stephen M. Zide) seems not to have taken in the lesson. Perhaps, in the case of the Board of Trustees at least, that is because the BU Trustees are almost to a man, and I do mean to a man, from the worlds of law, finance, and corporate affairs--not exactly the ideal group of people to defend the centrality of, or even understand the meaning of, academic freedom of expression and the free play of ideas.
Hiring businessmen to "oversee" and "manage" the academics and "hold them to a budget" is an extremely common practice at Boston University, and frequently results in the same kinds of intolerance of intellectual values that I and many of my colleagues have personally experienced. The Dean of my own College and the Chairman of my Department are only two of scores of BU administrators who learned their values fighting their way up the ladder in corporate America and spent their entire previous careers as businessmen rather than as teachers, scholars, or intellectuals. No surprise that when they show up in academia, as their first non-corporate job, they bring their hard-earned corporate values with them. Academic success is about "branding," "marketing," "sales," and keeping the "customers" (i.e. the students!) happy. My Dean and department Chairman not only think this way; they actually talk this way. That is what my publications threaten, and they see no problem whatsoever with suppressing them when they don't support the corporate message. The thought of the corporation's "employees" (i.e. the professors!) being allowed to communicate difficult, challenging, inconvenient truths has never even occurred to this type of administrator. Truth-telling can threaten the corporate PR campaign (or student enrollments), and banning and suppressing information the corporation doesn't want to be disseminated becomes standard operating procedure. Faculty web sites need to be monitored and controlled; faculty communications with students need to be monitored and controlled; faculty telephone calls need to be monitored and controlled; faculty interviews with the media need to be monitored and controlled--and any faculty member who doesn't "get onboard with the program" should expect to be screamed at, called names, and threatened with law suits and internet postings designed to destroy him. What world do these faculty members live in anyway? Who do they think signs their checks? Welcome to Boston University. Move over Ford, Toyota, and General Motors! (To read more about the inevitable mismatch of values when businessmen are brought in as administrators to run academic units, see another page on the site: "The Two Cultures: The Conflict Between Business Values and the Life of the Mind," which is available in the side menu under March 2013. To read more about the monitoring and control of faculty communications, see “The Monitoring and Control of Faculty Emails, Phone Calls, and Personal Expression in the Boston University College of Communication," also available in the side menu under March 2013.)
To read how another major university (with a different kind of Board of Trustees and a very different kind of President and Provost at the head of it) responded to the ideas of a faculty member administrators profoundly disagreed with, I'd refer the reader to yet another page of the site listed under November 2013 and titled "A Tale of Two Schools" comparing Boston University with Johns Hopkins University. That is how a university is supposed to treat faculty speech and internet postings it disagrees with. Censorship, punishment, personal and verbal abuse, threats to destroy the faculty member's reputation via internet postings, and to bankrupt him by "bringing in the lawyers," are never acceptable responses. (In what civilized world are these kinds of thuggish, bullying threats and acts of personal and professional retribution acceptable? As one of my email correspondents asked me: "How can BU behave this way and call itself a university?")
P.S. Please note that following the interview text, on the second half of this page and on other pages of this site, there are descriptions of other meetings that were held to censor and ban my faculty web site. I have been shouted at, called names, had my character and morals attacked, and even called mentally ill on numerous occasions by BU administrators. (That is the respect faculty are accorded at Boston University.)
On the second half of this page, I have also included copies of several emails I sent to the department Chairman and a department faculty member, protesting the grossly unprofessional behavior I was subjected to (and continue to be subjected to). The emails describe more of the abuse and unprofessional conduct that took place during various meetings, and discuss the suppression of the meeting-minutes by the department Chairman, and his deliberate falsification of many other sets of meeting-minutes, in line with Boston University's attempt to cover-up and deny the egregious personal abuse and unprofessional conduct that took place at this series of meetings and that continues to take place at other meetings right up into the present.
To read descriptions of other meetings (there have been dozens of them and they continue into the present) where I have been yelled at, called names, had my character and personality viciously attacked, and been treated unprofessionally in almost every imaginable way, see: "How (Not) to Conduct a Meeting—Shouts, Name-Calling, Personal Attacks, Threats, Punishments," available in the menu on the right-hand site of page. To read descriptions of other acts of unprofessional conduct, by the Dean of the Boston University College of Communication and the Chairman of the Department of Film and Television, see "Public Shaming as an Administrative Technique," also available via the menu in the right hand margin. — R.C.
(at least majors would be able to get jobs after they graduate)
For the record, there were many other "scream at Carney/tell Carney to shut up/you're sick/no one is interested in what you have to say/why don't you quit?/why do you work here?" meetings. These kinds of accusations and screaming sessions were not confined to any particular meeting or subject. For descriptions of a few of the other sessions of verbal abuse that have been inflicted on me, see: "How (Not) to Conduct a Meeting—Shouts, Name-Calling, Personal Attacks, Threats, Punishments," available in the menu on the right-hand site of page."
One of the many emails I sent to Prof. Mary Jane Doherty, requesting a copy of the minutes of the first meeting Chairman Merzbacher organized to try to force me to take down my web site--one of many meetings organized by him devoted to having junior faculty members yell at me, call me names, and attack my morals and character--is reprinted below. Professor Doherty had been the designated taker of minutes at the meeting and I had sat directly across from her at a narrow table and watched her write down a detailed record of the entire hour-long screaming session devoted to abusing me on a pad of paper. Immediately following the conclusion of the meeting, I wrote her the first of several emails asking her to give me a copy of her handwritten notes. She responded to my first request with a non-committal reply. I wrote her again a week or two later, and she made another non-committal reply. The meeting (the first of many where I was abused and yelled at) had been in late November, so it was early December by that point and Christmas vacation interrupted our correspondence for a few weeks. When January came, I wrote her a third email, the one reprinted below, a few days before the beginning of the Spring term in mid-January:
Subject: request for the minutes
To say the obvious, unethical behavior seldom occurs in isolation. Chairman Merzbacher didn't act alone in this instance or in any of the others that I document on the site. It took Professor Mary Jane Doherty's explicit assent--just as it took the implied agreement of the rest of the faculty in the department--to allow the Chairman's suppression of the meeting minutes to take place. It takes a village, it takes a corrupt culture, to pull off an act of censorship. Any faculty member in my department could have refused to go along with the motion to censor my web site (or with the motion to censure me for having said what I did). Even one highly principled faculty member could almost certainly have prevented the motion from being passed. And any faculty member could have objected to the suppression of the minutes of the meeting. But the faculty in the Department of Film and Television were all afraid; they were all willing to sell their principles to the highest bidder, since they knew that the department Chairman holds both the power of the purse over them and the power to promote (or not promote) them based on his recommendation. They let the system corrupt them.
Welcome to what President Brown euphemistically refers to as "the new B.U." Not much different from the old BU, as far as I have experienced. John Silber might as well still be in charge. But no surprise there since many of the same people remain in the same administrative positions. See other pages of the site for more on that subject--and for many other accounts of professional misconduct and unethical behavior at Boston University. --R.C.