That’s the Boston University administration’s idea of how to conduct a “discussion” with a faculty member. That’s my Dean’s, the Associate Dean's, my Chairman’s, and a senior university lawyer’s idea of a conversation, of a meeting of minds. I was, of course, taken aback by the vehemence of the name-calling and shocked by the assault on my character and morals throughout the meeting, but I can’t say I was really surprised. Truth to tell, believe it or not, nasty, abusive, and intolerant as this particular meeting was, it was actually a bit milder than a few of the other shouting-matches, personal attacks, and cascades of ad hominem accusations I’d experienced in years of previous department and program meetings. [For confirmation of these events, see the blog entry "How (Not) to Conduct a Meeting—Shouts, Name-Calling, Personal Attacks, Threats, Punishments," available in the side menu under March 2013 to read messages of condolence other faculty members wrote me after witnessing and sitting through some of these ceremonies of public humiliation, during which I was called names, had my morals publicly attacked, or was otherwise verbally abused by the Director of Film Studies (Roy Grundmann), the department Chairman, or others.]
The larger point is to show how worthless having tenure is at Boston University. The whole point and raison d'etre for the tenure system, the reason tenure exits, is to protect senior faculty from acts of retaliation against them, to free them up to speak openly about problems, to allow them to take unpopular stands and act independently. But Boston University has found a way around the protections of the tenure system. John Silber (the former President of Boston University) got around the system with his mistreatment of tenured faculty members (look up Howard Zinn on the internet), and Robert Brown (the current President of Boston University) has let the abuse of the tenure system continue. If you have tenure and BU administrators decide they don't like you (say, because you report some shady ethical practices and unprofessional conduct in low-level administrators above you), and they can't outright fire you because you have tenure, they simply force you to quit by making your life pedagogically hellish (my classes have been rescheduled for unsuitable classrooms, 8AM start times, and strung-out twelve-hour work days) or by conducting ceremonies of public shaming and berating like the one I have described—"Why don't you quit? What's keeping you here?" "Why do you work here?" "Is it just for the money?"—or like many other even more severe sessions of public abuse that I have sat through at department and program meetings, or stood through by being screamed at and having my performance and morals and character criticized in front of students or their parents in public places. Consult the blog for more than you want to know on those subjects. ["Public Shaming as an Administrative Technique," available in the side menu under March 2013, would be an appropriate starting place.] That's what tenure is worth at BU. That's what seniority is worth. That's what collegial respect and courtesy for long-serving and highly productive members of the faculty amounts to. Precisely nothing. Lip service when you interview and nothing more.
My account would be incomplete if I didn't mention an additional set of events that followed the shaming, berating, nasty meeting above: Predictably enough, a day or two later I was informed by memo that the personal attacks had only been a prelude to a series of more tangible punishments. My evaluations were lowered again. My pay was negatively affected again. My teaching schedule was changed without my agreement again. I was assigned additional course overloads again. Personal attacks and shaming tactics are important weapons in the Boston University administrative arsenal, but BU administrators would regard it as simply foolish to limit themselves to insult when they can add injury.