Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Part 3—Slander, Lies, and Secret Meetings

Controlling Faculty Expression

Defeating Tenure

Being Undermined and Discredited 
as a Teacher and a Mentor
In a Calculated Smear Campaign

Boston University has a long and inglorious history, beginning in the 1970s and extending into the present, of finding ways to control its faculty members’ expressions and of defeating and legally getting around the supposed protections of the tenure system in particular. I have received a surprising number of inquiries from faculty members and administrators at other universities who read the blog regularly and want to know more about the treatment I have received in response to the reports of ethical misconduct and professional misbehavior I have filed and the attempts of Boston University administrators to ostracize, marginalize, and remove me from the decision-making process in the university. This is the third part in a seven-part posting touching on some of the ways I have, as I note in a previous posting, been “bullied, beat-up, and bludgeoned administratively,” “turned into a persona non grata,” and “effectively expunged, banned, and prevented from doing anything but teaching my courses” in my College. Due to lack of space and the number of years these events have taken place, the individual postings will be of a summary nature. Details are provided on earlier blog pages. —Ray Carney

Part 3—Administrators Using Students as Pawns 

in a Shameless Game

The preceding pages describe events most of which were participated in by more than one administrator, witnessed by other faculty members (in the case of the department and program faculty meetings), or seen and overheard by students, parents, staff, and passersby in public spaces (in the case of the public beratings).

There is a whole other series of grave ethical violations that took place secretly and surreptitiously, and were conducted by two different administrators (a former Dean and a former department Chairman) and two Department of Film and Television faculty members (one of whom has now left the university and the other of whom was subsequently promoted to be Director of Film Studies, a post he has held for the past nine years and continues to hold). Though the secret meetings began ten years ago, in late 2004 and early 2005, they continue right up into the present.

In concert with each other (and, initially, with the knowledge and direct encouragement of the Dean and department Chairman), the four individuals held a series of secret and covert meetings with different groups of undergraduate and graduate film students, during which the students were told a series of outright lies about my morals and character, my professional competence as a teacher and researcher, and informed that there were “problems” with my teaching that the individuals wanted the students to file reports about. (There were in fact no problems, but as the perpetrators knew, telling groups of students that there were is the best way to foster the perception of them.) The Dean and department Chairman held the “slander-and-undermine Carney” meetings with students in their offices, and the two faculty members (to repeat: one of whom was subsequently promoted to be Director of Film Studies, in part because of his success in accomplishing this mission) held the meetings both in their offices and during and after official class time in their classrooms.

The meetings involved a range of egregiously unethical and unprofessional interactions with students in which my morals were directly attacked, my competence was questioned, and students were told that there had been unspecified “problems” with my conduct (there was absolutely no basis in fact for this assertion—the only “problem” I represented was daring to speak and vote differently in meetings from the four individuals who wanted to use the student meetings to bring me into line by turning them against me). The students were explicitly instructed by the various individuals to submit complaints about me, which the Dean, the department Chairman, and the two faculty members actually dictated the contents of—pressuring the students to make particular points, telling them how they should word their statements, who they should address the complaint to, and who they should give the text to (significantly not the intended recipient in most cases, but the professor or administrator himself, at which point many of the statements were creatively edited or re-written by the administrator or faculty member to “improve” them). In short, the students were told a series of lies, pressured to submit what was effectively a series of suborned, perjured, and (in their re-written form) counterfeit, forged, and ghost-written (or in legal parlance, “tampered with”) documents, which were then presented to senior administrators by the four individuals as spontaneous outpourings of student discontent.

     The fradulent documents were then inserted in my official personnel file. Though they were then used as justification for negatively impacting my performance evaluations and pay, I have significantly never been allowed to read a single one of them, to know the name of a single student author, or to sit down and talk to or cross-examine any of the authors. The reason for this is obvious, once one considers the method by which the letters were created. The reason for the secrecy is not only to prevent me from defending myself from perjured, suborned, and false charges,  but because allowing me to know the names of, and talk with, the authors would instantly allow me to reveal the deception, the way the letters were made-to-order and fraudulently used to indict me, by asking the student to describe the process by which they were created. That cannot be allowed for obvious reasons.

Many students refused to go along with the scheme, of course, but as the four individuals knew, it only takes a few who submit to the pressure to please an administrator or a teacher to create the impression of a “general problem.” Even students who refused to participate in the scheme remained silent about the meetings for a long period of time out of fear of reprisal from the individual who had demanded the submission. Some of them told me (with embarrassment and shame in their voices and feelings of regret that they had not had the presence of mind or courage openly to object to what they were being told to do), that they had signed the “complaint” the teacher or administrator demanded of them either a) because they needed a good grade in the course or a letter of recommendation and did not dare to disobey a teacher or administrator who held their future in his hands; or b) because they sincerely believed the lies they had been told by the administrator or teacher. Anyone who has worked with 18- to 23-year olds understands the phenomenon. They are young; they are trusting; they have no conception they about being lied to when someone with so much authority speaks to them authoritatively and asks for their help; they have no conception that innocence can be abused and taken advantage of in these kinds of ways. They have no conception that adults would stoop to using them as pawns in an administrative power game.

Although the majority of the suborned and perjured letter-writing took place in the 2005-2008 period, the secret and surreptitious meetings to discredit and undermine my relationship with my students were far from over at that point. The meetings merely took new forms, with the Film Studies Director in particular continuing meeting with students, especially graduate students over the course of many years right up into the present day, making scurrilous insinuations about my morals, telling lies about my performance as a teacher, and generally attempting to undermine my relationship with students in every way he can. For years now female students have reported to me how he has made vulgar or offensive sexual insinuations to them about my conduct (asking them if “they have had any problems” with me—leer, leer). Students of both genders have told me that he has told them I was professionally incompetent, that my intelligence was subpar, that I was not a serious or accomplished “researcher” (notwithstanding the publication of more than ten books with the most important academic presses), that they should not take one or another course with me, and in the case of graduate students, that if they chose to work with me on their final thesis projects, he would retaliate against the student by himself refusing to work with him or her (a lethal threat, since grad students depend on the good graces of the program Director for job placements and letters of recommendation, and incurring his displeasure by working with me after he has issued such a warning to them is a guarantee of not receiving his support).

For obvious reasons, all of this unethical behavior—all of these meetings to attack and undermine me—have taken place completely secretly and surreptitiously. Over and over again, I have only learned about the insinuations and outright lies about my morals, the personal attacks, and the meetings themselves months or even years afterward when a shame-faced student has come to my office, looked over his shoulder, asked if he could close the door, and told me how ashamed he felt about having sat through such a meeting with the Film Studies Director a semester, a year, or more, earlier, during which he had to listen to bad things being said about me but didn’t dare object for fear of incurring the Director’s wrath, since he depended on him for a good grade, a job placement, or a letter of recommendation.

These shameless and disgusting comments do more than irreparably bias any subsequent statements a cooperative student may make to the Film Studies Director or other administrator. They do more than negatively impact my enrollments and course evaluations. They erode the educational experience for the student. For all but the most independent-minded and mature students (those who are strong enough to hold onto their own independent judgments in the face of outright lies and slanders being disseminated by a trusted authority figure), they destroy the trust that has to exist in teacher-student relationship. (And note that telling even a single student to “watch out for” and “report back on” his professor is equivalent to telling every single student. Judgments of this sort about their teacher are not kept secret.) The classroom atmosphere is poisoned for the student. Innocent remarks by the faculty member are now regarded with suspicion; anything less than the highest final grade is treated as an expression of sexism or homophobia (two of the cards the Film Studies Director most frequently plays).

The atmosphere of free and open inquiry necessary to the classroom is irreparably destroyed. Imagine how it feels for a teacher to go into his or her classroom, not knowing about the meetings in which his students have been exposed to this sort of slander about him, but noticing the change in their faces as they sit in front of him, tell him that they have decided to drop his course, or decided not enroll in another course he is teaching next semester. Imagine hearing the excuses they are forced to give about why they have decided not to work with him on their thesis project.

All but the bravest students dare not give the real reasons since the Film Studies Director is known to be a stern and relentless “score-keeper” who does not tolerate student disagreement. Yes, the teacher is being terrorized by the slander and innuendo, but the students are being equally terrorized by the fact that they have to walk on eggs to keep from alienating the Director of Film Studies by expressing interest in my courses or publications. (Students have, in fact, been told they will not be getting a letter of recommendation from the Director simply because they have been seen carrying or reading one of my books or have expressed interest in doing an independent study with me.) The entire academic enterprise is undermined. The death threats that resulted from using students this way—pitting them against each other and against their teacher—is proof of their destructiveness.  (See "Lynch Mobs—Secret and Surreptitious Meetings to Foment Students Against a Teacher" and "Playing with Souls/ Death Threats—Cynical Administrative Power-games.") 

        To avoid protracting the account beyond its present length, I'll only briefly mention in conclusion that Boston University administrators have been guilty of several other kinds of fraudulent behavior involving falsifying records. In short, the insertion of counterfeit documents into my personnel file that I described above is only one of several different kinds of fraudulent behavior individuals in the College of Communication have indulged in to attempt to frame and indict me, and discredit my reports of ethical misconduct with administrators above them. Unfortunately, such has been the credulousness of those more senior administrators that they have failed to exercise any skepticism at all about what has been reported by their underlings. 

* * *

As with the other retaliatory and punitive acts I mentioned in sections one and two, when I reported these events, and objected in particular to the fact that these sorts of meetings with students were still taking place to smear my name, attack my competence, and convince students not to study with me by the Director of Film Studies, I was told none of this had ever happened, that no secret or surreptitious undermining conversations about my morals, character, competence, or publications had ever taken place, and that absolutely no suborned, perjured, or tampered-with documents had ever been inserted in my files—notwithstanding the testimony of numerous students to the fact that they themselves participated in these completely scripted and stage-managed attacks on me led by the individuals I have named, or that they they knew about or had personally been subjected to one of the smear campaigns against me or one of the "don't work or study with Carney" speeches from the Director of Film Studies.

[Continued on the next page]