Saturday, April 27, 2013

Letter to the University Ombuds—“Events that Almost Defy Belief”

I reprint below the text of the cover letter I sent to Boston University Ombuds Francine Montemurro to accompany a narrative account detailing seven years of punishments and retributive acts inflicted on me by Boston University administrators. The 125-page report I gave Ms. Montemurro included approximately 200-pages of documentary attachments. (I had originally given an earlier version of the report and accompanying documentation to Julie Sandell, Associate Provost for Faculty Development, in November 2009, who had subsequently passed it on to Ms. Montemurro.)

The text of the letter is complete and unaltered, except for the fact that, to protect their privacy, I have removed the names of a number of other Boston University professors who were accorded similar treatment at the hands of many of the same BU administrators who directed their wrath against me. In several other places, for the sake of clarity, I have added brief explanations of individuals' titles or roles, or interpolated brief explanations that I had already explained in person in a meeting with Ms. Montemurro, or have inserted references to relevant pages elsewhere on this site. All interpolations are enclosed in brackets.

In her response, Ms. Montemurro expressed extreme sympathy with my situation and confirmed that she had heard many confirming and corroborating stories about similar events in the College of Communication that negatively affected the lives and livelihoods of many other faculty and staff members in the College. Although I had probably come in for the most vicious and sustained retributive treatment, I was far from being the only College of Communication faculty member punished in the ways I had been.

As the date on the letter indicates, the material was given to Ms. Montemurro in March 2010; however, I am sorry to say that little or nothing changed in my situation after that point. The acts of retaliation and punishment I had experienced, the verbal abuse, the personal attacks, the attempts to limit and discourage my communication with my students, and the negative effects on my evaluations, salary, research, and publications that I had documented in the 2003-2010 period—the seven years covered by my initial report—continued unabated in the years that followed—which is why, in 2010, 2011, and 2012, I updated the report or provided Ms. Montemurro with additional documentation about events that took place in the three years since the original report was filed.

The site visitor can find descriptions of events that took place in 2010 and later years on the following site pages, among others: “How Marketing and Branding Considerations Limit What Teachers Can Tell Their Students or Suggest That They Read at Boston University,” “Public Shaming as an Administrative Technique,” and “How (Not) to Conduct a Meeting.” The end of the site page, “Censorship, Punishment, Abuse, Threats--Being Banned in Boston" also has information about how events like the ones I describe in my submission to the Ombuds have repeatedly and systematically been concealed by BU administrators by suppressing records of them having taken place. All of these pages are available via the menu in the right-hand margin.

In summary, no action has been taken by BU administrators to remedy the situation I described to Ms. Montemurro—let alone to provide redress and remedy for past injustices, or to restore lost salary. Boston University, even in the year 2013, is clearly still having problems facing up to reality. See the beginning of “Part 1: Ten Years of Administrative Retaliation….” and the end of “Part 2: Ten Years of Administrative Retaliation….” for my own personal thoughts about why an institution can be so reluctant to admit its mistakes—or to redress them.            —Ray Carney

Ms. Francine Montemurro, University Ombuds
Ombudsman Office
19 Deerfield Street
Boston University
Boston, MA 02215

March 22, 2010

Dear Francine:

To repeat what I wrote you back in December after our meeting—thanks so much for taking the “handoff” from Prof. Sandell on this. I really appreciate it. I had a very good feeling during our meeting. You were very well-prepared and organized, and it was good to talk. As ostracized as I’ve been, I’ve had very few people to talk with about my situation over the years—other than a few of the others who were similarly terrorized or forced out of the College by Dean Schulz. (The College of Communication lost some extremely good people, both at the staff and faculty levels, in the period I describe.)

My apologies for the delay in getting this revised text to you. I’ve rewritten the original document to make it clearer at points. It has been emotionally very hard to write this—just excruciating for me to re-live these events mentally in the process of describing them. Totally depressing and demoralizing. That added to the time it took. (And a gigantic book manuscript that I am massively over deadline on and wrangling with my publisher about didn’t help!)

I also apologize for the length. Sorry, sorry, sorry. Please make allowances for the seven years I have to cover. All I can say as an enticement is first, that I tried to put a little bit of humor into a few of the footnotes; and, second, that I tried as often as I could to put a “human face” on the otherwise abstract account—to weave in a few stories and anecdotes to “keep it real” and add a little feeling. (But if I had included everything I experienced, this would be twice as long as it already is—and nobody could wish that, least of all me!)

As you’ll see from the heading and first couple pages of the document, I have not changed the original introduction, which stands just as it did when I thought that Professor Sandell was the best person to send this to. I just didn’t have the time or emotional energy to re-cast it, but this cover letter officially confirms that (as per Prof. Sandell’s suggestion and my December conversation with you in your office) the entire report and request for redress is hereby redirected to you in your function as University Ombuds, for your attention and action. You may of course attach this letter to the document as an indication of that fact.

I realize that many of the events I describe (particularly the dishonorableness of the conduct of Dean Schulz and three or four others who cooperated with him), almost defy belief. [See the following pages of the site, available via the menu in the top right margin, for more about the outrageousness of my Dean's, my Chairman's, and my Program Director's treatment of me--and of the Dean's similar treatment of many other College of Communication faculty members: "Part 1: Ten Years of Administrative Retaliation…,” “Public Shaming as an Administrative Technique,” Lynch Mobs—Secret and Surreptitious Meetings to Foment Students Against a Teacher" and "Playing with Souls/Death Threats--Cynical Administrative Power-games."] All I can say is that for a long time they defied my own belief as well. In nearly thirty years as a full-time faculty member at four different institutions, I have met all types and managed to work amicably with more or less all of them (including some pretty tough customers!); but this Dean was a horse of a different color—and not only for me, but for many other faculty and staff members in my College. If you have trouble believing any of the words or actions I attribute to him, if they seem just too extreme, outrageous, bullying, and dishonest, I would highly recommend that you talk with any of the other faculty members in my College who received similar, though apparently less sustained, treatment. Some of them have resigned or been forced out by the Dean the same way I am convinced he was trying to force me out, but the following individuals remain in the College and though I have not mentioned this document to any of them, I’d think one or more of them would be willing to share a story or two about how they were treated that will seem equally unbelievable or outrageous— [names of four Professors in the College of Communication have been removed at this point]. Each of them experienced the force of Dean Schulz’s wrath at one point or another. (And each of the women has told me in private that she was actually in fear for her physical well-being when the Dean became verbally abusive or threatened to do something to her.) Professor [a fifth Professor’s name has been removed at this point] could also tell a few choice stories, but (along with several other highly accomplished faculty and staff members who either resigned because of the Dean’s treatment of them or were forced out) she is no longer at BU. She was at [the name of a major university has been removed at this point] when I last checked. If you prefer the input of an administrator outside the College of Communication to talking to faculty members who are still within it, I would highly recommend that you have a word with Prof. Sandell. As a member of the Faculty Council/Faculty Assembly, she heard a lot about the Dean’s unprofessional and unethical behavior from many different faculty members (including those I have listed above). Prof. Sandell’s knowledge of the culture of coercion and thuggery Dean Schulz fostered, and of his willingness to threaten, frame, and railroad individuals who expressed different points of view in order to minimize their opposition, or to attempt to fire them or force them to resign if they continued to express independent opinions, was in fact the reason I initially thought she was the best person to send this account to. As a courtesy, I am also sending her a copy of the report. So if you needed to ask her a question about anything in particular that I say, you will be able refer to a particular passage and she can see what I wrote. I have nothing to hide from her, since she heard so many other stories from other faculty members in the College of Communication about these and other events as they actually took place. You have my permission to share anything I have said or written with her if it can help you in any way.

Note that I have statements about the non-involvement of Provost Campbell and [Assistant Dean] Maureen Clark near the end of the document [due to their involvement with the retributive punishments that were administered to me and others], and also more briefly mention three other individuals [other Boston University administrators who were involved in the punitive retributory actions] I forgot to tell you about [excluding, as being self-interested and unreliable sources of information, since they themselves also personally participated in the Dean's, Chairman's, and Program Director's acts of retribution against independent-minded faculty and staff members] when we met back in December. On the final pages of the report I include a complete list of attachments that are meant to accompany and support it [approximately 200 pages of first-hand documentation detailing the acts of punishment and retribution I personally experienced over the course of seven years]. You already have most of them, since they were included with the November draft that went to Prof. Sandell, but I have added a few more items to the list, which are now included with this packet. 

Let me conclude on a different note. I want to repeat something I told you at the end of the hour in your office—that although, in the interests of fleshing out the account, I have included the names of several students in this report (and in the attachments include a set of letters a sympathetic grad student solicited on my behalf without telling me she was doing it), I have, to the very best of my ability, avoided discussing these matters with students, declined their offers to circulate petitions or write letters for me, and generally tried to keep them away from this issue in every way I could. As I told you, in my view, to do those things would only be to play the same game the Dean, my Chairman, my program Director, and at least two other faculty members in my department did. I would be using students as pawns, and abusing my power over them. [For more information about the abuse of students’ faith and trust by the College of Communication Dean, the department of Film and Television Chairman, the Film Studies Program Director, and various other Film and Television department faculty members, see the following site pages: “Lynch Mobs—Secret and Surreptitious Meetings to Foment Students Against a Teacher,” “Playing with Souls/Death Threats--Cynical Administrative Power-games,” and my reply to the letter from the student who said he wanted to come to Boston University to study with me on the “Letters to Prof. Carney” page. All three pages are available via the menu in the right-hand margin of this page.”] It is a matter of principle with me not to use students in this way. My goal, in fact, has been, as much as possible, to shield them from these sorts of internecine battles. Consequently, I would ask that you make every effort to continue to insulate the students I name and others from involvement with these issues. It is just not fair to them, and they can’t possibly understand the intellectual or bureaucratic issues at stake. On top of that, given the current state of affairs in my department and program, it would end up pitting them against their own close friends and their current or former teachers. As I describe in detail in this document, the students have already been used (and their trust abused) by one side, and I don’t want to be a party to doing the same thing, even on my own behalf. [The death-threat I describe in “Playing with Souls/Death Threats--Cynical Administrative Power-games” was one result of the pitting of students against each other in warring camps by unscrupulous authority figures in the College of Communication. I absolutely and categorically refuse to play with students’ emotions in this way, even if means denying myself the benefit of their testimony about the value of my teaching, mentoring, and support.] That is why, as I mentioned in my meeting with you, the two confidential letters I asked to be sent under separate cover to Prof. Sandell as testimony about the true atmosphere in my classroom were solicited from mature, adult auditors. I could have demonstrated the appalling falsehood of the letter from the young woman (and the presumed falsehood of any of the other letters that have been placed in my file that I have not been allowed to see) in other ways—e.g. by referring you to a large number of other students who were present in my classes, or by enlisting groups of students I have taught or worked with to write letters or sign petitions on my behalf—but, as I say, I didn’t want to force them to take sides for or against their teachers or friends. I have seen too many situations over the course of my career [in the Boston University College of Communication] where faculty members and other authority figures have abused their influence over their trusting and inexperienced charges to try to round up support for themselves or to retaliate against an administrator or other faculty member to ever want to play that game myself. It is immoral and irresponsible.

Please don’t hesitate to let me know if I can help you in any way or provide additional information. It is of critical importance that the “new BU” not allow the sins and excesses of the “old BU” to continue and that policies be instituted to ensure that nothing like this ever again be able to happen to a Boston University faculty member. If what I have written helps to achieve that goal, it will have served a large part of its purpose.

Oh, I almost forgot: As per your request, I am including a copy of my vita. Since I live my life in a whirlwind of swirling manuscripts and shifting publishing deadlines, it may be a little bit out of date; but it is ninety-nine percent correct. And sorry it too is so long!

With gratitude and best wishes,

Ray Carney
Prof. of Film and American Studies

Author of: The Films of John Cassavetes: Pragmatism, Modernism and the Movies (Cambridge University Press); The Films of Mike Leigh: Embracing the World (Cambridge University Press); Speaking the Language of Desire: The Films of Carl Dreyer (Cambridge University Press); American Vision: The Films of Frank Capra (Cambridge University Press); Shadows (Macmillan), Cassavetes on Cassavetes (Faber and Faber); American Dreaming (University of California at Berkeley); and many other books.