Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Lynch Mobs--Secret and Surreptitious Meetings to Foment Students Against a Teacher

What follows is a summary of a much longer and more detailed account of Prof. Carney’s treatment by Boston University administrators that was initially sent to Julie Sandell, Associate Provost for Faculty Development, and subsequently passed on to Francine Montemurro, the University Ombuds. It describes, in summary form, a number of the punishments inflicted on Prof. Carney to attempt to persuade him to stop submitting his reports about professional misconduct and ethical violations taking place in the Boston University College of Communication, and at a subsequent point to attempt to force him to resign his professorship (since he couldn’t be fired due to his tenured status).

The most outrageous of the retaliatory actions taken against him were a series of secret and surreptitious meetings university administrators held with students to stir up emotions against Prof. Carney, to attempt to destroy his reputation, and discourage students from enrolling in his classes. The meetings were kept secret from Prof. Carney, who only learned about them much later, when a number of students whose consciences bothered them told him what first his Dean and subsequently his Program Director and others had done. (See the end of the site page, “Censorship, Punishment, Abuse, Threats--Being Banned in Boston,” for an insight into how meetings held by BU administrators are regularly concealed by suppressing records of them having taken place. To this day administrators and faculty members who organized and ran them deny that these secret meetings with students to attack Prof. Carney's work and character ever took place, even though dozens of students have confirmed that they were present at them--and that they were ashamed that they allowed themselves to be used in this way.) 

The 125-page report that this summary is based on provides much more detail about these and other events, and offers approximately 200 pages of supporting documents naming names and giving dates when specific events took place.

A Summary of Prof. Ray Carney’s Appeal to

Boston University Ombuds Francine Montemurro

Prof. Carney is a tenured Professor of Film and American Studies in the Boston University Dept. of Film and Television. He served as Director of Film Studies for more than a decade and as department Chairman when the regular Chairman was on leave. For the first fourteen years of his appointment, serving under a variety of Chairmen, Deans, and Provosts, he was awarded the highest possible annual performance evaluations, garnered exceptionally positive course evaluations (with frequent references, year after year, to his courses being the most exciting and intellectually stimulating his students had taken in their entire Boston University careers), and was nominated by his Dean and many of his students for the Metcalf Award (the university’s highest award for excellence in teaching) on multiple occasions. He is a prolific and highly published scholar with an international reputation whose books and essays have been translated into more than ten languages, and who has been invited to speak or chair panels around the world. This was the situation up through the middle of 2003.

In May 2003, the College of Communication underwent a series of high-level administrative changes colloquially referred to as “the bloodbath.” The Dean of the College of Communication and Chairman of the Department of Film and Television were both forced to step down, and a new Dean (John Schulz), a new Film and Television department Chairman (Charles Merzbacher), and many new senior staff appointments were made at the demand of university President John Silber when the existing administrators made principled statements objecting to several changes in academic policies proposed by Silber.

Silber’s appointment of Schulz as the Dean was extremely controversial for a number of reasons. Not only had Schulz been found guilty of having committed plagiarism, and been forced to resign a previous academic position, a few years before; but it was widely reported by former colleagues that he had severe anger-management issues, was intolerant of differences of opinion, bullying in his demeanor, and sexist in his attitudes. (Only at BU would someone with such proven, known "issues" be appointed Dean of a College, and only at BU would faculty not be allowed any input into the selection process.) Many faculty and staff members felt that it was stunningly inappropriate for the College of Communication to be headed by such an individual, and several female staff members resigned shortly after Schulz took over the Deanship of the College. (Charges about additional acts of plagiarism and of Schulz's personal unsuitability for his office continued to follow him into the Dean’s office, and he was forced to resign his position several years later after additional new charges of professional misconduct and accusations of additional acts of plagiarism were raised by several senior faculty members, including Prof. Carney.)

Immediately after moving into the Dean’s office, Schulz proposed a series of wide-ranging changes in admissions standards, curriculum requirements, course structure, student evaluation methods, and grading policies—all designed to "bring in more tuition dollars,” as he candidly admitted. Prof. Carney was one of a small number of College of Communication faculty members who spoke out against the proposed changes, in both meetings and memos, expressing concerns not only that they lowered intellectual and pedagogical standards, but posed serious threats to academic freedom, insofar as they took the organization of courses and evaluation of student performance, in whole or in part, out of the hands of the classroom teacher. As one of a very small number of faculty members in the College of Communication who were tenured, Carney felt it was his duty to speak up about many of these issues for faculty whose untenured appointments placed them in more precarious positions, and in many respects became an unofficial spokesman for the junior faculty in the College.

In the spirit of speaking up for faculty who couldn’t speak for themselves at the risk of losing their jobs, in the years that followed, Prof. Carney expressed a range of additional concerns about many other curricular and bureaucratic issues—including serious procedural violations in the annual faculty review process and in the conduct of tenure and promotion reviews. Prof. Carney’s reports raised the following issues, and others:

·      Recommendations for promotion and tenure were made without adequate familiarity with the candidate’s dossier by those voting and without the recommenders being professionally competent to evaluate the candidate’s teaching and publishing credentials. (In typical instances, individuals with absolutely no scholarly training or experience—individuals whose backgrounds were in business or professional fields—were allowed to cast deciding votes on the hiring or promotion of scholars, or to pronounce opinions on the value of scholarly research and publications that were completely beyond their ability to understand.)

·      The membership of tenure and promotion committees was jury-rigged by the Dean or the department Chairman to achieve preferred outcomes by removing individuals who had expressed different opinions from those of the administrators and by packing the committees with individuals who agreed with an administrator’s pre-existing opinion about a candidate.

·      The Chairman and Dean had engaged in systematic, covert “lobbying” of outside referees in promotion and tenure cases, or concealed the fact that supposedly independent outside referees had a covert, undisclosed relationship with the administrator or the department, in attempts to guarantee favorable assessments of favored candidates.

·      The Chairman and department members had falsified their resumes by pressuring former film students fraudulently to credit them as the “Producer” of their work.

Prof. Carney also expressed a range of concerns about the ways courses were run, taught, and evaluated, including speaking out against:

 ·     The prohibition of the discussion of “controversial” intellectual issues by a faculty member in courses, to avoid “upsetting” students (hence jeopardizing alumni contributions, etc.). 

·      Rampant grade inflation, where high grades are used by teachers to “buy” favorable student evaluations (and subsequent pay raises from administrators). Various other forms of cheating on and misuse of the course evaluation system.  

·      Administrative dictates about specific ways courses must be structured, taught, evaluated, and graded by faculty members, posing serious threats to the individual teacher’s academic freedom to structure courses and evaluate students in ways he or she deemed best.

·      The shortening of the number of teacher-student contact hours in the classroom; the policy of scheduling undergraduate courses to meet only one day a week for the convenience of the faculty member; and the devotion of more than half of the hours of a course’s scheduled meeting time to film screenings, with the result that students effectively receive half of their course credits for sitting in the dark watching a movie rather than experiencing actual teaching.  

·      The delegation of teaching duties, even in graduate courses, to graduate students and others who did not hold advanced, terminal academic degrees or have demonstrated competence to teach the subject area.  

·      The policy of film professors to absent themselves from their own classrooms during scheduled class meeting times, letting teaching assistants without advanced degrees run parts of courses, including graduate sections. 

·      The rigging of the student evaluation process to eliminate or minimize negative evaluations in order to fraudulently inflate a faculty member’s teaching ratings and subsequent pay raises. The misuse of student evaluations by College of Communication administrators to play favorites and punish "faculty enemies."

·      Serious violations, by the institution and by individual teachers, of copyright regulations and licensing agreements connected with the unauthorized screening, distribution, reproduction, and other use of copyrighted material in the classroom, on the internet, and elsewhere. 

·      The creation of fictitious “graduate-level” courses though the clerical sleight-of-hand of assigning graduate-level course numbers to pre-existing undergraduate courses, so that grad students received their educations sitting next to and effectively taking the same courses and listening to the same lectures as undergraduates.

Beginning in the fall of 2003, under Dean Schulz and Chairman Merzbacher, and continuing for the next ten years under their replacements, Prof. Carney expressed the preceding and many other ethical, professional, procedural, and pedagogical concerns. He cited first-hand experiences he had had; he reported things student after student had told him (e.g., about particular faculty members whose entire courses consisted of showing movies to students while the faculty member went out and drank beer at a local bar); he provided facts and information (e.g., about the lobbying of allegedly "outside" referees in promotion or tenure cases, while concealing their undisclosed prior ties to the Dean or Chairman); etc.; etc. And nothing was done. No discussion was held. No inquiry was launched. No questions were asked. No request for more information was made of Prof. Carney. After several years of receiving no substantive response at the College level (beyond the negative, retaliatory responses that will be described in the following paragraphs--scurrilous attacks on his character; surreptitious efforts to make the performance of his job untenable; attempts to dig up dirt to use against him to remove him; accusations of "uncollegiality" and hits on his pay; etc.), Prof. Carney began relaying his concerns directly to the Boston University Provost and President--via the "Additional Information" sections of his required annual reports and via separate letters written to both officials. [To read two sample letters, one to the Provost and one to the President, see the relevant pages of the March section of the site.] These communications with the most senior levels of the Boston University administration extended over more than six years of reports.

At that point, needless to say, another layer of unethical behavior had been added to the observations and concerns--namely, the fact that administrators (the Dean, the department Chairman, the Film Studies Program Director, and others ultimately including the Provost and President) demonstrably knew that these things were going on--at the junior levels knew them by their own first-hand knowledge since they themselves had done many of these things; or at the most senior levels, if they hadn't been directly involved, knew them by Prof. Carney's report of them--and, at all levels, refused to do anything about them, even to investigate them, even to look into them. At  this point, BU administrators were, in other words, protecting their friends and fellow administrators (and protecting themselves) by deliberately looking the other way, by attacking the messenger who was reporting the problems.

It would be an understatement to say that Dean Schulz, Chairman Merzbacher, and their successors did not appreciate Prof. Carney’s raising of these issues. Many of the things he was reporting threatened to reveal improprieties of which they themselves were guilty or, at least, had a turned a blind eye toward, and they felt themselves directly threatened by his reports. They functioned in a culture of casual and almost inadvertent corruption that they hardly noticed and everyone supported because everyone benefited from it. What's not to like? Appointments and promotions were more predictable if you rigged the vetting system. Teaching was easier if you could start a movie and leave the classroom--and students didn't object to getting course credit for sitting in the dark watching a movie. Pay raises were more dependable if you gamed the evaluation system. In the minds of these administrators and faculty members, they were making the system run more efficiently. They were making things easier and better. They were not about to turn themselves in. It was clear to them what the real problem was: not them and their actions, but Carney's whistle-blowing. Carney's statements and observations were mocked, derided, and criticized as being meddling and unwanted; he was yelled at and called names for what he had written; he was told to stop saying such things and submitting such reports. And when he did not stop, a concerted campaign was initiated to punish him—financially, bureaucratically, and personally—and to attempt to minimize the impact of his statements to the extent they reached administrators outside the College by systematically working to undermine his professional stature and credibility, so that senior-level administrators would not take what he said seriously. The punishment process went on for almost ten years, and continues into the present. The 125-page narrative and almost 200-pages of supporting documents given to the university Ombuds provide a detailed account of these acts of administrative punishment, but the next few paragraphs can stand as a brief overview. [Many other pages of this site have more detailed information about some of these actions, and reprint a number of the supporting documents connected with them. See the side menu entries for March for details about some of the specific actions that were taken to attempt to silence Prof. Carney, or punish him if he would not be silenced.]

The ultimate goal, if he wouldn’t agree to be silenced, was to force Prof. Carney to resign. Since he had tenure, he could not be fired simply for filing reports and speaking up at meetings, but the conditions of his employment could be made so untenable that, even with tenure, he would choose to quit rather than continue to subject himself to such punishment.

·      His annual evaluations were lowered (for his alleged “uncollegiality” and failure to be “a team player”). His research funding was withdrawn and pay was negatively affected. When he appealed the unfairness of having his evaluations, funding, and pay negatively impacted because of his reports of ethical violations and professional misconduct, in explicit violation of Faculty Handbook procedures, his appeals were ignored and not responded to (except to criticize him for being "uncollegial" for having filed them).

·      He was marginalized administratively—forced to resign his position as Film Studies Program Director; and was kept from serving on important committees, including those dealing with faculty hiring, scholarship awards, and graduate admissions (a committee he had previously chaired for more than a decade).

·      He was kept away from (and enjoined not to contact) incoming graduate students, and was removed from the list of faculty included at open house and student orientation events. His student advisees were taken away.

·      His teaching was made as difficult as possible. His courses were assigned to unsuitable classrooms and undesirable teaching times. Students were actively discouraged by the new Film Studies Program Director from taking classes with him, or waived out of required courses taught by him.

·      In an apparent effort to undermine his stature as a mentor and teacher, and cut into the enrollment of his courses, Prof. Carney was yelled at in front of his students—berated, called names, and had his performance of his duties criticized in public places.

·      The department Chairman organized a series of department meetings devoted to allowing junior members of the department faculty to criticize Prof. Carney’s publications and launch personal attacks on his character, morals, and mental state.

As awful (and unethical) as the preceding treatment was, a new low was reached with a separate set of unethical practices begun by Schulz and continued by a small number of other College of Communication administrators (most notably including the Director of Film Studies, Roy Grundmann) after Schulz was forced to resign his position. Though the tactics were highly unethical, they were not really unusual for Schulz. Throughout the period of his Deanship, he was well-known for employing a variety of underhanded tactics and “dirty tricks” against faculty he defined as being “troublemakers” (his term for anyone who expressed opinions different from his own). Carney clearly fell into that category in the Dean's view, and he did not hesitate to pull out all of the stops in attempting to get him.

Schulz made it clear to Prof. Carney that if he did not stop speaking up and filing reports about ethical issues, he would—“come hell or high water”—find a way to have him removed from his academic position. The Dean made a number of explicit threats to Carney's face: He told Prof. Carney that he was “checking up on” his background and employment record before he had arrived at BU; that he was reading private, confidential emails he had sent to colleagues and outsiders, on the university server; and that he was talking to his colleagues and to staff members in a concerted effort to come up with (an objective observer might say “manufacture”) something that could be used to dismiss him, tenure or no tenure. The Dean also made a series of threats about unearthing personal indiscretions in Carney’s life that could be used to dismiss him. (He clearly had no shame, and talked about such things to Carney openly.) When nothing came of these efforts (since there was nothing compromising to find), he adopted a new tactic (that Carney later discovered was based on a series of events that had transpired in Schulz’s own life). In violation of every normal and accepted code of professional conduct, Schulz held a series of secret and surreptitious meetings with Prof. Carney’s present and former students, without informing Prof. Carney (and allowing him to reply or defend himself), to slander and savage Prof. Carney—to stir up emotions and foment complaints—telling the students, as if they were facts, a series of lies about Prof. Carney’s character and morals and then relying on the force of his position to pressure them to submit criticisms of their teacher. Most students needless to say, refuse to participate in such a scheme of manufacturing complaints to order, but there are always a small number of individuals who, for various personal reasons including receiving a low grade in a course, are willing to participate in such a scheme, particularly when it is urged upon them by an authority figure who holds such power over their futures. But, as Schulz well knew (based on the experience I’ve alluded to that he himself had had) the damage is done simply by holding the meeting and telling the lies. Even if no one goes along with the administrator’s instructions, word spreads like wildfire among the students about what has been said about their teacher. Course enrollments, and student evaluations, plummet precipitously on the basis of unfounded, unproven, and completely false accusations, which the Professor is not even aware are being made against him.

Such behavior on the part of a senior administrator, such deliberate threats and acts of intimidation, may seem just too immoral, too outrageous, too beyond the pale, to be believed, but it is a documented fact that many other faculty members whom Schulz categorized as “troublemakers,” because of their principled attempts to defend academic standards or pedagogical practices, were treated to similarly outrageous behavior, and were the victims of similarly unscrupulous “dirty tricks”—often involving the same device of attempting to turn their own students against them. In short, this sort of behavior was vintage Schulz, done over and over again against anyone on the faculty he defined as a "faculty enemy" (another of the Dean's endearing pet terms for professors who dared to voice views different from his). Professors [names of four College of Communication professors have been removed at this point] can verify the similar tactics the Dean employed against them. Each of them experienced something similar at one point or another. The only difference in Prof. Carney’s case is that he appears to have been subject to the most sustained, continuing administrative retaliation—probably because he was the most senior and most outspoken member of the group.

Ironically enough, Prof. Carney’s actions to have Schulz removed from the Deanship several years later (on the ground that he was guilty of a series of acts of professional misconduct and unethical behavior unrelated to the ones described above) only increased the nastiness of the treatment he subsequently received from several other Boston University administrators after Schulz stepped down. As someone who had lined the pockets of cooperating College of Communication administrators with pay raises and provided support for their pet projects, Schulz was the Golden Goose with Deep Pockets as far as they were concerned, and a number of university administrators and faculty members who had benefited financially from being friends with him, or who had had their careers furthered by him harbored intense lingering resentments against the individuals who had worked to have him removed from the Dean's office. (That is, in fact, why a number of the principals involved in bringing Schulz's misconduct to light resigned or took early retirement in the following years. They saw the writing on the wall in terms of their careers. They may have won the battle, in removing Schulz; but realized that they had lost the war to be able to continue their careers at BU.)

The lingering resentment against those who participated in Schulz’s removal extended, in fact, to the highest levels of the university administration. Schulz had made it a policy to cultivate administrative friends in high places, and several years after he stepped down, long after one would have thought the dust had settled, in a meeting in his office, the Provost reproached Prof. Carney by saying that he had been “wrong about John” and “made a mistake” in working to have Schulz removed from the Deanship. The university Provost told Carney that he knew Schulz better than Carney ever could, and trusted his own judgment of him because Schulz had been and continued to be a “close good friend”—someone he had a strong and long-standing personal relationship with. It was a statement that not only indicates the negative feelings, even years later, the Provost still felt about the individuals who had helped to remove Schulz, but explains why Schulz got off with less than an administrative slap on the wrist during the earlier investigation into his misconduct (rather than being drummed out of the College for academic misconduct, his punishment was a promotion: he was given a full professorship at full salary, and the charges that had been made against him were hand-waved-away with a self-serving press release), since the Provost had appointed himself as the head of the inquiry without revealing the fact that the person he was in charge of investigating was an avowed “close good friend” of his. In short, it was a shameless conflict of interest for the Provost to have appointed himself in charge of the investigation of Schulz's misconduct in the first place; but from the days of John Silber to the present, BU administrators have never been reluctant to support each other in their moments of need, or shy about appointing themselves as the final judges of the conduct of an admitted "good friend." It’s only faculty members who speak their minds and make principled statements who come in for merciless administrative treatment and dismissal at BU. 

A personal note: I might as well add that while Shultz got rewarded for his proven misconduct, the Provost subsequently tried to talk me into quitting. Call it bury the evidence; eliminate the witnesses to the crime. He offered me a deal if I would resign and leave BU. Of course I couldn't afford to do it after the hits on my pay. I turned him down. But I had to laugh out loud. It was so poetically ironic. While the plagiarist thug and bully Dean had been accommodated, asked to join the faculty at a high salary, and promoted into the Professoriate, the scholar and master teacher whose courses are adored by his students was being pressured to quit and leave. Welcome to Boston University. It's the BU way. 

That is why it should not come as a surprise that meetings similar to the ones Schulz had held in the Dean’s office continued in other offices and places in the years after Schulz stepped down. Many more secret and surreptitious meetings were held by College of Communication administrators (as noted above, the ringleader of much of this unethical activity was the Director of Film Studies, Roy Grundmann) with students—in groups small and large, in classrooms and offices—to slander and malign Prof. Carney’s work, character, and morals, even as Prof. Carney was kept from knowing that the meetings were taking place, let alone from being allowed to defend himself from the fictitious and fraudulent accusations. It was done on the sly, behind Prof. Carney's back, and with no opportunity for him to know about, let alone reply to and rebut the lies and misrepresentations students were told about him. The Film and Television department Chairman, the Film Studies Program Director, and several individual faculty members held a series of meetings modeled on the meetings held by Shultz (they had, after all, learned the technique from him and learned that it was acceptable behavior when one wanted to retaliate against a "difficult" colleague), where students were told a variety of falsehoods about Prof. Carney, and were again pressured to submit complaints—with the Program Director, the Chairman, and at least one senior faculty member not only pressuring the students to do what they told them (at the risk of being denied a necessary letter of recommendation or, in the case of the teachers involved in the plot, risking being given a low grade in a course), but also telling the students what points to make, how to word their complaints, and, in several cases, with the administrator or faculty member actually dictating or editing the letter to be signed by the student, which was then subsequently submitted to senior administrators, with its origins concealed—as if it had freely and independently originated with and been created by the student alone. The involvement of the lower-level administrators in soliciting, manufacturing, and in several cases ghost-writing the letters was kept secret not only from Prof. Carney but from the recipient. Actions that cannot bear the light of day must, of necessity, be performed covertly and surreptitiously. When the administrators in question were later asked about the meetings, they denied they had ever taken place--even as a number of the students who had sat through them, and subsequently regretted that they had gone along with them, confirmed how students’ feelings had blatantly and unfairly been played on. In the description of one of the students, an authority figure had treated them like a lynch mob being incited to take action against one of their teachers. The student was ashamed at what he had been asked to do, and ashamed of the institution that had asked him to do it.

These events are not ancient history. Many similar punitive actions (as well as the ethical and procedural violations and pedagogical problems that Prof. Carney had tried to draw attention to for almost a decade at this point) continue unabated in recent years and much of the administrative retaliation against Carney continues. The Director of Film Studies, Roy Grundmann, continues openly to slander Carney and his work to students and to tell students not to study with him. Prof. Carney has continued to be publicly criticized in front of students and others by his Chairman; has been criticized for his expression of his reservations about the integrity of the hiring, promotion, and retention process by his current Dean; has been criticized for communicating with his students via email by his current Dean; continues to be treated disrespectfully at meetings; and continues to have his pay frozen and support for his research and publishing denied to him. [Much of the rest of this site, page after page of the entries posted in March 2013 for example, provides detailed documentation of the fact that the punitive and retaliatory events continue right up into the present. The side menu has more than you want to know on this subject.]

Prof. Carney lists the remedies he is requesting on pages 114-115 of the narrative document he submitted to the university Ombuds. None of the actions he has requested has been taken as of the date of this summary [or the date of this web posting]. In fact, the only response he has received from Boston University administrators has been to have his reports of ethical violations and professional misconduct, his appeals to the Provost to have his annual evaluations reviewed, and his reports to the university Ombuds themselves cited as further evidence of his “uncollegiality,” “not being a team player,” and being a “troublemaker” and used as justifications for further punitive actions against him. 

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Please note that several days after the above posting went up, Prof. Carney added a postscript in response to an email he received about it. The postscript, which alludes to death threats that were connected with the shameless, irresponsible actions of BU administrators in inflaming and inciting students against Prof. Carney and in pitting groups of students against each other in warring camps, is available via the menu in the top right margin of this page. See "Playing with Souls/Death Threats—Cynical Administrative Power-games."

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To read a summary of the past decade of financial and bureaucratic punishments, pedagogical failures, violations of academic freedom, verbal harassment, threats to destroy Prof. Carney's reputation via web postings and to bankrupt him with legal actions, and a variety of other forms of administrative misconduct and academic misbehavior at Boston University, see: “A Summary—Ten Years at Boston University,” available under June 2014 in the side menu on any page.