Thursday, April 3, 2014

Current Events—Part 3

“Punishment Will Be Continued Until Morale Improves
And the Individual Stops Objecting to Being Punished”

The paragraphs that follow continue Ray Carney’s listing of his academic accomplishments and the punitive and retaliatory actions taken against him for speaking out about ethical problems and professional misconduct he has observed at Boston University in the past year. The text is taken from his recently completed and filed “Faculty Annual Report.” It is recommended that you begin reading with “Current Events—Part 1” and “Current Events—Part 2,” posted on earlier blog pages. —Ray Carney

Scheduling shenanigans, ultimatums, and non-negotiable assignments: I have been told, for many years, that I will be assigned teaching days and times only after every other member of the Film Studies faculty (incidentally all junior to me) has had his or her pick of the days and times they desire to each. In the most recent round of scheduling for the fall 2013 semester, this scenario played out one more time, to an almost comic effect. My assigned class meeting time was changed three times, as one junior faculty member after another was allowed to claim the need for the class meeting time that had already been assigned to me and already agreed to by the Film Studies Director. After a week or so of being shuffled from one spot to another, I was given a choice of several days and times that were left unclaimed after all of the junior faculty members had made their selections. When I objected to the unfairness of this "last man on the totem pole" treatment, I was told that the other faculty members, however junior in rank or recent their arrival at BU, all had priority of choice over me. If no one else wants it (because students won't enroll in it), I get it.

Scheduling punishment: In the reporting period, I was given a schedule where I had to teach from 9AM to 9PM or later on the same day. (In previous years, the strung-out schedule was even worse, with the starting point for the first class of the day being even earlier, at 8AM, with another course on the same day running till 9PM or later assigned to me. In previous years, I sometimes had to teach this deliberately grueling schedule on more than one day of the week.) A teaching schedule spanning more than twelve hours. Worse than the janitors work. Creating scheduling nightmares like this to punish a faculty member, year after year, despite his requests for change, is administratively unconscionable. When I told the Film Studies Director how unfair this schedule seemed, he told me no change in my schedule would even be considered. (Though, as is his wont in his interactions with me, in meetings, in person, and by email, his choice of words was much ruder than the preceding summary indicates.)

Unilaterally imposed schedule changes without consulting with the faculty member: In February 2013, I was notified that my teaching schedule was being changed, to move one of my regular courses into another semester, without prior consultation with me or my approval and agreement. (This was on top of giving me the course overload I described at the beginning of this report.) I wrote a memo to my Dean and Chairman objecting to the fact that this extreme change in my schedule was made unilaterally and punitively, without even the semblance of asking for my input or consent. As with so many of my other communications with my Dean and Chairman, I received no reply or response.

For the ninth or tenth year running, one or more of my classes was deliberately listed in one of several different ways that made it impossible for a significant number of prospective students to enroll. The two most common ways this is done are: 1) a mythical (and unobtainable) “permission required” notice is posted next to the class listing discouraging students from registering for it (since they don’t have any idea how to obtain the unspecified “permission”); or 2) the class is, against my wishes, closed to non film majors (who are an important proportion of the potential enrollment pool), who are then shut out by the computer and have no way of getting past its blockage of their registration efforts. I have strenuously objected to both of these practices, which for many years have prevented a large number of students from taking courses with me. As with most of the other things I have reported, the department Chairman and Film Studies director either do not reply to my memos and emails, or simply deny that this is going on, despite abundant evidence to the contrary (including numerous emails from students describing their inability to enroll in my courses).

On the positive side: As has been the case in every class I have taught for the past ten or more years, a number current or former students or professors at other institutions have audited my courses. (I think I can say with some accuracy that every course I have taught in the last ten years has had at least one adult auditor.) I am glad to have these auditors since their scrupulous attendance, level of emotional engagement with the material, and intelligence significantly raises the level of the discussion (and imparts a lesson to unintellectual film students).

A number of former students also continue to sit in on one or more of my classes (and where appropriate to speak to the current students about “life after BU”). I also take out, to coffee or lunch, a significant number of former students visiting Boston from other locations. They have fond memories of our classes together and kindly take time to visit and tell me about their lives and work. I treat of course, but the department does not reimburse me. Ever.

A number of visiting artists come to my classes when they are in Boston. I often ask them to speak to my students about “life after BU.” Part of the reason I personally host them is that the faculty organizer of the department “Cinémathèque,” the official speakers series run by the department, told me that he categorically refused to invite anyone I nominated. He displayed a remarkable candor in replying to my nominations for speakers. He told me that anyone I nominated would never be hosted by the department. He refused and actually told me it was a conscious and admitted act of vindictiveness against me. Such is the collegiality of my department. At least, in this case, they are honest about their motives and actions. (Unlike the lies that they have told about many of the other retaliatory actions taken against me.)

The retaliation actually goes further than the above practice. Filmmaker friends have told me how the faculty member who hosts the department “Cinémathèque” has withdrawn an invitation for them to speak at BU or has discontinued negotiations with them about coming to speak, when they have—all too innocently—mentioned that they knew me or admired my work. That was that. It was the end of their invitation; or the end of their negotiation on when they were to visit campus and speak. The faculty member in charge of the “Cinémathèque” actually told them explicitly that he refused to invite them in that case, and had only been talking to them not realizing that they knew me or admired my ideas! The almost comical goal is to keep “friends or fans of Carney from being invited.” (I’d laugh out loud at the silliness and pettiness, if the intentions behind the practice weren’t so mean-spirited, and if it wasn’t so unfair to the filmmakers who have had their invitations withdrawn or not offered to them in the first place.) Yes, it really gets this petty, personal, and nasty in my department. Welcome to the BU speakers series.

You can add the preceding pieces of collegial nastiness to the long list of other acts of collegial nastiness intended to ostracize and punish me. As another glowing illustration of department collegiality, my program Director is known to have told graduate students who expressed admiration for my teaching or ideas that they would not be receiving a letter of recommendation from him. Again, the attitude would be worth laughing at if it didn’t impact the lives of so many students so negatively. Welcome to the BU I function in, the BU my Chairman and Dean let go on this way. The BU of spite and malice.

Since I described them in detail in several years of previous reports, I shall not again describe an extensive series of secret and surreptitious meetings that the Director of Film Studies held with students to convince them not to take courses with me. I provided particulars describing these “lynch mob” meetings in reports I filed with the university Ombuds and a number of senior administrators, including two different Provosts. [I describe some of these meetings on three blog pages I posted in April 2013: "Lynch Mobs—Secret and Surreptitious Meetings to Foment Students Against a Teacher," "Playing with Souls/Death Threats—Cynical Administrative Power-games," and "Letter to the University Ombuds—Events That Almost Defy Belief." I’d refer the interested reader there to learn more about the actions of my colleagues to undermine my relations with my students.]

The Ombuds expressed sympathy with my situation and told me that she had heard accounts from other faculty members who had corroborated what I had reported and had gone on to tell her other horror stories about similar treatment they themselves had experienced in the College of Communication. However (to my astonishment and dismay), neither she nor any of the other BU administrators (including two university Provosts) with whom I filed reports about these meetings has, right up to the present moment, done anything to change the situation, correct the problem, or offer redress for the financial and bureaucratic punishments I received and continue to receive. Nothing of any substance has been done by anyone, including the Ombuds: no investigation; no report of findings; no action to remedy the situation; no redress for my lost pay; and no removal or disciplining of the individuals clearly and provably guilty of these well-documented forms of professional misbehavior. There has not even been a reply denying anything (since that would be impossible given the documentary evidence). The only reply has been to ignore the reports.

The non-response, the non-action, the non-correction would be simply unbelievable at any other academic institution. But this is the BU way—the way Boston University has been for thirty or forty years at this point (with many of the offending administrators still in their same positions, doing the same things they did in the past). The higher-ups in the BU administration make it their policy to turn a blind eye to ethical violations and professional misconduct if it involves fellow administrators. The only cases they investigate and punish are against students and faculty members. The legal office is ready to do that at a moment's notice. What's wrong with this picture?

The text of Ray Carney’s most recent “Faculty Annual Report” (submitted in the spring of 2014) continues on the next blog page. See “Current Events—Part 4."