Thursday, April 3, 2014

Current Events—Part 4

Black Comedy and Gallows Humor
A Funhouse-Mirror, 
Topsy-Turvy Inversion of Academic Life

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," “Current Events—Part 2,” and Current Events—Part 3," posted on earlier blog pages. —Ray Carney

My Chairman has continued his policy of denying me any undergraduate advisees, and my program Director has prevented graduate students from having me as an advisor. No advisees for Carney, for years. (The comedy of it is that this is many faculty members' dream of course; no students to have to deal with, yippee! But it is sure not being done to reward me. On the contrary. Both men, particularly the program Director, are hostile to me personally for reasons known to them alone.)

All of my advisees were all taken away from me around 2007 or 2008 as part of an attempt to alienate my students from me and prevent me from having any influence over them. Despite my objections to my Chairman and Dean (none responded to by either man, as usual), the policy has continued unchanged since then. (The withholding of advisees is part of a more general punitive department policy of alienating me from and preventing me from interacting with students, particularly grad students, that has many other components, including having one of two “required” courses I taught being removed from the “required” list, and systematically and repeatedly “waiving” students out of the requirement to take the other course. Both of these things were done by the Director of the Film Studies program.)

In a similar vein, graduate students in my program have been prevented from having me as their thesis supervisor or second reader for the past five or six years by the Director of Film Studies, by having their thesis supervisor assigned to them by him, rather than (as was the case for decades before the decision was made to retaliate against me) allowing grad students writing theses to pick a faculty member of their choice as a supervisor or reader.

On a positive note, despite the preceding (and many other) attempts to prevent me from working with students, my office is often full of students (who frequently come in groups) seeking my advice or simply wanting to talk and share their ideas. Many undergrads come to me and tell me about their dissatisfaction with the lack of intellectual challenge in the production program and about the narrow-mindedness and anti-intellectualism of four production teachers in particular. I do my best to suggest workarounds, and if that does not result in a satisfactory outcome, I sometimes recommend that they transfer into more academically rigorous and intellectually stimulating majors outside the College of Communication Department of Film and Television (which, when all is said and done, is little more than a vocational training school with an enormous price tag if only there were jobs at the other end to make it as successful as a real vocational training school).

A number of graduate students also come to me for advice about dealing with difficult faculty membersand there are some real dillies! I take their problems seriously (since I have heard similar complaints about several of these faculty members from dozens of students over many years). And I treat their conversations with me with absolute and complete confidentiality. I give them the best advice of which I am capable, given the impossibility of the situation. It seems particularly ironic to me that the faculty members the students consistently and repeatedly complain about or describe having personal conflicts with, year after year, are the exact same faculty members who have engaged in a range of reprehensible practices to attack, discredit, and undermine my work with students for many years. I guess the lesson is that a faculty member who treats a colleague he feels threatened by disrespectfully and abusively, treats his students just as unprofessionally. 

To add a little black comedy to the situation, I might as well note that these same few faculty members, the ones the students have the most trouble dealing with, are among my Dean’s and my Chairman’s faculty “darlings.” Despite students’ feelings about them as teachers, they are the ones who get the teaching awards. They are the ones whose pay goes up year after year. It's almost become a standing joke among the faculty that if the Dean gives someone an award at Commencement or praises them at a faculty meeting, you can be sure that the individual is a jerk and an administrative suck-up. But that's the topsy-turvy, upside-down world I live in. It’s the BU College of Communication and Department of Film and Television, after all—the funhouse mirror version of what real academic life is about. Forget ideas; forget pedagogical or verbal brilliance; forget real teaching and real learning; forget education. Bureaucratic sycophants rule and follow-the-leader organization-men triumph. Vote with the Dean and get a promotion. Do your duty to speak out, raise questions, or point out ethical problems, and take the consequences. [See my department Chairman's warning to me about the consequences of taking ethical stands in "Current Events Part 6," or read "Frightening Advice--The Need for Ethical Speech," available  in the right-hand menu under March 2014.]

During the reporting period, and for many years prior to it, though Boston University did not assign any graduate or undergraduate student advisees to me, or allow students to select me as their thesis director, I did advise and assist graduate students at other universities, at their request, including advising Ph.D. students at other universities writing their theses or dissertations. (In other words, the advising and mentoring that my program Director and Chairman will not allow me to perform with my own students, other schools and students are grateful to have me do. How weird is that? How much does that tell you about Boston University?)

Fraudulently re-named and re-numbered undergraduate courses: I continued to speak out against the policy of Boston University grad students in the Film Studies program being given graduate degrees by taking deceptively renumbered undergraduate courses, where all they do is, in effect, repeat a couple years of undergraduate education. The grad students are being deceived and defrauded of the educational experiences they are paying for. They deserve better teachers, better courses, better treatment. [See "Part 1--Academic Horror Stories," available in the side menu for January 2014.]

Unqualified faculty members teaching grad students: I continued to speak out against the lack of qualifications of specific teachers who are allowed to teach graduate students. These teachers themselves lack degrees beyond the masters, have few or no scholarly qualifications or intellectual accomplishments, and, in more than one case, are themselves just former masters degree graduate students (and the dirty secret is that they were sometimes not the best of the grad students) who, a short time before, graduated the same program they are now teaching graduate students in. This is a pedagogical disgrace and scandal. Letting current or former grad students without Ph.D.s teach freshman composition is one thing; allowing them to teach grad students in (supposedly) advanced graduate courses is intellectually fraudulent and pedagogically indefensible. [See "Part 5--Real and Pretend Thinking," available in the side menu for February 2014.]

I have expressed serious ethical problems with the various ways Film Studies, Film Production, and Screenwriting graduate students are being knowingly misled at Open House and Visiting Day events about both course offerings and post-graduation employment prospects in order to persuade them to send in their tuition deposits. Vocationally and educationally speaking, many of them are being lied to and knowingly defrauded of their tuition dollars, with no reasonable expectation of ever being able to obtain full-time or satisfying employment in the field they are studying. Concealing this fact from them, and deliberately misleading them in this way is a clear betrayal of trust and an act of immorality, but I have been shouted down (and, in a shoot-the-messenger attempt to silence me, told to "shut up, we've heard enough from you"an exact quote from one of my colleagues during a department meeting, one of dozens of similar bits of nastiness the meeting Chairmana Dean, a department Chairman, or the Film Studies program Directorincites, encourages, tolerates, or himself personally administersand have been berated, name-called, and had my morals and character attacked in front of groups of students in public places) when I attempt to raise these and related issues at Film Studies or Film and Television Department meetings. 

A note to the blog reader: Can you believe this kind of personal, ad hominem abuse is actually allowed to go on at meetings and a Dean or Chairman does nothing to stop it, or even to reign it in? I couldn't either, when it first started happening to me in department meetings in 2007 (though I had had three years of personal abuse and name-calling in the privacy of my Dean's office, behind closed doors, prior to the point the abuse went public and the name-calling began being administered to me in front of larger groups of people). But it does at BU. And it certifiably continues up into this current reporting year. [For more information about the kinds of meetings my Dean, my department Chairman, and the director of Film Studies chair and run, see the following two blog postings: "How (Not) to Conduct a Meeting—Shouts, Name-Calling, Personal Attacks, Threats, Punishments," and the introduction to: "Public Shaming as an Administrative Technique,” available via the side menu on this page. Many other blog pages include descriptions of other acts of group name-calling, character-assassination, and harassment gleefully organized by and presided over by the Dean of the College of Communication, the Chairman of the Department of Film and Television, and the Director of Film Studies, extending over six or seven years, and continuing right up into the reporting period of this report.] 

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 5."