Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Current Events—Part 6

 Violations of Academic Freedom—
Continuations of Silber-Era Policies 
"You have to hand it to the BU lawyers. Their solution to the censorship problem is really quite brilliant—and absurd. They cut their teeth under John Silber, after all. They've had decades to refine their methods."
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,” Current Events—Part 3," "Current Events—Part 4," and "Current Events—Part 5," posted on earlier blog pages. —Ray Carney

In a meeting with me in February 2013, my Chairman reaffirmed the suppression of my BU faculty web site, whose content was censored in 2006 and 2007, and which I was formally ordered to remove from the Boston University server in 2008 (giving me the distinction of very likely being the only faculty member in America not allowed to have a web site on his own university’s server). At that point, I was told that if I did not agree to remove the site, the university would make a series of internet postings that would destroy my professional stature and reputation, and would also (as my Chairman inimitably put it on numerous occasions) “bring in the lawyers” to destroy me financially by tying me up with legal maneuvers and law suits. [Several other blog pages contain more information about the order to remove my faculty web site from the BU server and the various threats that were made to destroy me financially and professionally if I did not do remove all of the material by a specific date. For a "crash course" on the subject of the suppression of ideas and administrative threats to financially and professionally destroy me (with me being the one being crashed into, and the free expression of my ideas in the classroom, in emails to my students, and in material published on the internet being what Boston University set out to destroy), see "Censorship, Punishment, Abuse, Threats: Being Banned in Boston," available in the side menu under March 2013 and "The Thought Police," available in the side menu under November 2013.] When I recalled these events in my conversation with my Chairman, and asked him if the censorship policy would continue, he indicated that there had been no change in the policy, nor was one contemplated. I was still the only faculty member not allowed to have a faculty web site at Boston University, and perhaps at any university in the United States. He told me that if I wanted a web site I should start my own and host it elsewhere than on the university server. The very next day I started posting to a newly created “Inside Boston University” blog at blogspot.com. [This was the beginning of the site you are now reading.] I have as of this date, posted more than 130,000 words objecting to the official censorship of my faculty web site, and to numerous other forms of professional misconduct and unethical behavior I have observed or been subject to at Boston University.

In the five months of entries I posted on the above blog during the reporting period, I received tens of thousands of unique visitors. The number is slightly smaller than the 50,000 visitors a month my official BU faculty web site (the one that was officially censored and banned by Boston University) brought in; however, the readership is comprised of a completely different set of people. The banned and censored BU site was read almost entirely by students and prospective students (and was in fact a major enrollment tool for applicants to the film program). The blogspot.com blog is read by faculty members who teach at many of America’s most prestigious universities. (I know this from the extremely large number of emails I receive commenting on my postings.) The biggest surprise for me personally has been that the three next-largest audiences of repeat readers of the blogspot.com postings [note to blog readers: I am referring to the postings on this site] are high-level academics in Israel, Germany, and China (readers living in China comprising the largest number of the three). Hundreds of professors in all three countries follow my blog postings and write to me regularly commenting on them. I have been told by several impartial observers in a position to know that the “Inside Boston University” blog is, in fact, one of the most important sites devoted to academic freedom of expression on the internet.

My Chairman told me in a meeting in his office in February 2013 that one of the reasons my Dean has been lowering my evaluations and penalizing my pay was because of critical remarks I made about the Dean’s professional ethics in a 2012 blog posting. My Chairman seemed to be oblivious of the fact that retaliating against a faculty member for something he writes or says is a flagrant violation of academic freedom—not to mention that objecting to a faculty member’s ethical statements is a shameful reason for a faculty member to be punished bureaucratically and financially. My job, my obligation, my duty as a faculty member, and my responsibility as an ethical human being is to criticize and, if possible, attempt to correct the actions of any administrator whom I have judged, after careful evaluation and due deliberation, to have engaged in unprofessional or unethical behavior that adversely affects the lives and livelihoods of others. To do any less would be to condone and implicitly sanction the misconduct. The administrator doesn’t have to agree with me; he doesn’t have to enjoy my statement; but to punish me for taking an ethical stand, for writing and publishing something, is morally unconscionable—and anathema to every principle of academic free speech. [I have accounts of similar and related events where I have been criticized and punished, bureaucratically and financially for taking ethical stands at Boston University on many other blog pages. For starters, see "Getting Punished for Blowing the Whistle" available in the right-hand margin under November 2013.]
[For the reference of the blog reader: The exact text my Chairman quoted back to me that day in his office as being something I should never have said and was being punished by my Dean for having posted is re-printed in: “Part 2: Ten Years of Administrative Retaliation for Speaking Up to Defend the Freedom of Academic Expression Inside and Outside the Classroom,” available via the side menu under the March 2013 blog postings.]
[A further note about the timing and earlier appearance of the particular blog posting that my Chairman said contributed to the administrative punishments I was receiving from my Dean: I originally posted the entire text of parts 1 and 2 of: “Ten Years of Administrative Retaliation for Speaking Up to Defend the Freedom of Academic Expression Inside and Outside the Classroom” on another independent blog site, in early 2012, approximately a year before I re-posted it on this current blog site, and, as a courtesy—in an attempt to be completely above-board, honorable, and non-secretive with my Dean about my ethical objections to his conduct—personally gave him a printout of my remarks approximately a month before I posted it on the first site. I wanted to give him fair warning of the forthcoming posting and to offer him an opportunity to respond, in the event he could persuade me that I was wrong. I guess you can say I was pathetically naïve. He didn’t thank me for giving him the advance copy, didn’t correct any of my facts, and didn’t reply to my criticisms, but wrote me a memo attacking me for having written what I had, and telling me that by saying what I had (i.e., by taking an ethical position) I had behaved in an “unprofessional" mannerhis term for my having spoken my mind and criticized his ethics. To take an ethical stand was not to behave in a "professional" way, in his view. To read several other similar comments by my Chairman, my Dean, and the Boston University Provost condemning ethical statements from faculty members, see the blog page titled: "Frightening Advice--The Need for Ethical Speech," available under March 2014 in the side menu.]

To pile one more act of censorship on top of the preceding acts of censorship, I continue to be officially prohibited from discussing BU's censorship policies (or other aspects of the mistreatment I have received or the professional misconduct I have witnessed at Boston University) in interviews with the media. If you can get your mind around it, my discussion of censorship is itself being censoredeven while the censorship is being denied by the institution. If it mattersthough it doesn't really because the logic was clearly cooked up after the fact to rationalize a decision that had already been madethe explicit argument that was made in a memo I received a couple years ago was that since Boston University is paying me, Boston University has a right to control what I say. In other words, Boston University in effect "owns" me and my statements to media outlets and interviewers as long as I am financially indebted to the university. Get it? Utterly specious but superficially clever and ingenious, eh? The BU lawyers have thought of everything. (They cut their teeth under John Silber, after all, and have had decades to refine their methods. Silber was an acknowledged master at threats and intimidation tactics, inside and outside the university, and the Boston University legal staff were his obedient enforcers, the cleverly lawyerly Stasi who did his bidding for decades. Trying to intimidate and scare me with specious legal logic is small potatoes for them. They are old hands at this stuff, and though Silber is gone, his replacement as President, a guy named Robert Brown, has left them in place so that they can keep doing their mischief.) So here's the logic behind the logic. Notice how clever this is: The way to prevent being institutionally embarrassed by past acts of censorship against a faculty member is to censor his future discussion of the censorship! If he can't talk about it, the institution can say it never happened. It's actually sort of funny to see the contortions the lawyers have placed themselves in, and have tried to put me in. They've tried to put me in a censorship Escher drawing, a censorship house of mirrors, a censorship Mobius-strip with no way out, where since I have been told I am not allowed to talk about what has taken place, they can then deny that anything has been done to me. You have to hand it to them. Their solution to the problem is really quite brilliantand absurd! Their system of suppression is air-tightto keep the truth from getting out (or from getting in). So much for academic freedom (and truth-telling) at BU. (Of course I'm violating the rule by talking about the censorship now; but that doesn't change the fact of the reprehensible and immoral policy they have put in place to attempt to silence me.)

On a more positive note, I worked with two different Boston University offices and sets of staff to strengthen and develop the media collections and to make recommendations to improve the facilities for the use of students. The current situation is less than ideal: The video collection is very limited (many titles are still not stocked, and many that are present are only included as twenty-year-old VHS tapes!). The viewing facility is an embarrassment. (My students call it “the ghetto,” and I personally refer to it as “the dungeon.") And the cataloging system is riddled with mistakes and omissions. Those who work in both sets of facilities (it's ridiculous—and confusing to students—that the video collection is split in half and stored in two different locations in the same building in the first place) are doing the best they can with a situation that has been defective, crippled, understaffed, and underfunded for decades but, as is the case with so much of BU’s other academic support facilities, their efforts are not supported by an administration that, in this and so many other support areas, continues the John “God” Silber policy of cheaping it out and knowingly defrauding students of the educational experience they are going so deeply in debt to obtain. (Silber was famous for caring more about impressing his high-roller friends and cronies than providing students with educations. The way he ran the university was always more about pleasing him and his friends than about taking care of the students and their educational needs. That was the real disgrace of his Presidency. He never really cared about educating the students. The personality dysfunctions and anger-management issues he brought to the Presidency were just the poisonous icing on an anti-educational cake.)

In terms of publishing, I turned down all outside projects (including the opportunity to give a number of interviews about my BU situation) during the reporting period to work on a 200,000 word major re-evaluation of the work of Robert Bresson, a filmmaker generally regarded as being one of the world’s most important, and until recently one of the most critically neglected of artists. My admittedly immodest goal is nothing less than to change everything about the understanding of his work. (How my students howled with laughter when I told them this. I loved it, and laughed along with them, hardest of all. What a joy, what intellectual larks to be able to pursue a project of this scope and ambition.) The project has extended over a three- or four-year time period, and is now within six months of being completed. Of course, in line with everything else at BU, I have paid for all research trips and expenses connected with the project out of my own pocket (as has been the case with all of my other research for the past seven years), since my department Chairman formally withdrew all support for all of my research and publishing projects six or seven years ago, as one of the punishments he administered to me for speaking my mind. I appealed to the Dean, but he supported the Chairman's decision one hundred percent. I then went to the Provost, but the Provost supported the Chairman's and Dean's decisions with no qualifications. No more research support for Carney, for any project or situation, under any circumstances. End of story. End of all support. Moral: Boston University administrators sure can stick together when they want to stick it to a faculty member.

These and many other serious issues I have reported over a period of more than seven years to Boston University administrators deserve impartial investigation by the University Provost and President or the University Ombuds. But since more or less all of these facts and events (and many others) have been reported on numerous occasions in many previous years to administrators at all levels of the Boston University system, including the Ombuds, it is unlikely that they will be. It’s the BU way. Welcome to my world. [As a point of fact, I sent the Boston University Ombudsman a complete and unedited copy of the original 16-page report these postings are excerpted from at the point I submitted it to my Chairman and Dean. Let's see if she does anything. But don't hold your breath. On other blog pages, I reproduce other material I sent the Ombudsman years ago that still has not been acted upon or corrected. See "Lynch Mobs: Secret and Surreptitious Meetings to Foment Students Against a Teacher" and "A Letter to the University Ombuds: Events That Almost Defy Belief," both posted in April 2013, and "Egregious Professional Misconduct: For Academics Only," posted in May 2013. All three are available via the side menu.]

I’ll conclude with a few rhetorical questions: What is an extraordinary research and publication record worth to a faculty member at Boston University? What are critical accolades for his scholarship worth? What is a massive internet presence and following worth? What is exceptional teaching worth? What is devoted student advising and mentoring worth? What is seniority worth? What is tenure worth? As I say, the questions are purely rhetorical—since they have already been answered, loudly, clearly, and unambiguously, on every preceding page of this posting, and every other page of this blog. The answers, for a faculty member at Boston University today, are: nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, and nothing—if the faculty member dares to say or write anything a Boston University administrator disagrees with or that hasn’t been cleared with the administration in advance—all the more, if the faculty member dares to speak out about ethical issues and professional misbehavior by administrators. The John Silber days live on.

This concludes this six-part set of postings. More on other subjects is still to come. As I noted in the introduction to the first installment of this multipart posting (see "Current Events Part 1") my recently filed “Faculty Annual Report” is actually about twice the length of the excerpts I have posted, and includes other instances of unprofessional behavior and unethical conduct that I am omitting, but the material on this page and the preceding ones provides a fair sample of the content and tenor of entire report.