Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Part 4—Being Ostracized, Banned, Expelled

Controlling Faculty Expression

Defeating Tenure

Being Shunned, Sidelined, Shunted to the Side, 
Ignored, Made a Non-Person

Boston University has a long and inglorious history, beginning in the 1970s and extending into the present, of finding ways to control its faculty members’ expressions and of defeating and legally getting around the supposed protections of the tenure system in particular. I have received a surprising number of inquiries from faculty members and administrators at other universities who read the blog regularly and want to know more about the treatment I have received in response to the reports of ethical misconduct and professional misbehavior I have filed and the attempts of Boston University administrators to ostracize, marginalize, and remove me from the decision-making process in the university. This is the fourth part of a seven-part posting touching on some of the ways I have, as I note in a previous posting, been “bullied, beat-up, and bludgeoned administratively,” “turned into a persona non grata,” and “effectively expunged, banned, and prevented from doing anything but teaching my courses” in my College. Due to lack of space and the number of years these events have taken place, the individual postings will be of a summary nature. Details are provided on earlier blog pages. —Ray Carney

Part 4—Being Ostracized, 

Banned, Expelled, Ignored

The three previous entries in this series describe the insults, abuse, and humiliations that have been inflicted on me for speaking out about unethical and unprofessional activity I have witnessed. This page will describe how, as a matter of deliberate institutional policy, I have been de facto expunged from my own institution and department, transformed into a pariah and outcast. All I am allowed to do, all that I am able to do without being subjected to being berated, bullied, or savaged in one way or another, is teach my courses. (Though the secret meetings and slanderous remarks of the Director of Film Studies to my students, as described on the previous blog page, have obviously affected this area of my professional life as well, but fortunately I have a large and loyal following of students who take more than one course with me, notwithstanding the smear campaign.)
Notwithstanding the Film Study Director’s machinations and dirty tricks, I still get an extraordinary amount of joy out of being in the classroom and satisfaction from working with students, discussing artistic issues with them, and attempting to stimulate their thinking about life and art during office hours. Teaching is one of the two greatest joys of my life. (Writing is the other. I absolutely love doing it—though one of its pleasures is no doubt that it takes me to a different place than one where I am being publicly abused and yelled at or sneakily slandered behind my back. Unlike my department and College, it is a safe and nurturing place.
I am no longer allowed to have any role at all in my department, and no one at any administrative level will allow me to have one—though I’m sure they must explain my expulsion to administrators above them with some kind of cover-story. All of my undergraduate and graduate student advisees were taken away from me more than a decade ago. I formally protested this fact, as I protested so many others, but the Chairman refused to change the policy or restore any advisees. The Film Studies Director has similarly warned me about interacting with grad students, at one point, even issuing a warning in writing that I was not to contact entering grad students over the summer before they arrived on campus (at which point he can presumably start telling them things to undermine me). And my current Dean read me the riot act a few years ago for communicating with my undergraduate students via emails in which I directed them to articles on film I thought were worth thinking about. He sternly upbraided me for writing to them. He made clear that my opinions about film (a subject he clearly knows nothing about, since he does not even have an academic background) were apparently too independent, too dangerous for students to be exposed to. (For a description of that particular event, see "How Marketing and Branding Considerations Limit What Teachers Can Tell Their Students or Suggest that They Read.")
For many years my classes were, over my objections, deliberately scheduled so that they it would make it impossible for me to attend faculty meetings, undoubtedly to prevent me from having input into specific hiring or promotion discussions—and of course the meetings I did attend involved my being shouted down or told to “shut up” (in department meetings), being mocked and called a liar (in Film Studies meetings), or asked why I didn’t quit or if I was only working at BU “for the money” (in a meeting chaired by my Dean).
Beyond that, I have been administratively excluded from serving on hiring, promotion, and other committees, and either kept off the invitation lists of or outright forbidden to participate in a wide-range of department activities and events—from the important to the symbolic (viz., removed from the invitation list for Open Houses and Visiting Day events and not allowed to speak at those I did show up for without being invited; told that any suggestions I submitted for visiting speakers would never be honored simply because I was the one who nominated them; and that I was not welcome to attend special events).
When, despite these warnings and discouragements, I nonetheless did write and submit hiring or promotion evaluations, or other reports to my Dean, he explained to me in no uncertain terms that I was wasting my time—and my breath or typing fingers. He was not interested. I may have been (and was) the senior member of the Department of Film and Television, but my views didn’t matter—not even a little. When I submitted a carefully thought-out 5000-word evaluation of a promotion case where I dared to differ from the Dean’s view, and pointed out serious ethical violations on the part of the candidate, the Dean told me that what I had written, like all of my other reports before and after that point, was of absolutely “no interest” to him, that it would not “have any influence” on his decision, and that it would not be forwarded to administrators above him. (Not to forward, let alone investigate, a report of an ethical violation is in itself a serious ethical violation.) My pay and evaluations were subsequently negatively impacted.
When I submitted a similarly detailed and thoughtful evaluation of a candidate to be hired, where I again expressed opinions that differed from the Dean’s, he wrote me a memo upbraiding me for what I had written and telling me that it was confirmation that I was a “troublemaker.”
My official appeals of my annual evaluations and pay were, in violation of procedure, similarly ignored and, as far as I can tell from the stony-silence and unresponsiveness that has greeted my inquiries, also not forwarded to higher administrative levels.
My Chairman has similarly completely ignored and not replied to the reports of ethical violations and procedural irregularities I have appended to every one of Faculty Annual Reports since 2007, as well as the separate memos I have given him covering the same ethical and procedural areas.  
Ignoring my reports, not acting on them, and not even responding to them is not limited to my Chairman and Dean. The university Provost has treated my memos, emails, and reports similarly. No action, no response, no request for more information, no investigation, no correction of the problems.  See "Negotiating with Boston University, Part 1," for a summary of the complete and utter silence and total non-responsiveness that my reports have been accorded by the university Provost.
In short, my Dean, my Chairman, and the university Provost could not have made it more clear that there was absolutely no point in my writing or submitting memos or reports—reports of ethical violations, evaluations of candidates for promotion, evaluations of candidates to be hired—or appeals of my treatment for that matter. Nothing I wrote would be taken seriously, let alone acted on. The only question in my mind is whether the reports I submitted were even read or retained by the administrators I sent them to, or, as is certainly possible, were tossed in the trash upon receipt to preserve institutional “deniability” that they were ever submitted. (Fortunately, I always gave copies of the most important documents I submitted to the university Ombuds, who retains them, though that doesn’t seem to have made much of a difference. Based on the treatment I have received, Boston University is not big on letting the university Ombuds have input into anything important.) 
Ignoring reports of ethical issues and procedural violations is, of course, an ethical violation in itself, a fact that is expressly stated in the Boston University code of ethical behavior, as promulgated by the President of the university. Not to inquire about, investigate, or act on a report (and none of the reports I have submitted has even been acknowledged--other than to be dismissed, jeered at, and characterized as being "of no interest"--let alone been acted on) is to make oneself part of the problem.
In short, in the interests of a) ignoring my reports and not acting on them, and b) punishing me for submitting them, I have been turned into what in a banana republic would be called a "non-person." This stonewalling, persona non grata, silent-treatment is not as unusual as it might seem to someone unfamiliar with this ethical territory. In fact, it is the more or less the standard institutional treatment for whistleblowers of all stripes. Read a history of the FBI, of NASA, or the U.S. Army, and you will find dozens of almost identical responses on the part of administrators to underlings they want to force to quit or to express their extreme displeasure with for having reported ethical violations or acts of professional misconduct. It’s a standard bureaucratic response to take away all of their power, ignore all of their input, insult them in every way possible, then move them off to the side and make them non-entities, to punish them in the hope that they will resign their positions. Boston University has illustrious company.

[Continued on the next page]