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The thought police strike again

By Michael J. Smith on Thursday April 23, 2009 06:29 PM

This just in, from On The Inside, a journal of the incarceration sector -- or no, sorry, that's Inside Higher Education, a journal from the closely-related credentialling sector. So hard to tell 'em apart sometimes. Anyway, here's the story:

Crossing a Line

Everyone involved in the dispute over William I. Robinson talks about lines being crossed....

His critics say that he crossed a line of professionalism by sending e-mail to all of the students in one of his courses material about "parallel" images of Nazi and Israeli attacks. Some students view the material as anti-Semitic, and they quit the course and filed a grievance against him.

Faculty members are in the process of selecting a panel that will consider the charges against Robinson and determine whether to recommend that a standing faculty panel conduct a full investigation of the incident.

Needless to say, the ADL heard about this -- somehow; perhaps the aggrieved students, in their extreme agony of mind, did a Web search -- and the grand inquisitors of Zionist orthodoxy put the screws to the university.

There's a web site in support of Robinson --


... where in spite of my prejudice against professors, and my puzzlement at the whole concept of "academic freedom", I signed up, and suggest you do the same. Anybody who takes a whack at Zion, even if he's a professor -- of sociology! -- deserves our support.

It's a bit unfortunate that the pro-Robinson site has fallen into a somewhat niggling proceduralist state of mind. There is much back-and-forth about whether the rules of the university dealing with "inappropriate" faculty conduct were followed.

This would be a hard question to decide, even if one were interested in deciding it, since the rules in question are a bizarre labyrinth of agents and committees that put one in mind of the Venetian republic's palmy days, or the Vatican divorce court. There's the Council of Ten, the Council of Three, the Prothonotary Sensitivus, the Commission of Relevancy, the Tribunal of Standards... it's like Masonic ceremonial.

Still, the outlines are clear enough. Robinson did something that profs do all the time. Unfortunately for him, his actions displeased Israel's defense team. As a result, he will spend a year or two of his life fighting for his livelihood, and bearing, as best he can, the glances-askance of his former friends and colleagues and neighbors who have heard that he's, well, a bit an anti-Semite. No smoke without fire. Why did he send that email, anyway? He should have known better. Must have some kinda bug up his ass about Jews.

He may keep his job -- I hope he does, just to spite the ADL -- but he will certainly have paid a price. And that's really the point, isn't it?

What pleases me about this story is the eagerness of the university to deploy its ponderous enforcement machinery at a snap of the fingers from the ADL. Oh, did I but have the NSA phone taps of all those calls to trustees, and the donation scouts, and the deans, and the department chairs -- it would be as good as the Harman tapes, or better.

Comments (2)



In a time capsule

Bill a mad red bomber is slated for an appearance
At justice brandenburg. University
Not 10 miles from
Jesuit mare's nest
Boston junior college

Can radio free pleb outrage
Once again cause
A cancelled check?

Universities are notorious for convoluted procedures they selectively follow when they want to rid themselves of independent-minded professors. A theatre arts professor I know at Western Washington University just spent $100,000 and four years to get reinstated after being wrongfully terminated. His crime was whistleblowing on his department head who was embezzling student fees, which quickly brought the wrath of the President's office on him.

Now he gets to spend the next five years battling in federal court for violation of his civil rights, which should pretty much eat up his salary for the interim.

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