Monday, August 25, 2008

The Girl Can't Help It!

Our courageous Brooklyn College colleague, Robert “KC” Johnson, offers timely commentary on the PSC’s leadership’s chronic attachment to the cause of accused terrorists:

“A number of my Brooklyn College colleagues were profiled in a Chronicle article discussing their protests against the treatment of Syed Fahad Hashmi. Hashmi, a 2003 Brooklyn College graduate, is currently being held without bail, awaiting trial on charges of providing material assistance to Al Qaeda.The petition, alas, seems unlikely to achieve its stated intent. Given the Bush administration’s record on terrorism cases and civil liberties, it’s plausible to believe that Hashmi’s civil liberties have been violated. Yet the petition’s presentation of the case is so one-sided—and its comments about the case’s effects on the academy so off-the-wall—as to make any undecided reader less, rather than more, likely to embrace the signatories’ position.

The Chronicle appropriately describes the case against Hashmi as “murky.” And political science professor Jeanne Theoharis, the statement’s author, has said that the signatories take no position on the merits of Hashmi’s guilt or innocence. Yet their petition and the remarks of the petition’s two chief sponsors (Theoharis and political science professor Corey Robin) read as if cribbed from a defense brief.It’s not clear how a one-sided presentation of the facts of the case will rally support for the signatories' claim that Hashmi’s civil liberties have been violated. (Such a strategy, it seems to me, only undermines the credibility of the petition's broader assertions.) In their commentary about the case’s possible effects on free speech and the academy, however, the signatories cross over from one-sided to merely bizarre.Affirm the signatories, “The prosecution’s case against Hashmi, an activist within the Muslim community, threatens the First Amendment rights of others. While Hashmi’s political and religious beliefs, speech, and associations are constitutionally protected, the government may attempt to use them as evidence of his criminal intent."

Well, yes: for instance, the government may point out that Hashmi’s praise of John Walker Lindh (the American Taliban) provides insight into his state of mind. Similarly, in the 1960s, it was perfectly appropriate for federal prosecutors in trials of KKK members to use their (constitutionally protected) racist statements or memberships to provide insight into the Klansmens’ mindsets. There isn’t anything particularly unusual about such a trial strategy, and it’s absurd to say that such an attempt “threatens the First Amendment rights of others.”(By the way, I assume that each of the signatories is committed to advocating the repeal of all hate crimes laws—since such legislation is based on the premise of using “constitutionally protected” “political and religious beliefs, speech, and associations . . . as evidence of . . . criminal intent.”)

The statement’s authors stretch credulity even further when they discuss the case’s alleged effect on the academy.Theoharis: “It’s particularly significant in a moment when we are seeing the criminalization of Muslim students. I think that he is a devout and practicing Muslim who is very political. If he can be treated like this, it sends a message to other young people, particularly other Muslim young people, that you know you are not protected. I think it is crucial in terms of students thinking they can be who they want to be and espouse the politics that they want to espouse.”

Robin: “The classroom is supposed to be a kind of sacred space where students can express their beliefs, and faculty are obligated to push them. It’s chilling to me to think that that whole process, which is the essence of what it means to be an educated person, could suddenly become an item of scrutiny in a court of law.”The signatories present no evidence that the government intends to use at trial (or has even investigated) Hashmi’s utterances in the “sacred space” of the “classroom,” or that the government intends to make the classroom “an item of scrutiny in a court of law.” Nor do the signatories present any evidence to suggest a pattern of “the criminalization(!) of Muslim students.”

That hundreds of professors could sign a statement associated with such claims says more about the academy than any violations of civil liberties by the government.Two individual signatories particularly raised eyebrows. By all accounts, Hashmi is an extremely religious man. Yet the list of signatories included would-have-been Brooklyn Sociology Department chairman Tim Shortell, who had previously branded all religious people “moral retards.” It’s not clear if Shortell considers Hashmi a “moral retard,” too."

And among the signatories of this petition? Our very own “Sue” O’Malley. At the same time that she is taking Sharad Karkhanis to court for suggesting, in an albeit sarcastic manner, that she has in the past been a prominent advocate for convicted criminals at CUNY, she is making Sharad’s case by standing behind Syed Hashmi! Far be it from us to question O’Malley’s exercise of her First Amendment rights. But how she can join in the cause of Hashmi while suing Karkhanis for making statements of fact is well beyond our ken.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Curiouser & Curiouser

This blog was inactive for six days--after having been reported to Google as a "spam blog."

At about the same time, Brooklyn professor Mitchell Langbert's blog was inactive, having been reported to Google as a "spam blog."

We're sure that it's only a coincidence that two blogs highly critical of plaintiff Susan O'Malley were shut down at the same time, for the same bogus reason.



Saturday, August 2, 2008

More Insanity at CUNY: Silencing Dissidents in the Name of "Democracy"

Chief among the reasons for beginning this blog was our concern that “Sue” O’Malley’s lawsuit was but the opening move in a systematic effort to stiffle and silence opposition to the New Caucus radicals who control our faculty union. Of late, the PSC has agreed to a new contract with CUNY, one which delivers de facto pay cuts, and does nothing regarding teaching loads or substantive benefits.

Despite the suspicious timing of the contract ratification process—in the dog days of summer—many of our colleagues have pleaded for a free, frank and full discussion of the contract before it is approved. But true to form, the leadership has dismissed their objections and denied them access to modes of communication paid for by their own dues.

The PSC’s curious, but characteristic, insistence on conformity and censorship has now been noticed in the pages of Inside Higher Education:

Revolt in the Adjunct Ranks

“When the current leaders of the faculty union at the City University of New York were elected in 2000, they ousted their predecessors with a vow to be more activist and to deliver more for faculty members, including part timers. Since then, the union leaders have indeed been activist and politically vocal, drawing regular criticism from professors who would prefer to see the Professional Staff Congress take a more moderate stance.

But in an unusual reversal that points to some of the tensions in academic labor over how to balance the needs of full-time and part-time professors, the union (affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers) is facing intense criticism from those whom it pledged to help: the part timers who lack the pay or job security of those on the tenure track. Some part-time professors are organizing to urge the entire union membership to reject a contract recently negotiated by the union.

The dissident part timers charge that the contract — by failing to achieve anything in the way of job security for most part timers and by calling for the same percentage increase wages for most full-time and part-time professors, even though the former enjoy much higher salaries — effectively adds to the inequality between those on and off the tenure track. Adding to the controversy is anger from part timers who say that the union’s leaders are blocking them from communicating their concerns to the union’s full membership.

The union leaders told the critics of the contract that they could not distribute their views in the union newspaper (it was too late for the deadline, they said) or use e-mail to the entire membership because the union leaders have voted to endorse the contract, making that stance official policy even before the membership votes.

Because adopting a contract is one of the union activities that requires a membership vote, this has infuriated many adjuncts and some others — even some who think the new contract was the best the union could hope for. Some critics have noted that they are shocked that the union would block its own members from sending e-mail to the union’s list of member names, when union leaders boasted that one of their contract gains was the right to do union business on CUNY computer networks.”

Despite the bully-boy efforts of Steve London, the PSC’s First Vice-President, and his henchman Peter Hogness, censor-in-chief of the union’s newspaper The Clarion, the dissidents have been able to get some media coverage. The most welcoming, and best circulated, venue for alternate views has been The Patriot Returns! Little wonder, then, that Barbara and “Sue” have been trying their best to shut Sharad Kharkanis and his newsletter down. Heaven forbid that faculty members could disagree with these “dear leaders.”