Friday, January 23, 2009

The American Association of Unprincipled Progressives

Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend the 13th General Conference of the National Association of Scholars in Washington, D.C. Among the highlights of the conference was a debate between AAUP President Cary Nelson and NAS President Peter Wood. During the Q & A some of the comments by Nelson made me thankful that I am now a member of the NAS and that I have never been a member of the AAUP.

Cary Nelson claims the AAUP shares many of the same goals as the NAS including an atmosphere conducive to open debate on our college campuses. He also claims the AAUP is opposed to speech codes. When people question the AAUP's opposition to speech codes they often cite their lack of response to many cases, which are instead taken up by the FIRE, a non-partisan civil liberties group based in Philadelphia.

Nelson responds to such criticisms, in part, by saying the AAUP is not as well-equipped as FIRE is to offer a quick response to such controversies. Nelson implies that the FIRE takes a lot of cases the AAUP would take were it not beaten to the punch. I disagree. I believe the AAUP is simply an unprincipled organization that ignores campus controversies because its victims are generally conservatives.

That conclusion is based on years of bad experiences with the AAUP's members - beginning with my first major free speech controversy after 911. Some readers may remember that the controversy began when a student charged me with libel for simply implying that her mass email blaming 911 on America was "bigoted," "unintelligent," and "immature."

When the university announced that it would be necessary to read my private emails in search of evidence for this bogus libel charge I turned to the FIRE for help. No member of the AAUP contacted me about the case until one year after the incident. Curiously, when the AAUP member did finally comment on the case he claimed falsely (in an email to the entire faculty) that the university did not read my private email correspondence as I had claimed. He specifically accused the FIRE of circulating a false press release.

After the university counsel corrected the completely misinformed AAUP member he was forced to apologize. I did not hear him comment on another free speech case for over a year. When he did, he completely mangled the facts of that case, too. This second infraction was much worse because it involved the attack of an AAUP member on some students, rather than on another professor.

The students were fighting to keep Democrats from joining their College Republican group with full voting rights as well as the right to run for office. They claimed the freedom of association clause of the First Amendment trumped the university's non-discrimination clause. Eventually, the Republicans won the fight. Of course, the AAUP member couldn't resist the temptation to write about the controversy in the local paper. Unfortunately, he defamed the students claiming falsely that they were trying to keep blacks and Jews out of their organization. When the kids asked for an apology for the defamation the card-carrying AAUP member refused.

During the very same semester there was another free speech controversy that was enlightened by more AAUP brilliance (sarcasm: on). This one began when a history professor claimed she had friends who were terrorists in the Middle East. The statement was made in a public forum by a professor who was a public figure on the issue of terrorism. In response, a conservative student decided to publicize her claim in the student newspaper. After the student simply reported what the public figure said, she threatened the student newspaper with a libel lawsuit.

So the former president of the UNCW chapter of AAUP came to the rescue. But he came to the rescue of the professor, not the newspaper. In a news interview the AAUP propagandist said the students were "totally confused" if they thought the general theme of the professors remarks was "terrorism." The students rightly pointed out that his remarks were - in typical AAUP fashion - completely irrelevant. They were complaining about a single sentence - "I have friends who are terrorists in the Middle East"- not the theme of the talk.

When our friend from the AAUP invited the students to engage in an email debate he said they should feel free to share it with friends. The two students - Michael Pomarico and Zeb Wright - simply excoriated the AAUP professor. The debate was so lopsided that he rescinded the offer to share the emails. Unfortunately, the student newspaper yanked (from the online site) the original article reporting accurately that the professor who had terrorist friends in the Middle East said "I have terrorist friends in the Middle East." She was allowed to offer a dishonest rebuttal, which would be the final word on the controversy. The newspaper capitulated to a bogus legal threat due in part to AAUP support of a dishonest professor with terrorist friends in the Middle East.

And, now, finally, nearly two years after I filed a federal lawsuit claiming violations of my First Amendment rights, I have read a communication about the case from the former Oregon State University AAUP President. Some will remember that he sent me a series of emails last week showing why he has the requisite mental stability to be a Professor Emeritus of Psychology. Among the epithets he hurled were "dishonest", "hateful", "stupid", "idiotic", "indecent", "propagandist" and "bigot." In an internet posting that added the new epithets "failure," phony," and "homophobe" the former AAUP chapter president claimed falsely that I had filed a suit against UNC over "anti-Southern bigotry." Furthermore, he botched literally every single fact in the post, which he subsequently pulled in an act of intellectual onanism.

The point here is not that every member of the AAUP is an unhinged bigot engaging in psychological projection. The point is that literally every time a member of the AAUP gets involved in a free speech case, the motivation is one of politics not principle. The debate always dwindles after the first AAUP "contribution." So, naturally, I hope that serious First Amendment defenders will continue to support the NAS. And I hope the AAUP will stick to issues they can handle such as faculty parking and separate bathrooms for trans-gendered professors.


Australia: Some very strange "research"

The findings I have highlighted are so contrary to eveything else we know that I think the whole study has to be disregarded. The findings were based on self-reports and factors such as boasting and embarrassment could well have distorted the results

IT doesn't matter what your background is, the key to earning big bucks at work is having a university degree or apprenticeship under your belt, a new report reveals. Young employees who have completed a bachelor's degree increase their earnings by about 31 per cent on average, while apprenticeships increase income by 23 per cent, the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) report says. A university diploma will make your wallet 17 per cent fatter, while a TAFE diploma increases pay by 14 per cent. A traineeship will increase earnings by just eight per cent and a TAFE certificate by a meagre five per cent.

The study was based on interviews with a group of young people over a decade, from 1995, when they were students in Year 9, through to 2005, when 77 per cent were working full-time and their average age was 24. The report's author, Gary Marks, says post-school education and training leads to higher-status jobs and earnings, regardless of social background. Generally the effects of factors other than qualifications on earnings were small or negative,'' Mr Marks writes in The Occupations and Earnings of Young Australians. "The results indicate social background plays only a small role in accounting for differences in occupational status and earnings, indicating education is enhancing social mobility.''

People from non-English speaking and higher socioeconomic backgrounds, and those who attended Catholic or independent schools, earned five per cent less on average than their counterparts.

But ACER research director Phillip McKenzie said those somewhat surprising results could be related to these groups studying for longer periods of time. "Hence they may have had less time in the workforce,'' Dr McKenzie said. "This was a period of pretty strong job growth and people who left education earlier have been able to get pretty good jobs with good incomes.'' But Dr McKenzie suggests even the relatively small difference in earnings due to background may cancel out over time.

While background doesn't play a big role in determining status and pay, sex does matter. Young women were slightly more likely to be in prestigious jobs than young men, but they earned 20 per cent less. The report says this could be due to the incidence of full-time work being substantially higher among young men than women.

On average, people who completed an apprenticeship earned $907 per week while university graduates earned $816 per week. Someone with a TAFE certificate earned $663 per week while those with a TAFE diploma earned $674 per week.


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