Internal Emails Reveal UMSL Cover-Up: Administrators Targeted Student, Misled Public, Backed Radical Course

Phil Christofanelli, the student who leaked videos of a radical “Introduction to Labor Studies” course at University of Missouri-St.Louis (UMSL) and University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), has obtained internal emails that reveal UMSL’s attempts to mislead the public and target the whistleblower.

Christofanelli, who had cross-registered in the UMSL course and has since graduated from Washington University in St. Louis, will release the emails later today on BigGovernment.com.

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UMSL and UMKC were plunged into crisis on April 25, 2011, when BigGovernment.com published an article about violent union tactics being taught in the course (see related posts below). The post included a video of highlights from the course, as prepared and provided by Insurgent Visuals.

UMSL Chancellor Tom George and UMSL Provost Glen Cope defended the course–which included instructions on how to carry out industrial sabotage and personal intimidation; in-class recruitment by the Communist Party; and pro-union propaganda. George and Cope claimed to have watched all 30-plus hours of course video.

Internal emails reveal, however, that Cope had not even begun to view the videos when she prodded UMKC Vice Provost and Chief Information Office Mary Lou Hines Fritts for the name of the student responsible for “ripping” the videos. “Since the semester is nearly over, we need to act quickly,” Cope wrote to Hines Fritts on May 4.

Hines Fritts could not provide Cope with any direct evidence. However, she and her staff quickly singled out Christofanelli for his political views. She sent Cope a list of links about Christofanelli, highlighting his leadership of the Washington University Young Americans for Liberty, as well as his conservative opinions.

On May 9, Christofanelli published a detailed first-hand description of the course. UMSL officials were determined to ignore his evidence: “Provost Cope, regardless of the accuracy of the student’s blog, is fully behind the appropriateness of the course,” wrote UMSL Senior Associate Vice President Ron Gossen in an email to staff on May 10.

Gossen added: “Media Matters did our work for us in showing how it’s [the video’s] edited.” Indeed, the emails suggest that UMSL may have relied on left-wing blogs rather than conducting its own research. In a subsequent email, Cope appeared to admit tacitly that she had not actually watched all of the videos, as she and George had claimed.

“I would not be sure of the veracity of what he [Christofanelli] says,” Cope wrote, “given the video experience and my viewing of videos from the class. I’ve reviewed videos from the class, and so have people form UKMC.” If she had seen all of the videos, Cope would have said so, and would have been certain whether Christofanelli was telling the truth or not.

Meanwhile, UMSL officials circulated false accusations about Christofanelli, while failing to hold Judy Ancel and Don Giljum accountable for their labor studies course and its contents.

Later in May, when Christofanelli arrived at the Vice Provost’s office with a lawyer, UMSL dropped proceedings against him. It redacted many of the emails it was forced to provide. But it can no longer hide the truth.

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