UMSLgate:The Academic Fiefdom Is All Wet

Phil Christofanelli’s odyssey in Introduction to Labor Studies at the University of Missouri bobbed back to the surface Thursday when Big Government reported on internal emails among administrators. Those emails demonstrate that Christofanelli was targeted because of his conservative political views and imply collusion with the Soros funded Media Matters:

[UMSL Senior Associate Vice President Ron] Gossen added: “Media Matters did our work for us in showing how [the video’s] edited.” Indeed, the emails suggest that UMSL may have relied on left-wing blogs rather than conducting its own research.

A couple months ago, with turmoil swirling around the University of Missouri’s Labor, Politics, and Society course, the Ivory Tower’s official fishwrap, Inside Higher Ed, came to the defense of the course’s lecturers: Judy Ancel and Don Giljum:

Videos posted by the conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart appear to have ended the teaching career of an adjunct at the University of Missouri — even as university officials issued a statement backing the contention of the two instructors of the labor studies course that their comments in the class had been edited to present an “inaccurate and distorted” picture of what was said.

It is specious to complain that video is edited since nearly all video is edited before being released. However, if editing is a concern, then why doesn’t the University make all of the video from the course available? Their claim that existing videos are “inaccurate and distorted” could be dismissed with just such a release. The fact that neither the University nor the media companies that were given the full videos have produced a video exonerating Ancel and Giljum suggests that exculpatory evidence does not exist. Again, release the video.

Gail Hackett, the provost of UMKC, hid behind the protection of “academic freedom” (from Inside Higher Ed):

Hackett’s statement went on to “underscore our commitment to the importance of academic freedom, freedom of speech and the free-flowing discussion of challenging topics in our courses,” as well as “the serious responsibilities this places on us to ensure a balanced perspective is offered to our students within our curriculum.”

Hackett’s suggestion that she is committed to “a balanced perspective” is unsupported by the evidence in the classroom. It’s laughable in light of the way that her fellow administrators targeted Christofanelli because of his conservative political views. But her pontification about “academic freedom, freedom of speech, and the free-flowing discussion of challenging topics” give away the game. Hackett is defending her own academic fiefdom without serious regard to either free speech or free-flowing discussion.

She asserts that the inclusion of students in the video “without their permission is a violation of [the student’s] privacy rights.” Is Hackett really arguing that students on her campus have a right to call for the violent overthrow of the US government? Big Government reported on this comment from one student:

…Ancel introduced the idea that “violence is a tactic.” . . .

The very next statement was by a student following up Ancel’s point: “I don’t necessarily want to be a part of capitalist society. I want to take over the state with a revolutionary movement, which doesn’t exist.” Ancel did not comment on his call to overthrow the government.

The comments of students are relevant for another reason: they are a testament to the efficacy of Ancel and Giljum’s teaching. The student’s words above and willingness to voice them openly show that the professors view violence as an effective union tactic and that the professors fostered an academic atmosphere that is hostile to political dissent. That contradicts Hackett’s stated goals of balance and free-flowing discussion and demonstrates the extent of the Gramscian damage at Mizzou.

As mentioned earlier, emails among university administrators demonstrate a similar prejudice toward conservative political thought. Rather than acknowledge this lack of intellectual diversity, Inside Higher Ed also hid behind the privacy rights of the students:

[Ancel and Giljum] said that the full recordings would make this clear, and that they would like the complete class sessions released. The problem, they said, was that the recordings show identifiable students as well as the instructors (which is the case in the excerpts posted by Breitbart, too), so the university can’t just post the recordings without violating student privacy rights.

The University, Ancel, and Giljum later argued that they had fostered an environment of trust within the classroom, but that is simply not the case in light of the student quoted above. Ancel and Giljum fostered an academic fiefdom wherein their pupils were political peasants enforcing a leftist cant.

What of the rights of peace-loving, patriotic students who might be cowed by such extreme rhetoric from a fellow student? In short, “free-flowing” discussion would drown in the toxic intellectual waters of the Introduction to Labor Studies course because of the overwhelming bias of the instructors, the Communist guest lecturer, and fellow students. The emails Christofanelli received from a request submitted under Missouri’s Sun Shine law show a similar medieval mindset among administrators.

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