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May 14, 2005 2:41 am


Update on SIU



Michael Davidson has written at HNN and elsewhere about my case. Curious, since we are yards apart yet he never has contacted me. Here is my response, keeping in mind that I cannot provide you "with all the facts" at this time:

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At InsideHigherEducation.com Davidson writes "this article gives a badly slanted version of less than half of the story. I find it disturbing that many comments are being made here based on a poor secondary source -including some from professional historians who should know better. I would love to be able to add some substantive detail, but legal restrictions prevent me.

The impulse here is to sound off, but given the poor state of public knowledge on this matter, it is ill-advised.

Dr. Michael R. Davidson
Lecturer in HistorySIU Carbondale"

My response:

For someone who does not want to "sound off," Davidson has done an extraordinary amount of it--without saying anything but "you don't have all the facts." The facts which I can state here would include the clear grievance procedures which the TA (who was the unknown accuser at the beginning), the chair, the dean, and the letter signers ALL violated. The dean drew up bogus "hostile environment" charges in dismissing my TAs -- a legal term that means nothing outside of civil rights law and there are procedures to follow there, too. (In her rush to judgment, she was apparently not receiving legal counsel). There is much that I cannot reveal but it would only make the "story" starker than even that which has appeared in the press.

Curious that Davidson has invested so much on the blogosphere concerning my case. We share the same corridor, he and I, along with a number of the letter signers. Since he has never contacted me, I must ask whether his considerable web activity is an expression of his support for the other side's version of events? Why has he not contacted me? How can he criticize journalists for "not getting the facts," when he (so interested in my case) has not done so either?

Elsewhere, he has corrected Boston Globe columnist Cathy Young: My Lord, he is a Republican (or was in Maine), although only a non-tenure track lecturer at SIUC. So, in a half century there has been one "conservative" Republican or Libertarian in a rather large department! Whoa. Be still, my evenhanded heart. Conservatism run amuck at SIU! A true Millian "marketplace of ideas." I rest easy now with a comrade at arms just 30 feet from my door. (I will correct myself if it appears that we are 42 feet apart).

Jonathan Bean


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Jonathan J. Bean - 5/14/2005

Michael,

I've closed my door partly because of the overwhelming support I have received and contacts from other departments, colleges, students, and alumni. It's been all-consuming. Still, a friendly knock on the door from someone in my own department is appreciated.

Michael, I don't think you realize how this plays with faculty across campus. Judging from the lengthy letters to the Chair and Dean and messages to me--from such places as Agricultural and Business Colleges--there is great concern that this was a shabby way to treat a colleague and that it threatens all faculty. The History Dept. is a "bubble," really, not reflective of campus opinion in general.

Hypothetical:

Do you think we would have had the same hysterical reaction, if this were not about race (e.g., an allegedly "inflammatory" handout attacking Christianity or one that denied or underplayed communist genocide)? If a Christian refugee from Cuba, Vietnam or the former Eastern European bloc found this insensitive, is it proper for her to a) run to other instructors, b) get the faculty member brought up on vague charges from an anonymous source, then c) after the instructor cancels and issues a vague apology (to match the vague accusations), the instructors issue d) a public letter and advertisement in the paper. (Like the DE, I can debunk their charge that it was run twice "by mistake." The second letter is actually different from the first, and they had bombarded the newspaper with multiple drafts the first time around).

Actually, this is NOT hypothetical. As one of the only "out-of-the-closet" libertarians or conservatives in the college, I have fielded many complaints over the years about insensitive comments or readings. If I were a wild-eyed ideologue, I could have had them report these academic "sins" to Accuracy in Academia. Instead, I have told them to talk to the instructor, if that didn't work, then develop a thick skin, a sense of humor, and take other courses. It never entered my mind to have students conduct themselves in the way my original accuser(s) were advised.

There is a long background I could give you about the situation, as well as details I don't want to post here. Perhaps over lunch we can get to know each other better?

Best regards,

Shemtov Bean


David Timothy Beito - 5/14/2005

If I were Jon's place, I would certainly have appreciated it if you can come by to talk with me first to get my side prior to wading in the blogosphere so aggressively. You may have an open door policy but Jon is the one who was the center of the original controversy and criticism in your department, not you.




Michael R. Davidson - 5/14/2005

"For someone who does not want to "sound off," Davidson has done an extraordinary amount of it--without saying anything but "you don't have all the facts."

It was, thus, a rather limited sounding off - and I think you would agree with me that it would have been unethical for me to begin providing 'facts' which I was not a party to. [Note my responses to the many calls for me to do so].

"Since he has never contacted me, I must ask whether his considerable web activity is an expression of his support for the other side's version of events?"

No. My 'considerable web activity' was aimed to get people to withhold judgement on a case in which only a small fraction of the information had come out. Within my 'considerable web activity' you will find an unambiguous expression of support for your freedom to whatever you please in the classroom, and an expression of anger at some of the treatment YOU have received, in addition to that of our colleagues.

"Why has he not contacted me?"

In my judgement, given the stresses you were going through, I felt like me asking for your side of the story at any point in the last month would have been as welcome as a hole in the head (my apologies if that was an error in judgement). I was holding off until term ended - and witholding judgment on the specifics of the case until that point.

"How can he criticize journalists for "not getting the facts," when he (so interested in my case) has not done so either?"

See my earlier response for the most part. If any journalist had bothered to investigate my political persuasion, I might not have ever sounded off, but, then, had that happened, many of the more inflammatory attacks on our colleagues might never have occurred.


Seeing as your open door policy has been one of the unfortunate casualties of this matter, I have not seen much of you in the past month Jonathan. Thankfully mine survives - and that applies to you just as much as any of our colleagues and students.

Cheers,
Mike

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