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Dec 22, 2005 5:50 pm


Workload Breakdown



Today's IHE has an interesting story on the workload breakdown between teaching, research, and service--broken down further by type of institution and discipline.

The report seems to have assembled its data based on faculty members' self-reporting, leading to some odd figures. (I find it hard to believe that natural science professors at doctoral institutions spend almost twice as much time on teaching as they do on research.) I was particularly struck, however, by the field breakdown: only Fine Arts professors say they devote less time to research than Education faculty. Maybe that explains how we got dispositions theory.

In the roundip, IHE also reports that the Homeland Security Department"adamantly denied" the claim of a UMass-Dartmouth student that he had been interrogated after requesting Mao's Little Red Book via ILL. This story is looking more and more like it could be a hoax. (Incredibly, the original story was published without the reporter even having talked to the student or his parents; the reporter relied simply on the word of two professors.) While Wisconsin professor Uli Schamiloglu uncritically accepted the professors' version of events and lamented that"we are on the path to becoming like the totalitarian countries studied in the course taken by that poor student at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth,” the comments in IHE's original story raise some pretty strong questions about the anonymous student's claim. The professor who originally publicized the claim, Bryan Glyn Williams, has a quite interesting website, and has implied that the alleged interrogation was part of an attempt by the government to discourage him from teaching a course called"Critically Assessing the Historic Roots of Terrorism in the Middle East (Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, Al Aqsa Martyr Brigades, Islamic Jihad, Harkat-ul Mujahideen)." While this assertion doesn't exactly enhance Williams' credibility, the syllabus for the course doesn't seem to be on-line; I'd be curious to see exactly what Williams means by" critically assessing."

If, in fact, the story is untrue, what action will UMass-Dartmouth take?

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N. Pepperell - 12/24/2005

Just letting folks know that the story has now been confirmed by the student to have been a hoax. You can read the coverage here: http://www.boingboing.net/2005/12/24/hoax_little_red_book.html


Brian Ulrich - 12/24/2005

Then again, it all might be proven a hoax.

I can promise you, though, that the professors you attacked above are not left-wing hacks of some kind.


Brian Ulrich - 12/23/2005

btw, where is the claim that the government is trying to discourage him from his course? I've seen him say he is hesitant as a result, but that's about it. He's been described to me as somewhat conservative.


Brian Ulrich - 12/23/2005

I'm somewhat tolerant of these errors. These events occurred several weeks ago, and the prof threw it out during an interview related to the Patriot Act not realizing it would become the salient part of the interview and a national news story. Which doesn't make the reporter look better. He made the request at Amherst, whose copy was missing. The more recent accounts also say FBI and not DHS, and add that the student travelled an hour to the FBI office to try and solve the issue.

I think we'll never "prove it" just by the nature of the Patriot Act, nor will we disprove it unless someone comes out and admits it wasn't true. People's belief will probably wind up being determined just by their political beliefs.

Dr. Schamiloglu believed automatically it in large part, I think, because Dr. Williams is a former Ph.D. student of his whom he respects very much.


Robert KC Johnson - 12/22/2005

Right--but the request would have been filed from UMass Dartmouth (where he was a student). The UMass Dartmouth staff then processed the request, which UMass-Amherst filled; the student would have had no contact with UMass-Amherst. And this all was for a text readily available on-line.

I'm puzzled as to the reporter's decision to go with this story in the first place, without checking it out with the student and his parents. I've been involved with more than my share of academic coverage in the media, and can never recall an occasion in which a reporter pursued such a policy. It wasn't as if the reporter spoke to the student on background--the reporter (and, as far as I can tell, no one else covering this story) never spoke to the person actually making the allegation at all.


Ralph E. Luker - 12/22/2005

Two things: I believe that the student claims that the ILL request was filed with UMass, Amherst, not UMass, Dartmouth; and the denial from Homeland Security was not so flat out as you suggest. They say that they are unaware of any interrogation. That doesn't mean that no federal agents interrogated the student. I'd still like to hear more about this story from Williams.


Robert KC Johnson - 12/22/2005

The student certainly has a right to remain anonymous. But the Dartmouth-based reporter, before publishing the original story, certainly should have spoken with the student and the student's parents.

From what is suggested in the IHE comments, the alleged agents have never been identified; the school doesn't require social security #'s to file an ILL request, as the student claimed; it's odd, as the student claimed, that this would be a concern of "Homeland Security" rather than the FBI; and we have what appears to be an unequivocal denial from Homeland Security.

I'm not exactly certain as to whether the Buckley amendment applies to negative information, but if, in fact, the student never filed an ILL request, I wonder whether UMass-Dartmouth could release that information.

I'll concede the story could have occurred as the student-through-Williams claimed, but it seems to me that it's more likely it's either a hoax or there is a third explanation.


Robert KC Johnson - 12/22/2005

Always looking for new readers. Feel free to purchase a copy of my Congress book at:
http://www.cambridge.org/us/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=0521528852

or the two volumes of LBJ tapes I co-edited at:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0393060012/ref=pd_ecc_rvi_7/002-9881822-4635244?%5Fencoding=UTF8&v=glance&n=283155


Adam Kotsko - 12/22/2005

KC,

I'd be interested in some posts about your area of historical research.


Ralph E. Luker - 12/22/2005

KC, I'm a bit less skeptical than you are about the UMassDarthmouth story. For one thing, I do think that the student has a right to remain anonymous. That does put the burden of the story on Williams' credibility. I've suggested to HNN's Rick Shenkman that he ask UM,D's Williams to produce an article about his understanding of the incident for HNN.

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