Sunday, August 5, 2007

A Smoking Gun: Professional Staff Congress Smears Anne Neal

During the last bargaining cycle, the New York City schoolteachers obtained a 16 percent raise over three years, while the Professional Staff Congress (PSC), CUNY's faculty union, obtained six percent. Despite this failure, the PSC leadership has focused on attempting to silence and attack middle of the road and conservative faculty members such as my colleagues KC Johnson, David Seidemann and even the indefatigable Sharad Karkhanis.

As I have previously blogged, College of Staten Island Professor Sandi Cooper, former chair of CUNY's University Faculty Senate, has been planning an attack on Anne Neal because Neal has been appointed to be one of 15 members of the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI).

Frontpagemag's Ron Capshaw wrote the following about Cooper on March 6, 2006:

"At CUNY, the traditional political spectrums had shifted so far to the left that a New Deal and Camelot defender like Arthur Schlesinger Jr. was 'conservative' simply because he wrote and taught from an Enlightenment perspective...As a TA under Dr. Sandi Cooper, I was required to sit in on her European survey lectures and witnessed, not a teacher, but a fringe element of our history come to life, which in her case was the American Communist Party line in its salad days... According to Cooper, the Soviet Union was capitalistically encircled in the ‘30s and Cold War..."

Now, Barbara McKenna and Peter Hogness seem to follow through on Cooper's e-mailed call to organize against Neal and Neal's American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) in an unfair article in the summer 2007 Clarion, the PSC's newspaper.

The headline on page 12 of the summer 2007 Clarion reads "Ideologue named to higher ed panel", suggesting that Cooper is not an ideologue, while Neal, who has spent the last decade struggling for quantification of academic standards and academic accountability is one.

The article states:

"Despite its official-sounding name, ACTA is a highly political organization that has been a sometimes shrill advocate for a conservative agenda within higher education."

In the spring of 2005 I attended a meeting of the Manhattan Institute where Roger Bowen, former head of the American Association of University Professors, Stanley Rothman and Anne Neal gave presentations. At the conclusion of the presentations, the PSC's president, Barbara Bowen (no relation to Roger), stood up and made a rambling, angry speech that included accusing Aristotle of misogyny. Her speech was so shrill and extreme that she inadvertently made the strongest possible case for Stanley Rothman's and Anne Neal's point of view. Yet, in McKenna's and Hogness's view, it is Neal, not Bowen, who is an ideologue.

McKenna and Hogness go on to call Neal's appointment "particularly brazen" and "putting the fox into the accreditation henhouse" because Neal opposes limiting federal financial support to accredited institutions, and NACIQI's job is to recognize the accreditation agencies. They also level these accusations because Ms. Neal is skeptical of universities' intolerant obsession with identity politics.

But McKenna and Hogness reveal the meat-and-potatoes issue that really irritates the PSC: Neal's advocacy of objective, quantitative measures to assess and evaluate higher education institutions. The PSC makes a truly Orwellian argument here. Neal, who advocates rational measurement of achievement and outcomes is an "ideologue", while the PSC's insistence on special interests, privileges, lack of accountability and "the academy is right and we know best" reflects rationality. If the PSC were to apply its argument to all phases of American life, the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 would have to be repealed and the accounting profession abolished because measurement is "ideological". Of course, the SATs would have to be abolished as well, because as we all know they too are ideological. The federal budget would need to be abolished because it involves ideological measurement. In fact, the only thing that could be measured that would not be abolished is faculty paychecks. But given the PSC's and Barbara Bowen's incompetence at collective bargaining, they would probably want to avoid measuring those as well.

In fact, Ms. Neal is eminently qualified to serve on the NACIQI board. What seems to irritate the PSC is that Cooper, Bowen, et al. dislike conservatives and dislike accountability. On the one hand, they would like to avoid objective measurement and accountability, much as Ken Lay or Jay Gould would have. They would also like to exclude conservatives like Neal altogether. On the other hand the PSC likes to argue that academia does not exclude conservatives and that academics are tolerant of all viewpoints. Might we call the McKenna and Hogness article a smoking gun about the deceptive nature of the tolerant-of-conservatives claim?"

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