Wednesday, February 23, 2011

You're Hired/You're Fired

Sharad Karkhanis received a number of e-mails from CUNY faculty and staff concerning my essay concerning the Petersen-Overton/Dov Hikind controversy at CUNY. The firing received mass market newspaper coverage.  Sharad asked me to respond to a handful of the criticisms in a special issue of his newsletter, which goes to about 13,000 faculty and staff.   I reproduce the issue below.  Sharad is working on another issue that will focus on another article I am writing concerning the failure of the current leadership of one of the nation's largest faculty unions, CUNY's Professional Staff Congress, which is run by left wing extremists.


   Vol. 54, No.2                                                          February 17, 2011

CUNY Faculty Speak Out
You're HIRED/You're FIRED/You're HIRED
As in the past, the Editor of The Patriot Returns has received a number of responses from its readers to an article by Prof Mitchell Langbert in the recent TPR (54.1) We are providing to you a small sample with the author's responses to these comments. 
Letters to the editor:

1) FACULTY COMMENT: Pretty impressive that someone can write an article about this case without once mentioning the role of Dov Hikind. The Times wasn't able to neglect Hikind's central role in the affair, but Professor Langbert does. Of course, mentioning Hikind, the former discipline of Meir Kahane and the Jewish Defense League, would have revealed that dismissing Petersen-Overton had far more to do with politics than academic credentials.

2) FACULTY COMMENT: You interestingly make no mention of the Dov Hikind letter which lead to Petersen-Overton action. If you seek to use cause and effect to characterize personnel decisions then you need to be honest. An investigation of what impact the Hikind letter had and who at CUNY responded to it would tell us a lot. Was this merely a personnel matter or did ideology have something to do with it?

AUTHOR'S REPLY: I reference three news accounts of the story that provide information about Assemblyman Hikind's letter. I also state that the administrators stated that they had made up their minds prior to hearing of Petersen-Overton's political views, that there are two sides to the story, and that the facts are not fully known. You are right that Assemblyman Hikind wrote a letter to the administration, as is described in the news accounts and in PSC President Bowen's letter, to which my piece is a response. Note that the above two respondents' point ought to be applied to President Bowen's letter, which contained no references to the statements of the Brooklyn College administration. I wonder if the writers raised the reverse question concerning President Bowen's letter. As well, the first letter above echoes President Bowen's shrill name calling and adds a whiff of anti-Semitism.

3) FACULTY COMMENT: We would be happy to hear the facts in this strange firing/rehiring case, but unfortunately with you also they seem to be mainly about pro-Israel/anti-Israel, which, if it is the base of this, is really embarrassing for both sides. That consideration should not have a place in an academic hiring decision, unless we believe that the liberal arts are just group politics, in which case they don't belong at a university anyway.
Since my promotion was also denied in my first attempt, I wonder if, according to your description, I should have claimed to be discriminated against and taken a lawyer. I did not do that because a colleague did that a year before, and got her promotion that way against repeated department vote; such things do damage to the department. Outside interference is not good for department hiring practices.

AUTHOR'S REPLY: The politicization of the social sciences and humanities has become an impediment to their credibility. It is unfortunate that they are unlikely to reform themselves from within because of conformity processes akin to what Irving Janis has called groupthink. The social sciences and humanities insist that political advocacy is legitimate academic practice and then deny that they are politicized. Public respect for universities will diminish.


1) FACULTY COMMENT: Whatever your position is in this case, I have a general question to both you, PSC and the BC Administration: Should colleagues with only an M.A. or with status of being in a doctoral program be teaching graduate courses? I believe that this issue needs to be addressed.

2) FACULTY COMMENT: I've been watching the scuffle on Petersen-Overton with interest and disgust. I'm a doctoral student at … also a graduate (many years ago) of …, and I'm dismayed at how easily my fellow doctoral students threw their support behind the idea of academic freedom and free speech without looking into whether this case is a fair representation of those ideas.

3) FACULTY COMMENT: I appreciate your statements in The Patriot Returns.

4) FACULTY COMMENT: Great post. Keep up your efforts to uncover the truth. 

5) FACULTY COMMENT: I learned a new word today--"gasconaded."

6) FACULTY COMMENT: Great piece

7) FACULTY COMMENT: I suggest that one thing that should be looked into I will ask that in the UFS is that Master's courses are taught by doctoral students. This is not good; if they cannot maintain the MS program with faculty, they should close the program.
Sharad Karkhanis, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus


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