Brand NU
Response to Slammer

September 2, 2016

  On September 1, the colleague I called "Slammer" -- he slammed the door and then claimed I had a "break from reality" in reporting this -- posted his version of events on Facebook and shared this with a circle of overlapping "friends," many of whom are political scientists.  Since he is not identifying himself publicly outside FB, I will continue to use his pseudonym.

There are two parts of his account that he weaves together such that his horrifying and life-altering experience of being lynched at the age of nine, unknown to me before yesterday, leads to his experience of my scholarship within critical race theory, and my comments opposing certain sorts of faculty appointments (spousal hires), as "borderline racist."   I hold no ill will against him for these beliefs, but I am outraged to learn that people in positions of authority at NU instrumentalized his reported anxieties to serve their goal of banning and firing me.  These are simply not "feelings" on which a research university can rely for firing or even banning a tenured faculty member. I also now understand why NU kept secret from me the basis of Slammer's fears--he reiterates on his FB page that he is "absolutely afraid" of me: you cannot deny someone access to students and her office because someone claims her scholarship and views on academic governance make him afraid, even if this is accurate.  Banning me is neither a legal nor helpful means of  addressing this colleague's insecurities.

The Weeds
Slammer has posted that by opposing what he calls "spousal/diversity" hires, I am racist. First, I am familiar with "spousal" appointments and also "diversity" appointments.  I have never encountered a "spousal/diversity" appointment.  Second,  as Slammer and my other colleagues know, my opposition to partner or spousal hires in particular has nothing to do with race nor qualifications.  As I stated in a faculty meeting, when the Office of the Inspector General attacked the Executive Office of Immigration Review for nepotism in the assignment of interns to immigration courts, the accusation was not that the children of headquarters' officials were untalented, but that the practice creates a climate of patronage inconsistent with the impartial handling of official business.  I am  concerned about the patronage implications of faculty spousal appointments, and how these arrangements may produce tacit expectations of quid pro quo with the administration.  

This is a minority view in my department, perhaps just held by me.  According to Socrates and John Stuart Mill, my colleagues should be grateful I am sharing this with them.  This concern about the large number of spousal hires at NU is one I've voiced for several years. As I've also said, including to Slammer to ensure he did not take my comments personally, some of my best friends and most respected colleagues are spousal hires, at NU and elsewhere.  I realize many factors go into appointments and I may be wrong about partner hires, but it is not a view that is insane, nor is it racist.

Before turning to the politics of sex, sexuality, race, law, academia, and much more running through all this, I want to focus on March 8.  

I filed the complaint about these events on that date.  The Chair, Sara Monoson, close friends with Slammer, the Associate Chair, ignored my complaint.  So did the Dean of Faculty, Edward Gibson, the recent Chair of Political Science. (His Associate Chair?  Sara Monoson.)  The details of these connections are not important.  What is important is that there is a close-knit group of political scientists who have institutional power and refuse to hold each other accountable.

My report to the Chair and the Dean of Faculty pointed out a student witnessed Slammer yelling at me. Why not investigate threats to my safety, then and now, psychological and otherwise?  The selective manner in which the administration acted on reports of this altercation shows NU is not motivated by safety.   Here was a specific allegation of specific violations of NU policies, but no one bothered to follow up on my claim about being exposed to Slammer's aggression.  The investigator was brought in much later, to investigate Slammer's claim that in reporting the incident, per NU policy, I had defamed him!  The double standard is self-evident.  

(Among the far more egregious actual incidents of misconduct NU administrators have ignored was a Chair throwing a chair during a faculty meeting, one colleague told me.  And where is the discipline for the Provost who demonstrably threatened Eikenberry might sue students who disapproved of the appointment?)

In the aftermath of March 8, I expected that Slammer would apologize. I was hopeful the episode would occasion bringing in a mediator to meet with members of my troubled subfield, as I had requested several times in the past.  Slammer is right: the issues that divide us are not disagreements about the Buffett Institute, though Slammer has made statements avowing his long-standing support for the U.S. military, based, he wrote, on the honorable service of several generations of men in his family. That puts him on record as hostile to my own views on this.  The difference in opinion is fine with me, but, as with his claims about our different views on aspects of Black Political Theory, he may find this intolerable as well.   

(If you want to take a look at the scholarship informing my critique of Slammer's views on Black Political Thought, which came up just once as I recall, in the context of discussing the wording of a position request, please read my essay, "Recreating the State," which first appeared in a special issue of Third World Quarterly I co-edited with Richard Falk and Balakrishnan Rajagopal, Third World Quarterly, 27.5 (2006).  This essay explores how essentialist identity politics of White and other racial, national, and ethnic groups consolidate nationalist, imperialist, racist state power, and points out the changing characteristics and dynamics of these subject positions as evidence for demanding critiques of nationalist insitutions that consolidate intergenerational identities, including those that may appear to be harbors of temporary safety for a few but that perpetuate systemic violence and inequality for most of us. A few years ago I was honored to learn that Angela Harris had selected this essay for inclusion in her reader, Race and Equality in Law (Vermont, Ashgate: 2013).

To be clear on a point Slammer misconstrues: I never claimed that Slammer or other members of my department were provoked to claim they feel unsafe because of me because of my research and organizing on the Eikenberry appointment.  I believe that they loathe me for other reasons related to our very different understandings of the obligations and prerogatives of faculty self-governance, and apparently because of intellectual differences and misunderstandings that prompt one colleague to allegedly "feel afraid." That said, the efforts by the "she's crazy" clique would be moot were it not for the fact that Board and Provost's office want me out of NU because of my ongoing research on NU's prominent role in the military-industrial-academic complex, research that uses undergraduate research assistants, as they know from my article about this.

March 8, 2016: What was Reported

 Slammer tells his FB friends not to credit my account of the events of March 8--they weren't there and shouldn't write in my support.  But claiming I "broke from reality" is not a factual claim about what happened.  It is a claim about the personality and psychology of the person who put forward a narrative other than the one Slammer and his clique who dislike me want to advance and can and should be refuted by evidence I am not someone who would ever "break from reality."  Also, is my psychosis contagious?  Did the student who heard Slammer also have a "break from reality"? 

In the event, here is a screen shot from the statement of the student who overheard Slammer.

Please note that the student points out that he made this statement to the investigator and she omits it from the Executive Summary of her report.  

March 8, 2016: The Substance
Slammer claims that I am a "disruptive person" and that in his position of Associate Chair, this became unbearable.  The position of Associate Chair in my department carries few responsibilities that put the person holding this position, appointed by the Chair, in regular contact with other faculty.

In fact, the meeting on Mach 8 was the second of just two interactions Slammer had with me as an Associate Chair the entire year.  The first was in the fall, when I asked him to have the Advisory Committee consider for including on the Department agenda the fact that the Chair had cancelled the Department's election for Faculty Senate.  He told me she "has her reasons" for this -- I believe it was to ensure I could not hold this position -- and that he was "close personal friends" with the Chair. On this basis he refused my request to raise this matter with the Advisory Committee.

The colleagues who wrote the Dean, as well as Slammer, call me paranoid.  As one colleague in the Political Science Department told me recently, apparently I was not paranoid enough.  I knew the Chair had cancelled the Department's fall election for the Faculty Senate after failing in her efforts to dissuade me to run. (The Chair and Slammer both intended he would assume that position without opposition; apparently fearing he would lose a department election, they cancelled it altogether.)

 The Chair gave me an explanation that was clearly pretextual and resulted in the Department's Senator being an assistant professor who was on leave in France. The Chair also had instructed staff to lie to me about how they were handling the applications of students who were applying to work for me under the auspicies of the Farrell Fellow program.  

In the end, it seems I was right to be suspicious of the reason Slammer provided me as to why he wanted to change my schedule: having me teach a seminar instead of the scheduled large lecture class would cause less havoc with student schedules.  

There is a third party involved (who did not request this change) but I can say that a)  the rationale Slammer gave me is contradicted by the last five years of posted course schedules; b) it fits the timing for pushing me out in the fall, a scheme they'd been cooking out for months or longer.  

In her April 29, 2016 letter to the Dean of Faculty, the Chair of my department, who already had banned me from hiring undergraduate research assistants, writes: "removing [Stevens] from the workplace in advance of the start of the fall 2016 quarter is advisable, likely necessary."  The April 29 letter also states that "[Associate Provost] Lindsay [Chase-Lansdale] and I have been conferring all year" (emphasis added).  

I knew the Chair despised me -- she had been yelling at me and insulting me for over a year --  but it never occurred to me that these people would spend months and months plotting with the Provost's office, NU's attorneys, and a hired gun to try to remove from campus a productive, respected colleague who was doing her job, including appropriately voicing questions and stating reasonable concerns on matters that bear on faculty self-governance and pedagogy.  

More to come...