I am an assistant professor of Psychology, and I believe I am about to be fired for investigating U.S. crimes of war in Yugoslavia. The Web site "Emperor's Clothes," where I am deputy editor, publishes investigative journalism of U.S. foreign policy. This is work that I do in my spare time and in my capacity as a private U.S. citizen. Despite this, my employer, the University of Pennsylvania, has put pressure on me to desist, violating University policy and infringing upon my right to nondiscrimination on the basis of my political beliefs.
Last week, the department brought me the news that the tenured faculty had voted to reappoint me. The way the news was delivered, however, made me think that I would be fired.
The vote, I was told, had not been unanimous because some tenured faculty had "serious problems" with my performance. And it was still up to the University to approve the renewal of my contract. A department official promised to try and "mitigate these problems" in his report.
I was stunned.
Junior faculty are evaluated on the basis of their performance in research and teaching. To date, I have 12 publications, 10 of these since I came to Penn, six of them peer-reviewed. Of the 12, only two are co-authored. To put this in perspective, last year the department reappointed a junior faculty member in social psychology (my area). Since coming to Penn, this colleague published two articles, one of them co-authored with a senior member of the department. I think that reappointment was deserved, and I also think that it implies a standard, one that I have met many times over.
My ratings from students as a teacher were good, initially, and in the last semester, I received almost perfect scores in every category.
Perhaps this explains why the "serious problems" with my performance were so absurd. I was told that students (in specially requested letters) had accused my courses of being "narrow." This is hard to believe. The main course I teach, "Biocultural Psychology," is easily one of the more interdisciplinary courses offered by the University. It combines evolutionary theory, social, cultural, cognitive and evolutionary psychology and anthropology.
The department did concede that my students also said that my courses had been "a transforming experience in their lives"!
Given all this, anybody in my circumstances would wonder if the real problems with my reappointment were not political.
There are good reasons for this concern. Earlier, a member of the senior faculty had pressured me to stop investigating U.S. crimes of war in Yugoslavia. When I refused, he told me in an e-mail, "If you really feel that compelled by [your political convictions], you should resign your academic position, and move on to journalism."
This was clearly a threat.
My investigative work on U.S. foreign policy contradicts the public positions of almost everybody who has worked with me at the Solomon Asch Center for Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict. But in science, disagreements are settled with facts, not with threats.
It seems to me that this departmental vote supposedly "in my favor" but with "grave misgivings" and "lack of unanimity" was designed with a special purpose: so that the University, in the final stage, can appear to make a legitimate decision when they refuse the department's lukewarm "recommendation" to rehire me.
I say this because the University may also have political reasons to be rid of me. Last semester, Bill Baker gave the closing speech for Islam Awareness Week on our campus. Bill Baker is an internationally famous professional anti-Semite and racist, who once chaired the Ku Klux Klan's Populist Party and now goes to countries in the Middle East giving speeches to incite Muslims against Jews. The University of Pennsylvania helped pay his speaker's fee! I rebuked the University in The Daily Pennsylvanian and demanded an explanation. The University administration to this day has failed to explain its role in bringing Bill Baker to our campus. Given their silence, I worry all the more that perhaps the University will give its answer by firing me.
At the link below, I have documented the threats against me, and also that the reasons actually invoked as "concerns" over my performance are absurd and bear no resemblance to the usual standards applied to other junior faculty. http://www.psych.upenn.edu/~fjgil/open.htmFrancisco Gil-White is an assistant professor of Psychology.Comments powered by Disqus
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