The United Association of Labor Education has posted an on-line petition to UMSL Chancellor Thomas George asking that he defend academic freedom and labor education at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Please sign!
Some background from Judy Ancel (University of Missouri, Kansas City):
On Monday April 25, Andrew Breitbart posted his first attack and two videos on his BigGovernment.com website. They attacked me and my co-instructor Don Giljum. I am Director of Labor Studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC). Our class is taught by teleconference for students at UMKC and UM St. Louis (UMSL), and videos of our classes were available only to students in the class on the UMKC Blackboard system. In a statement I put out as an individual (because my university had not yet spoken) on Thursday the 28th I called Breitbart's videos "chop shop" editing, using 18 hours of tapes of our classes that were taken by a student enrolled in the class, disassembling them and reassembling to make it appear we were teaching violence, sabotage, and communism. The tapes also showed our students in class discussion, violating their privacy. (A copy of my statement is at http://labornotes.org/files/pdfs/AncelBreitbartResponse.pdf).
Later that day, UMKC issued a statement stating, "From the review completed to date, it is clear that edited videos posted on the Internet depict statements from the instructors in an inaccurate and distorted manner by taking their statements out of context and reordering the sequence in which those statements were actually made so as to change their meaning. Such selective editing is disturbing and the release of students’ images without their permission is a violation of their privacy rights.” UMKC went on to underscore its commitment to academic freedom and to labor studies, and they assured me that my job is not in danger.
Unfortunately UMSL took the low road. They turned a statement by Don Giljum on the 26th that he’d resign if it would save labor studies into an offer to resign, which two days later they accepted. Don is an adjunct, thus an at-will employee. UMSL made no public statement until yesterday, May 4th stating that he had resigned. Don fired back a letter saying that he had no intention of resigning.
Currently there is much protest among faculty, students and the labor community in St. Louis and across Missouri. Please join their protests by sending a letter to UMSL Chancellor Thomas George at email@example.com with a copy to Provost Glen Cope firstname.lastname@example.org. Please send me a blind copy at email@example.com.
Obviously there are significant issues of academic freedom and the rights of adjunct instructors as well as the rights of students to privacy and the freedom to express ideas freely in the classroom without fear that their images and words will be plastered all over the internet. (The original videos have been removed by You-Tube after privacy complaints were made, but more have followed. It takes at least 3 days to get them removed. Even though they’re running out of steam, they are still posting new videos.)
Breitbart and his Tea Party backers rely on the kind of reaction UMSL has had: to disassociate themselves from the victims of the attack rather than oppose the lies. The timing of this attack coincides with the right wing’s final attempts to pass “right to work” and “paycheck protection” legislation in the Missouri Legislature. These despicable tactics must be opposed.
For more information, see Jane Slaughter's excellent article in Labor Notes at http://www.labornotes.org/2011/04/right-wing-hoaxster-smears-labor-educators. The statement by the AAUP at http://www.aaup.org/AAUP/newsroom/2011PRs/Ancel.htm.