MOVING TO FRONT FROM YESTERDAY--UPDATED
This new incident is certainly not nearly as outrageous as L'Affaire Ronell, but it still shows the extent to which faculty "stick together." In this case, social and political theorist Andrew Arato, a member of the Sociology faculty at The New School for Social Research (hereafter TNS), has been sanctioned for his interactions with colleagaues and non-academic staff. Another faculty member at TNS, who wrote to me with relief that Professor Arato had finally been disciplined for what this professor called "years of tyrannical and bullying behavior in public fora," shared with me the letter Professor Arato's lawyer sent to sociology graduate students:
This past April, Professor Arato was notified by Rhonnie Jaus, Vice President for Equal Employment Opportunity, Affirmative Action, and Compliance, that TNS was investigating some allegations that were were made against him. Although it is TNS policy to preserve anonymity of complainants, Ms. Jaus’ office informed us that the allegations referenced specific interactions between Professor Arato and certain members of TNS faculty and administrative staff. The complaints alleged that Professor Arato engaged in non-collegial conduct during faculty meetings, public discussions, and lectures.
On August 24, following two interviews with Professor Arato and Ms. Jaus' own confidential internal investigation, Assistant Provost Bryna Sanger contacted Professor Arato. She informed him that she had concluded that he had engaged in “non-collegial, unprofessional and bullying behavior towards [his] colleagues." To be clear, there have been no other allegations of any sort, and in particular no allegations of Title IX violations, violence, or sexual misconduct of any kind.
AP Sanger, in consultation with TNS general counsel and the Dean, offered to resolve these charges via mutual agreement in lieu of undertaking more formal disciplinary proceedings. Those proceedings would have included the convening of a special committee of faculty members who, after making findings of fact and consulting with the Dean, would have authority to impose further discipline on Professor Arato subject to an appeal to the Provost. Such discipline might, at the extreme, have taken the form of formal suspension or termination of his employment with TNS.
To avoid both this uncertainty and the disruption that such proceedings would necessarily bring to The New School community, Professor Arato has instead agreed to accept certain restrictions suggested by TNS. These sanctions include:
- Professor Arato is not to enter TNS property during the Fall 2018 semester except to teach his classes;
- For the Fall 2018 semester, Professor Arato is not to interact with any faculty, administrators and students, except that he may (1) communicate with students via email as necessary to complete his teaching obligations, so long as identified administrators are copied on such emails; (2) communicate any necessary university business through the Dean; and (3) attend any dissertation defenses;
- Professor Arato may not take on any new students during the Fall 2018 semester; and
- For the duration of his employment with TNS, Professor Arato may not attend any faculty meetings or any events attended by faculty and held on TNS premises, including public lectures, workshops, and conferences.
In opting to resolve the matter informally, Professor Arato has not admitted to any culpability, nor has he been formally found culpable of anything. He continues to categorically deny the merit of the charges brought against him. Nevertheless, in the interests of all concerned, including particularly his students and faculty colleagues, it was preferable to resolve the matter informally and in a spirit of cooperation. He looks forward to again engaging with and supporting students beginning in Spring, 2018.
In response various colleagues at TNS--some well-known figures on the left, as well as several philosophy faculty--first started an open letter of support for Professor Arato, and today sent out a faculty-wide e-mail, which I post below the fold:
we were taken aback by the news of the measures taken against Andrew Arato. In this letter we want to express a few of our preliminary concerns and then make a proposal. Before doing so we need to address one matter, Andrew’s supposed “agreement” to these measures. In our view no agreement is legitimate when it is made under duress. Furthermore, the measures raise a host of issues concerning tenure faculty governance, and even the reputation of the university, all of which transcend Andrew’s particular case. That said, here are our preliminary concerns:
1) Sanjay Reddy has called attention to one extremely important point. The AAUP states: "Certainly an absence of collegiality ought never, by itself, to constitute a basis for non-reappointment, denial of tenure, or dismissal.” In its 1999 statement (revised in 2016), the Association explained, “Historically, ‘collegiality’ has not infrequently been associated with ensuring homogeneity and hence with practices that exclude persons on the basis of their difference from a perceived norm. …Such expectations are flatly contrary to elementary principles of academic freedom, which protect a faculty member’s right to dissent from the judgments of colleagues and administrators. A distinct criterion of collegiality also holds the potential of chilling faculty debate and discussion.”
2) According to his lawyer’s letter Andrew is alleged to have engaged in “non-collegial, unprofessional and bullying behavior towards colleagues.” In addition to the AAUP’s guidance concerning “collegiality” we all have questions concerning the meaning of “bullying.” Some of us believe this is an unwarranted extension of a term that originally referred to elementary and high school situations in which a group of kids persecute one of their number.
Others support the extension in principle. Nevertheless, we all agree that its use in this case is subjective and questionable. After all, so far as any of us know, Andrew has neither used nor threatened violence, he did not stalk, he is not accused of sexual harassment, racist behavior, or of corrupting – or even threatening to corrupt – academic procedures, e.g. promotion. Very importantly, no student has accused him.
3) This decision is a direct attack on the principles of faculty self-government and tenure. Apparently what happened is that a minority of the faculty, working together with specialists in “human resources,” decided for the rest of us – in the name of collegiality – that we could no longer work with Andrew. All of us understand that there was a serious problem in Andrew’s episodes of misbehavior. All of us understand that civility and mutual respect need to be protected. But these should be matters of discussion, debate and ultimately academic self-government, for – otherwise – concerns about collegiality will all too easily become a powerful, disciplining weapon in the hands of administrators. Instead, we have ceded our responsibility to define collegiality to bureaucrats who have no experience of a scholarly collegium, such as we have.
The actions taken against Andrew Arato are wrong in principle and set a dangerous and unacceptable precedent. For this reason we are asking our colleagues to call for the repeal of this decision so that we can regain control of a process that has been taken out of our hands and decide for ourselves how to move forward.
The letter is plainly correct about the meaninglessness of charges of "bullying" these days, but it is a red flag that even his supporters acknowledge "a serious problem in Andrew's episodes of behavior"! Where academic freedom is respected, faculty are responsible for evaluating deficiencies in teaching and research of colleagues in their discipline; but they have no such claim on evaluating "serious problem[s]" in a colleague's "behavior" unrelated to teaching and research. It is not for faculty to decide whether a faculty member's abusive treatment of secretaries or other faculty members warrants institutional remediation: academic freedom does not apply in this context.
Perhaps there is more to this story, but when even your supporters admit the existence of "serious problem[s] in...episodes of behavior," one suspects the institution may have been correct in finally acting.
UPDATE: Another New School faculty member writes:
Your post gets to the point: academic freedom doesn't extend to "freedom to intimidate" and it doesn't authorize faculty to run disciplinary regimes (either against or in favor of any one person).
Having witnessed the situation, I'd like to add that this minority of the faculty [protesting the Arato punishment] -- which could expand, given the herd mentality -- are mobilizing with no information whatsoever about the case or the claims, apart from a letter from Arato's lawyer, from which they infer many alleged truths. That manner of inferring is extremely irresponsible (shouldn't tenured faculty at The New School for SOCIAL RESEARCH know better?). The lawyer's letter precludes any Title IX-related claims, but it in no way excludes possible physical intimidation or stalking (either physically or virtually). Many faculty do not attend meetings because this is the only way to ensure that they won't be harassed by Arato. They faculty have gone on the record to that effect.
Moreover, one department has almost gone into receivership because no one can manage being chair or faculty just plain refuse to be chair, citing intimidation and sabotage. Many faculty note the deleterious effect of this hostile environment on junior faculty, who fear that their review process will be tainted by the poisonous dynamic, given that their work is often instrumentalized in Arato's political campaigns on campus.