Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Lies about the AAUP

Today's InsideHigherEd.com features a story about the AAUP closing down their listserv, and my comment is the first in line. Peter Wood at Phi Beta Cons absurdly claims that this is evidence of a conspiracy to silence criticism of Cary Nelson, since the closure happened shortly after an attack on the listserv that 4 out of 5 members of the nominating committee supported Nelson's campaign for AAUP president (as did most AAUP members). Of course, since the NAS doesn't have a listserv open to people, it seems kind of odd for them to condemn the AAUP for shutting down theirs, especially on fictional grounds. This isn't a story about the AAUP suppressing free speech; it's a story about how the fear of litigation causes people and groups to become fearful of legitimate activity. In one of the last postings on the listserv, Tom Guild bizarrely claimed that the criticism of him on the listserv amounted to “illegal retaliation against me in violation of federal law.” So I think the AAUP was worried about another of Guild’s frivolous but expensive legal actions if they allowed the listserv to remain open. The AAUP isn’t run by a “one small group of insiders” as Guild claims. Instead, a large majority of AAUP members strongly support Cary Nelson’s reform efforts, including me, and including a strong majority of the Council and the Nominating Committee. No conspiracies here. Wood owes the AAUP and Nelson an apology for calling this "skullduggery" and "Tammany Hall ethos." I guess it shows the propensity of the NAS to engage in vicious attacks for baseless reasons, and a sign that you really can't believe what they say.

I happen to think the AAUP is being too fearful about this, although the last time Tom Guild didn't like losing an election, he filed charges against the AAUP and ended up costing the AAUP $40,000 in legal expenses for a failed cause. I have started up a new, independent listserv at:
Anyone is free to join and pursue debate there, without any danger of the AAUP getting sued for responding to Guild.

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