TAMPA—If you are a tenure-track or tenured professor, this post is especially important to you.
Because one bad precedent can strip you of rights you thought you earned.
Imagine a low-point in your life. A really low point.
For me, that was my divorce. Close to five years later, most of the wounds have healed.
But the story hasn’t.
That’s because one outsider decided to exploit this most private and painful time for political leverage.
This person pried deep into my private life at its lowest point, collecting tawdry gossip and hearsay with no regard for separating fact from fiction.
Although I was told some small excerpts of the sleazy claims, I never was told that a J. Edgar Hoover-like blackmail dossier had been stashed away in some filing cabinet.
One Coward Was Not Enough
When your luck hits a bad streak, probability suggests that streak will end.
As anyone will tell you (unless they’re trying to save their own rear end for lying), I made no secret of this character assassination that surrounded my divorce.
Still, one coward tried to use this information in a felony extortion demand (which, no surprise, said coward calls a misunderstanding).
And from the hidden filing cabinet came the “Hoover” report. I can make one clear statement about that document: the parts that are relevant are not true, and the parts that are true are not relevant.
When the university tried to look into the “Hoover” report, honesty again was perilously avoided. They said they wanted to look into hiring practices and invited a handful of witnesses. Because the purpose of those interviews was hidden, no one came prepared to answer the questions they would actually be asked. This is handy when the interviewer already has reached a conclusion.
Exactly one person knew the gist of the “Hoover” report but had not informed those up the line. Come interview time, this person lied over and over again in a game of covering one’s own ass.
So there were offsetting versions of events. A stalemate.
To be clear, nothing close to anything that had ever been upheld as a grounds for firing a tenured professor.
But the university could not have been interested in the truth, because they merely had conflicting reports. In time, of course, countless documents and witnesses would verify my version of events. Not one single document can verify the other side, of course, because it is all lies.
This Could Happen to You
If you have any skeleton in your closet, and you risk speaking truth to power, you, too, could have a “Hoover” report. And once that exists, people will give great deference to those claims because they are written down—even when the overwhelming majority is some mixture of nonsense and lies.
And lest you feel safe because you haven’t done the things that I have been accused of doing, just remember that I haven’t done most of them, either.
If this stands, firing a tenured professor will be remarkably easier anywhere than it was a year ago.
Any donation—no matter how small—to the Legal Aid Fund will help ensure this does not happen.
If you are a faculty member anywhere, you have a dog in this race.
And when we win, your contribution will be paid forward to the AAUP Legal Defense Fund in case you ever end up on the wrong side of power.
This is not about me. It is about all of us.
My sincere thanks to those who already have donated.