Those who follow FIRE and The Torch know that FIRE tends to treat the horrendous abuses ladled out upon the students and professors that we help with a certain amount of equanimity. That’s nearly always appropriate if you want people to take you seriously, and it’s certainly the professional way to deal with things, in most cases.
Then there are the times you just have to call you-know-what on universities’ attempts to justify the unjust and the unjustifiable. This is one of those times.
My colleague Adam Kissel wrote a Daily Caller article yesterday on the case of UCLA epidemiologist James Enstrom, who’s being run out of the school on a rail for daring to disagree with his colleagues (horrors!) and blow the whistle on other scientists’ shenanigans (a fake Ph.D.! Violating term limits!). In response, a user called "UCLA Communications" posted a link to a statement on the UCLA website about the lawsuit that Enstrom just filed in an attempt to keep his job. Most of it’s the usual argle-bargle about how UCLA followed procedures, etc. (For more on how those procedures worked, or rather failed miserably, take a look at Enstrom’s legal complaint).
That’s par for the course. But what really got my blood boiling was this parenthetical in UCLA’s statement:
(Because Enstrom is not a professor, the rules and regulations governing his employment differ from those of a tenured faculty member. Nevertheless, the grievance process afforded to researchers includes several separate stages of review and includes the right to a full evidentiary hearing.)
It’s true that Enstrom did not have tenure (which says a lot about the broken tenure system, considering that he’s been there 35 years and was outproducing tenured colleagues in research), but when UCLA’s PR flack wrote that Enstrom was not a professor, the real surprise is that that bureaucrat’s pants did not immediately catch fire. We addressed the "Enstrom is not a professor" canard back in October 2010, complete with (as always) voluminous evidence. Enstrom was an Associate Resident Professor. He thought he was a professor. Others thought he was a professor. UCLA institutionally called him a professor. UCLA’s retroactive attempts to deny this fact are insulting, demeaning, and morally bankrupt.
In fact, following the tradition of John Hancock, who is said to have signed his name in a very large hand on the Declaration of Independence so that King George III could read it without his spectacles, I am going to blow up the evidence really big so even a university bureaucrat can understand it.
From the 1998-1999 UCLA directory:
What do you suppose the "Prof" part means in there? Profiteroles?
Well, maybe it’s a fluke, right? How about the 2002-2003 University of California directory?
Man, that non-professor Enstrom sure is sneaky! He keeps getting in the directory as a professor! But surely they’ll correct it eventually…
Wow, one starts to think that 12 years of this might not be an accident. But what does the dean of his department think? From an April 1, 2004, email from Dean Linda Rosenstock of the Department of Public Health:
From: "Rosenstock, Linda"
Sender: "Benson, Regina"
To: "Enstrom, James (BOL)"
Cc: "Peccei, Roberto" ,
"Roshan Bastani (E-mail)" ,
"Kathleen Kiser (E-mail)" firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Grant Funding
Date: Thu, 1 Apr 2004 12:12:15 -0800
April 1, 2004
James E. Enstrom, Assoc Resident Professor, Public Health
I recently had the opportunity to review correspondence between you and Vice Chancellor Peccei (your letter dated February 5,2004). While I disagree with many of your statements, I was concerned to learn about the status of renewing your grant earlier in this academic year. [REDACTED] I agree that as a faculty member in good standing you should be allowed to submit a grant that would otherwise be permitted under campus and school guidelines…
(Emphases added.) Wow, in that one they used the whole word, and it turns out it IS "Professor"! Who could have seen that coming?
Tech nerds like me know that the late Steve Jobs was said to somehow have the ability to project a "reality distortion field," a reference to his apparent ability to get people to believe what he wanted them to believe through what Wikipedia calls "a mix of charm, charisma, bravado, hyperbole, marketing, appeasement and persistence." But Jobs was a genius who designed the iPhone and iPad, so most of us are willing to forgive him for it. Universities like UCLA, on the other hand, frequently try to establish their own reality distortion fields through what I would call "a mix of brazenness, moral laxity, fear, deception, oppression, opacity, and gobs of student and/or taxpayer money." And when they do, FIRE is here to call them on it.
My exit question: When UCLA administrators see this blog entry, as they certainly will, do you think they’ll have even enough decency to silently change UCLA’s insulting and false statement? We’ll see, but I wouldn’t recommend that you hold your breath.