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Political Harassment at Cornell By: Joseph Sabia
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, April 04, 2003


Last week, I penned an article for the Cornell Daily Sun in which I presented a case study in liberal bias or rather liberal abuse of the university. Specifically I revealed that a group of professors employed at Cornell University’s College of Human Ecology launched an antiwar organization and used taxpayer-funded resources to indoctrinate students in their cause. I had hoped that by bringing the issue of political abuse of the university to light, we might commence a much-needed dialogue on the lack of ideological diversity at Cornell and strive for a more balanced and less-politicized approach to education.

My exposé examined the actions of three professors—Policy Analysis and Management (PAM) Professor Liam O’Neill, Human Development (HD) Professor Karl Pillemer, and PAM Professor William Trochim. These three men organized the formation of an organization called Community for Peace and Justice (CPJ). Initially, the group was touted as a nonpolitical discussion group, but it later morphed into radical antiwar mouthpiece. My article tracked the genesis of CPJ and made the case that one-sided political agendas were governing these professors’ actions.

In response to my article, two of the three professors decided that strong action was necessary…against me. Rather than address my concerns about the abuse of the university, a few professors in the college have decided to take a page out of Animal Farm and embark on a campaign to discredit me personally and professionally. They hope, perhaps, to diminish my career prospects by tagging me as a "troublemaker."

I knew that there would be risks in exposing leftist abuses at Cornell, but I naively expected that the fallout would mainly be in the form of a heated debate about the content of my argument. I was wrong. Rather than have a scholarly discussion, the faculty commissars have gone on a rampage.

In my article, I printed the full text of an email that PAM Professor Liam O’Neill sent me after I presented perspectives from the pro-Bush side of the war debate:

Date: Thu, 13 Mar 2003 16:32:04 -0500

From: Liam O'Neill

To: Joseph John Sabia

Subject: Re: Pro-War Leftists

I think you've made your point.

Maybe it's time to give it a rest?

Just a thought ...

Only a conservative would ever be told to "give it a rest." (Can you imagine a Cornell faculty member telling a black, a Hispanic, or a feminist to "give it a rest"?) When a Cornell alumna wrote to the professors to express her dismay at their actions—and I echoed her sentiments—Dr. O’Neill responded with the following hysterical note:

Date: Wed, 02 Apr 2003 11:10:42 -0500

From: Liam O'Neill

To: Joseph John Sabia

Subject: JOURNALISTIC ETHICS

JOE THERE IS FINE LINE BETWEEN FREE SPEECH AND HARRASSMENT

I CANNOT ENGAGE IN AN "OPEN DEBATE" WITH YOU BECAUSE YOU WILL FABRICATE QUOTES AND PRINT THIS E-MAIL WITHOUT PERMISSION IN THE NEWSPAPER

DO NOT SEND ME ANY E-MAILS IN THE FUTURE

CAN I BE ANY CLEARER? I WILL DELETE ANY E-MAILS FROM YOU IN THE FUTURE

The above all-caps email is from an Ivy League scholar. This is how he engages conservative students with whom he disagrees. He tells them that opposition to his views is "harassment" and that we need to get his "permission" before we can quote him. He cannot defend his position on the merits, so he engages in personal attacks and cuts off all communication. So much for the free and open exchange of ideas in academia! (The extent of O’Neill’s participation in debate is as follows: When I referred to him by his first name, he fired off a hilarious email with the subject line "Your Informality is Inappropriate" with a note reading, in its entirely, "The name is Dr. O’Neill.")

Human Development (HD) Professor Karl Pillemer engaged in a similar personal assault with a message he sent to the aforementioned alumna:

Date: 04/01/2003 9:32:12 PM Eastern Standard Time

From: Karl Pillemer

To: [Cornell Alumna]

Well, the problem is that Mr. Sabia entirely misrepresented the meeting, and for reasons I don't understand, completely fabricated the quotations. Not a single one of this "quotes" was actually said by anyone (indeed, Mr. Sabia did not even take notes during the meeting, that I noticed. I'm sure as a Cornell alumna, you know to take editorial columns with a very critical eye. I am sure that Mr. Sabia was hoping exactly for reactions like yours, and that is why he chose to distort the truth just to make a point. In a word, the group is totally open to anyone, and is devoted to understanding the causes and consequences of war in our time -- surely something scholars should be concerned about. I suggest you express your outrage to Mr. Sabia, for spreading mean-spirited nonsense about serious and important issues.

Dr. Pillemer knows that most of the quotes from my original article were transcripts of emails send out by his colleagues. By stating that I am "fabricating quotes," he wishes to discredit me personally. And given that I am telling the truth, it is especially outrageous. Dr. Pillimer’s accusation that I am a running around "spreading meanspirited nonsense" is right out of what President Clinton called "the politics of personal destruction."

There are only two others quotes to which he could be referring. One is attributed to PAM Professor William Trochim, in which I quote him as saying that the chief purpose of his organization was to "advocate against the war." The other was attributed to Pillimer; I quote him as saying "there is no place for a pro-war voice in this organization."

Both are true and all of the evidence supports this. The agenda for his now infamous "Community for Peace and Justice" meeting stated, in part:

Community for Peace and Justice

AGENDA

Tuesday, March 25, 2003: 5:15 pm – 6:30 pm

Steering committee Report

open to new members

recommend 10-12 members total

recommend attention to representativeness

Group name brainstorm and possible vote

Mission statement review

feedback from attendees

proposed addition of "anti-war" wording

Dr. Trochim spoke out in favor of the addition of anti-war wording to the mission statement, as noted in point three above. In fact, several members of the group said that they had no interest in remaining part of the group unless antiwar language was added to the mission statement.

It is no secret that Dr. Trochim opposes the war in Iraq—he has said that on hundreds of occasions. He has participated in several antiwar demonstrations on campus and in the community at large. As cited in my article, he called on Cornell students to walk out of class and wear black armbands to protest the war. The man’s antiwar record is crystal clear.

Dr. Trochim intended his "Community for Peace and Justice" group—now bizarrely renamed "Martha's Vanguard for Peace and Justice"—to be an antiwar propaganda group, operating under the guise of scholarship and education. It was a sham. Dr. Pillimer’s proclamation that pro-war perspectives were not welcome or useful in CPJ is supported by the evidence as well. Why have pro-war members when you are explicitly creating an antiwar mission statement?

When I exposed these professors’ outrageous behavior, Dr. Pillemer went on a rampage. After I defended myself, saying that my quotes were entirely accurate, he sent a follow-up note that included several professors as well as the Dean of the College of Human Ecology, Patsy Brannon:

Date: Wed, 02 Apr 2003 10:31:58 -0500

From: Karl Pillemer

To: Joseph John Sabia

Cc: Patsy Marie Brannon pmb22@cornell.edu,

Joseph John Sabia jjs10@cornell.edu,

William Trochim , Jerome M Ziegler jmz4@cornell.edu,

Liam O’Neill

Subject: Re: liberal bias

Joe, that's just not true. The quotes are simply and straightforwardly invented. That is ethically reprehensible, and it would be better for you just to admit it as a mistake. It's one thing to express your opinions in a general way; indeed, I personally have more sympathy for your views than you imagine. It is another thing to invent quotes and attribute them incorrectly. I personally never made a statement like the one you attribute to me. You weren't recording, and you weren't taking notes. At a minimum, you should have checked the accuracy with the people you were supposedly quoting.

So, here we have a professor accusing a student of "simply and straighforwardly invent[ing]" quotes and engaging in "ethically reprehensible" behavior in front of a College Dean.

Imagine that I was a gay student and I had brought up issues of bias against my college. Would I have a cabal of professors ganging up on me, calling me a liar and questioning my integrity? Of course not. I would be treated respectfully and my questions would be taken seriously. But no. I am a conservative, so I get the scorched earth treatment. I am personally assaulted as a liar and portrayed as a zealot on a crusade.

And what about the imbalance of power that liberals are always talking about? These are professors (or deans) with power over my current status as a graduate student and future status on the job market. Yet they feel perfectly comfortable using their power to slam the hammer down on me because I am a conservative.

These Leftist professors cannot handle the sunlight. They cannot defend their behavior. Thus, they try to destroy those who challenge them. What has happened to me is the reason why conservatives are scared to death to challenge their liberal professors. They are scared of the scorched earth treatment. Fear is what keeps Leftists in control.

No conservative student should have to face the sort of personal assault that I am enduring. That is why we must have greater protections for college students against "political harassment." Conservatives have a right to a welcoming learning environment too.




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