Faculty Attack Squad
By Jay Schalin
April 18, 2013
“Fascists,” “bums,” and “killing machines.”
That’s how conservatives and Republicans were described at the initial meeting of a new organization of faculty members in North Carolina. The group, named “Scholars for a Progressive North Carolina,” was formed in response to what organizers described as “the destructive course pursued by the state legislature.”
The event raised some troubling questions. An email invitation to the gathering sent on March 18 by East Carolina University geology professor Catherine Rigsby is of ethical concern. The email was forwarded throughout the system’s faculty “listserv” service, with Rigsby also using her title of “Chair of the UNC Faculty Assembly.”
Should she have used the authority of her office and the taxpayer-provided UNC email system to recruit and organize for Scholars for a Progressive North Carolina? … did she cross ethical lines by telling the system’s faculty members that the event was to be focused on higher education policy rather than on partisan politics?
… this event was purely partisan; there was no discussion of specific higher education policies, nor was there a single word by any panelist or crowd member that deviated from opinions common to the left wing of the Democratic Party. …
Another ethical concern is raised by the Scholars’ coordination with the N.C. Justice Center and its sister organization, N.C. Policy Watch. These two organizations are key members of Blueprint N.C., a non-profit political and fundraising network that was recently at the center of a controversy over its uncivil tactics. …
Blueprint’s leadership sent a memo earlier this year to member organizations that called for “crippling” and “eviscerating” leading Republican politicians “to weaken their ability to govern,” and using aggressive techniques such as hiring a “staff of video trackers” to “follow the targets’ every move,” pressuring Governor Pat McCrory “at every public event,” and hiring “private investigators” to dig up dirt on prominent Republicans.
The chances of anything being done about the misuse of state resources for partisan purposes and other ethical lapses are slightly higher than of my being appointed VP of Engineering or Manufacturing at my current employer. Just keep in mind that this is the kind of thing many academics do and/or defend.