Censored at U of A

Why Does the University of Alabama Want to Shut Down The Alabama Observer?

Is it possible for the University of Alabama to tolerate the publication and distribution of a conservative newspaper on its campus?

Apparently not. In early September, we published the first issue of The Alabama Observer. Ten thousand copies were distributed throughout the state, mainly through the campus mail systems of Alabama universities and campuses. One would think that such places would allow, even encourage, the exchange of ideas. After all, that’s what universities are for, right?

What actually happened should send chills up the spine of any true believer in the first amendment to the Constitution.

First, the good news. After a little confusion at the beginning, the Provost of Auburn University not only agreed to distribute our paper, he even agreed to do it for free. The Alabama Observer reached the faculty and staff of the Auburn community without a hitch. We applaud Auburn Univeristy for understanding that it has nothing to fear from a free press and unregulated freedom of speech.

Distribution at the University of South Alabama, Troy State, and the University of North Alabama also took place without a hitch. UAB granted permission but wanted to charge us an arm and leg, so we decided to do it ourselves.

Now the bad news, and from an unexpected source: the flag ship institution of the state, the Universtiy of Alabama. About a week after we sent the paper out through campus mail, we got a call from a Mr. Bill May who identified himself as the Director of University Printing. Mr. May is not a member of the faculty and does not teach or do research. He told us that campus distribution of the Observer had been “a mistake” and that we would not be allowed to do it again.

Why not? We asked Mr. May to send us a copy of the regulations he used to make the decision to ban us. We waited. And we waited. Three weeks passed, and still no word. Could it be there were no regulations, we wondered?

You will not believe the story that follows. It is story of deliberate obfuscation and delay, but more than that, it is story of the length to which some in the university administration will go to limit freedom of speech. It is a story of deceit in the service of a stunning abuse of power, and it only gets worse.

Scandal at Shelby Hall?

Cost Goes Over Budget by Millions in order to Please Senator Shelby

The Mobile Register finds out why the giant building that bears Shelby’s name is overbudget by $16 million! See the story The Tuscaloosa News absolutely refuses to touch!!!

News from The Alabama Observer

Administrative Salaries at University of Alabama: “Grotesquely Bloated,” says Professor

Over a period of time when faculty and staff salaries have decreased in real terms, to a point where they are now the lowest in the nation, University of Alabama administrators have enjoyed double-digit percentage increases each year for the past ten years.

Robert Witt, President of the University, calls such increases warranted, because the university must pay “market rates” to obtain “the best.”

“The best,” presumably, included Vice-President Kerry Kennedy, who recently quit and fled back to Texas in the wake of allegations of financial mismagement after less than on year on the job.

Mr. Witt himself receives $400,000 in salary, more than the president of the considerably larger and more prestigious University of California-Berkeley.

“Witt cites market rate,” said Charles Nuckolls, Professor of Anthropology, “but he fails to mention that it is a tiny cabal of administrators who set their own salaries.” There is no market, Nuckolls said, only a “mafia-like” consortion of self-interested individuals whose collective interest is in milking their university budgets for all they’re worth. “Administrative salaries are grotesquely bloated,” Nuckolls remarked.

Facutly and staff at the University of Alabama have received either no pay increases, or increases that are less than the rate of increase in cost of living, for most of the past decade, making them among the lowest paid in the United States. Meanwhile, administrative salaries are among the very highest.

“It is a situation that is possible only when the true mission of the University — education — has been sacrified to the greed of small but powerful interest group,” Professor Nuckolls said.

The Wrong Song of the South: What Liberal White Professors and Neo-Confederates Have in Common

The dangerous fallacies of Confederate multiculturalism

David T. Beito and Charles W. Nuckolls

During the last decade, the League of the South and other “southern heritage” groups have fought to preserve the state flags of Georgia and Mississippi. Some members of the League have demanded that universities hire Southern-born professors. Others have promoted antebellum style dances. Nearly all are quick to champion their “heroes,” including Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis, against any slights.

The jargon of group rights and identity politics, normally the domain of the politically correct, permeates their pronouncements. In Georgia, a member of the League boasts that “our Southern heritage celebrates true diversity…and true multiculturalism.”

Another from Virginia asks “in an age of political correctness, teaching tolerance of others and multiculturalism…when will the people of the south be permitted to honor their heritage?” Similarly, the national president of the League declares that if “Southerners were any other people in the world, the campaign to rob them of their symbols, their history, and their cultural identity would be termed cultural genocide.”

The League stresses the Celtic background of many Southerners as a defining feature of this “cultural identity.” A few years ago an incident brought home to one of the authors some striking parallels between Confederate multiculturalists of this type and leftwing multiculturalists. During a long conversation about race and culture, a white professor at the University of Alabama, lamented that so few blacks were observing Kwanzaa.

This professor was a member of the Coalition for Diversity and Inclusiveness, a group that “celebrates” such “multicultural” crusades as mandatory diversity training and reparations. Her zeal was not dampened by the argument that local blacks, like whites, were Christians of a traditional sort and that Kwanzaa was foreign to their outlook.

Though she acknowledged that the holiday was the brainchild of an American college professor of dubious character, she still held out the hope that African American students might take it seriously. Her brief for Kwanzaa illustrates the hollowness and artificiality of much of what passes today for multiculturalism.

This professor’s agenda of promoting “cultural awareness,” and thus differences between blacks and whites, had become so all encompassing that she did not hesitate to impose it from the top down.

Much the same can be said for the Confederate multiculturalists who work so hard to immortalize state flags that are usually no older than the 1950s. Like her, they desperately want to create and “celebrate” cultural distinctions and then deploy them for political purposes. They also view the world through the lens of group, rather than individual, rights.

Of course, the key defining trait of the Confederate multiculturalists is their interpretation of the Civil War. They usually have a stock set of answers for any critics. In response to the obvious link between slavery and the Confederacy, their favorite retort is that the “war wasn’t about slavery.” If an informed critic can refute this claim, their usual fallback is to declare that “the Yankees” had dirty hands too (as if that excused any Southern sin).

Instead, they stress the roles of states rights, self-determination, and the tariff. This overall analysis of the relationship between slavery and secession, while often well meaning, is just plain wrong. The primary documents of the period make crystal clear that the Confederacy and slavery went together like hand and glove.

The declarations of “immediate causes” of secession of South Carolina and Mississippi say nary a word about the tariff or, for that matter, states rights; but they say quite a bit about the urgent need to protect slavery. Of course, any stress on states rights would have been out of character. During the 1850s, many of the authors of these documents had defended federal supremacy against Northern states that had enacted liberal laws to protect runaways.

Instead, these declarations for secession stress a compact theory that indicted the federal government for failing to live up to its end of the Constitutional bargain by not enforcing the Fugitive Slave Act and by blocking the expansion of slavery into the territories. During the war itself, the Confederacy often trampled on both state and individual rights through the nationalization of industry, inflation, and conscription.

All of this does not excuse any evils committed by the “Yankees.” A strong, but highly nuanced and conditional, case can be made that President Abraham Lincoln was wrong to violently prevent secession much as Russia is wrong to do so now against illiberal Chechnya.

Historian Jeffrey Rogers Hummel persuasively contends that had Lincoln let South Carolina and its allies leave prior to the firing on Fort Sumter, the Upper South would have stayed in the Union. Limited to a weak rump of Gulf coast states and South Carolina, the new nation would have faced a grim future of isolation, slave revolts, runaways, and eventual collapse.

An even more powerful moral case for self-determination can be made, though Confederate multiculturalists will never do it, in defense of the insurgents at Harpers Ferry led by John Brown. If any individual during the civil war period deserves the accolade of hero, it is not Lincoln or Davis but Brown’s ally, Lysander Spooner. Spooner’s antislavery interpretation of the Constitution had inspired Frederick Douglass during the 1850s. Later, Spooner opposed the war but, all the while, he was consistent in his support for the inalienable rights of all individuals.

If the Confederate multiculturalists believe in liberty, as many of them assert, they will stop waving the Stars and Bars, abandon the cause of a nation state that championed an unforgivable violation of inalienable rights, and embrace the rich American heritage of individualism.

David T. Beito is an associate professor of history at the University of Alabama. Charles W. Nuckolls is professor at anthropology at the University of Alabama. Both belong to Liberty and Power, a group blog at the History News Network.

Cruz Quits at Last!

Famed bobble-head reporter Gilbert Cruz quit his post as campus beat reporter and left for New York City, where he will take a job as an entertainment reporter.

The Alabama Observer is pleased for Cruz, since, as a soft-ball journalist with no talent for investigative reporting we feel Cruz has finally found his niche.

Cruz’s position as campus reporter has been taken by Mr. Adam Jones, in whom we have a more confidence — at least for now. We hope that Douglas Ray will encourage, or at least permit, Mr. Jones to do his job, without interferance from the well-connected administrative lobby at the University of Alabama.

Witt Hatchetman Kerry Kennedy Quits and Runs Back to Texas

Vice President for Financial Affairs, Kerry Kennedy, today resigned his position at the University of Alabama to take a lower–profile position at a University of Texas satellite campus in San Antonio.

In the manner of all troubled political appointees, Kennedy cited “family reasons” as the motive behind his sudden departure after less than one year on the job.

For the last several months, Kennedy has spearheaded Witt’s effort to commercialize the University of Alabama, restructuring its educational programs to mimic Wal-Mart. Reducing labor costs by mass firings (in Facilities Management, for example) and eliminating programs that do not “pay” have been key elements in Kennedy’s agenda.

Kennedy also directed the administration effort to drastically reduce medical benefits for faculty and staff.

So why is he leaving? The Tuscaloosa News is maintaining its policy of strict non-investigative journalism.

However, we at the Alabama Observer have our own theories. We know, for example, that Kennedy is named in a lawsuit agains the University claiming discrimination in the firing of several dozen employees earlier this year. We also know that Kennedy has been investigated in connection with the scandalous run-up in costs in the construction of the troubled Shelby Hall. Finally, we have heard from several inside sources that the Board of Trustees is troubled by alledged conflicts of interest in bidding for the rediculous $50 million expansion of the football stadium.

Perhaps Kennedy has decided to get out while he can. He’s a savvy operator; we can only assume he knows what he’s doing.

As for Witt, it is significant that this is the second of his high-level administrative appointees to skeedaddle. The first was Christopher Hinton, who was fired within a week of his appointment after this newspaper (The Alabama Observer) revealed he had been under legal investigation in North Carolina in connection with alledged financial malfeasance.

The Texas gang’s days at the Capstone may be drawing to a close. Let us hope Kennedy is not the last one to ride off into the sunset.

AAUP Campus Representative Condemns Witt’s Banning of Campus Newspapers

Free exchanges of ideas are vital to the University. Students should realize that UA administration’s heavy-handed actions to stop the distribution of critical newsletters, to block publicity for unfashionable speakers, to withhold embarrassing statistical data, and to circumscribe free speech threaten the academic reputation of UA and undermine the value of their degrees.

The Provost pretends that the controversy is only about paying postage. Yet coincidentally Alabama Observer and Alabama Academe, the two newsletters she has banned from free distribution in campus mail, are the ones that criticized the administration.

Why shouldn’t these papers be distributed freely, as Alabama Academe has been for over 30 years? Oh, that was an “oversight.”

The Provost, a long-time denizen of Rose who does not deign to communicate with us directly, suddenly has a touching concern for postal regulations. Well, what about other free distributions by campus mail? Are they allowed? Are the banned newsletters less concerned with the business of the University than those of departments, programs, and centers?

And what about the beautiful Christmas cards sent out by the President and the College of Arts and Sciences (hand addressed, sealed, mailed without postage)? Rob Ingram, former secretary of the Coalition for Diversity and Inclusiveness declares that printing and postage for CDI materials were paid from private funds. He does not say how much he paid, but one suspects it was much less than Campus Mail now wants to charge Observer and Academe.

Until recently any organization—academic, commercial, political—could pay $30 to Campus Mail to laser-print faculty addresses on their fliers and deliver them. Alabama Academe got printed labels for free from UA administrators. We then pasted the labels on the papers and placed them into Campus Mail.

Since the Provost’s attempted revival of the colonial Stamp Act, however, Alabama Scholars Association and Alabama AAUP have been forced to find other means of distribution.

We are willing to register as bona-fide faculty organizations, but there is no procedure. As the CW reports, the Provost defines “bona-fide” groups as “strictly based at the University, funded by the University, and only have University employees hired in the organization.”

That should cover wholly-owned subsidiaries, paid PR agents, and serfs. Yet you as newspaper editors are well aware that freedom of the press exists only as long as free people make use of it.

Maarten Ultee, Professor of History Campus Contact for AAUP [American Association of University Professors]

Free Speech Suit Challenges University Censorship Policy

By Matthew Daneman Staff Writer (June 10, 2004) –

BROCKPORT -Two SUNY Brockport students are suing to overturn campus speech codes they say quash their free-speech rights. The lawsuit, filed last week in U.S. District Court in Buffalo by students Patricia Simpson and Robert Wojick, alleges that the two are afraid to discuss controversial topics on campus because “they may be prosecuted and subject to sanctions” under the campus’ behavior regulations.

The lawsuit is the fourth in a national campaign organized by the Philadelphia-based Foundation for Individual Rights in Education to wipe out “highly restrictive speech codes,” said Greg Lukianoff, director of legal and public advocacy.

The organization previously has organized similar lawsuits against colleges in Pennsylvania, California and Texas. “A university should be a place that protects greater amounts of free speech than what society tolerates,” said Lukianoff. “You need students who are able to argue, able to defend their arguments, and do not go into life with the expectations they’re never going to have their deepest beliefs challenged.”

Both Brockport students are self-described political conservatives, according to the suit. Simpson heads the campus chapter of the College Republicans; Wojick is a member of the club. Neither could be located for comment Wednesday.

The lawsuit points to various State University College at Brockport rules as examples of student intimidation – for example, prohibitions against jokes that stereotype or make fun of a particular race, creed, gender, etc.

The suit also cites the “better community statement” which states that free speech should be used “only with responsible and careful regard for the feelings and sensitivities of others” without defining how to gauge such feelings.

The suit says that the two students have withheld talking in class on such topics as the Equal Rights Amendment or the economies of foreign cultures out of fear that their opinions could be called bigotry under campus speech codes and punished.

College spokesman Nick Mascari said the state Attorney General’s Office is handling the suit, which is common when state bodies are sued, and that Brockport could not comment on ongoing litigation.

MDANEMAN@DemocratandChronicle.com For more on the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, go to www.thefire.org

Student Newspaper Applauds ASA and Slams Witt Censorship Policy

This week the University of Alabama student newspaper, The Crimson White, came out solidly in favor of freedom of speech and the press.

The CW condemned the Witt policy of denial and deceit that led to the virtual banning of two faculty publications, The Alabama Observer and Alabama Academe.

All the newspapers that have so far offered an opinion (Birmingham News, Mobile Register, Crimson White) agree that Witt’s excuse — “I’m only following postal regulations” — is an insulting feint and has fooled no one.

Mobile Register Article on Witt Censorship Policy at U of A

Lukianoff’s statement was recently posted on FIRE’s Web site. As the Mobile Register reported in January, the dispute started after University Provost Judy Bonner barred the Alabama Scholars Association from sending its newsletter via low-cost campus mail. Postal regulations allow only organizations funded and managed by the university to use the system, Bonner said at the time.

Scholars Association leaders alleged that the policy was retaliation for their advocacy of term limits for administrators and a study that found widespread grade inflation in some departments. Caught in the crossfire was the venerable American Association of University Professors, which also was barred from the campus mail system.

Lukianoff labeled the ban as “part of a pattern of disrespect for free speech.” University spokesman Chris Bryant responded, “This is >a postal regulation issue.”

The Alabama Scholars Association is the state chapter of the National Association of Scholars, a generally conservative organization with priorities that include free speech and academic standards.

Despite the campus mail cutoff, the group is finding other means of getting its message across.

For example, in an article on its Web site titled “The Mandarins of Alabama,” the association displays adjoining photos of the university’s main administration building and the tomb of the late Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong.

Sean Reilly Newhouse News Service 1101 Connecticut Ave. NW Suite 300 Washington, DC 20036 Ph: (202) 383-7815 > Fax: (202) 296-9537