Dec 182013

Update: 22 Dec 2013: Spanier’s attorney fired back, of course, after the release of Cynthia Baldwin’s testimony, and called Baldwin a liar who once said Spanier was a man of integrity. Baldwin’s attorney responded by saying Spanier’s attorney quoted Baldwin before Baldwin knew Spanier was a serial liar. Spanier’s attorney added that she can’t wait to get Baldwin on the stand, which means, we guess, that Spanier wants to go to trial rather than stall any longer.

spanier back in court
The Centre Daily Times offered the best detail yet on why Spanier still tries to stay free on a technicality by claiming that he thought Cynthia Baldwin acted as his attorney during the grand jury proceedings in which spanier_snow_dec172013Spanier (allegedly) lied. Of course, Spanier’s position is absurd given that he lied to Baldwin about covering for Sandusky, and, in effect, is suggesting that she should have participated in a criminal conspiracy by ignoring his lies and then ignoring his lies under oath in the grand jury. In short, Cynthia Baldwin, former Pennsylvania supreme court justice and Penn State trustee, should have also committed perjury. She was correct and consistent in representing the interests of Penn State as the university attorney, and when Spanier’s criminal interests ran counter to the interests of Penn State, Baldwin did her job to protect the interests of the university from legal jeopardy–not to mention to protect herself. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer:

[Cynthia Baldwin] later testified against [Spanier, Curley, Schlutz] before another grand jury, saying she believed the men had withheld information from authorities and at times lied about what they knew.

“He’s not a person of integrity,” Baldwin told the grand jury about Spanier, the transcripts show. “He lied to me.”

Cynthia Baldwin never advised Graham Spanier to lie before the grand jury and never told him to cover for the crimes committed by Jerry Sandusky. Paterno had sense enough to bring a personal attorney to the same grand jury.  And the judge at the preliminary hearing last summer did not hesitate, even without testimony from Baldwin, to move the case to trial.  He’d heard enough, as did the judge yesterday. He needed no more testimony to make one more decision on the moot Baldwin technicality and took only minutes before the hearing ended. Spanier’s mouthpiece wanted days to grill Baldwin on the stand. The court responded by releasing Justice Baldwin’s grand jury testimony for all to read.

It’s not surprising that Spanier looked a little worn when he appeared at the court; the arrogance had disappeared for the first time.

asle obfuscatory crap
barry roberts greerLike Spanier, middle-aged organizations build the illusion that they are still forever young, when, in fact, they become calcified, inflexible, and therefore gradually but surely respond to honest dissent with arrogance and raw power. Spanier did that throughout his career from Oregon State to Penn State to silence anyone who threatened his status quo, and ASLE has done it now because it is incensed by the suggestion that it would do what it just did. Act like Spanier.

The cause? Greer used words ASLE did not like, such as “obfuscatory crap” in response to this bloviation from Elizabeth Dodd, ASLE top dog:

There’s plenty in our professional lives to cause aggravation, dismay, even disbelief. But for many authors, ASLE has provided a welcome community that doesn’t exacerbate these annoyances (grievances, even). I don’t remember meeting you, Barry, and I’m sorry about the impacts your activity in the profession has had on your health, but your view of ASLE and ISLE is one I don’t share.

Ignore the subject-verb disagreement. Focus on content, on deliberately euphemistic nonsense written by a Kansas State distinguished university professor, an ISLE editorial board member, and an ASLE writing prize winner. Dodd is an English professor who will extol George Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language” by day, and by night morph into a corporate shill who reduced 20-years of teaching college literacy, censorship, blindness, loss of job, loss of retirement fund to the word “activity.”

mary_vojtko_adjunctPerfect. The perfect example of the culture that allowed people like Spanier to thrive and allowed an 83-year-old adjunct to work herself to death. Read the excellent Slate piece on the death last August of Margaret Mary Vojtko, an adjunct French professor at Duquesne University. She collapsed on the street trying to walk home one last time. Dropped dead of cancer and heart disease because she could not afford to stop working. The Slate writer works hard to balance the portrait of Vojtko, who remained fiercely independent, and refused the help of social agencies because she did not want to be warehoused in a nursing home.

But by the end of the profile, the Slate writer had to reach the conclusion still, no matter what Vojtko’s eccentricities, that her life would have been lived with greater financial security and would have ended with dignity had Duquesne not done whatever it could to block formation of a union even after 85 percent of the adjuncts voted for one. Vojtko grew up in a United Steel Workers family, and she had, without hesitation, voted for the Duquesne adjunct union. Slate makes it clear that Duquesne had money, plenty of it, but had no plans to spend it on anything human. Capital improvements, yes, improved working conditions for adjuncts, no.

Slate also made it plain—as if it needed to be said any more—that Duquesne is the rule, not the exception in perpetuating and expanding academic sweatshops. Nationally, 60 percent of humanities faculty are now in adjunct positions, which was the reason given by Duquesne for its own sweatshop. Everybody else does it. So Duquesne, even though the Pope supports unions, is still stonewalling the union with a legal technicality: the NLRB can’t tell a Catholic school what to do.

Greer’s response to Dodd’s condescending and denigrating diatribe: “I won’t belabor the point you proved about modern English departments by turning ‘impact’ into a noun and teaching literacy to 6000 students into ‘activity,’ not to mention both being obfuscatory crap. Dust off your old copy of Strunk and White.”

harrumphharrumph heard round the world
Well, you could hear the tenured harrumphs round the world. Summary: A Bath University prof told Greer to take his labor talk elsewhere. A Rose-Hulman University prof told Greer to ignore the problem. Can’t do anything about it. An Arizona University prof rejected the idea that corporate university corrupt culture similar to Penn State existed elsewhere. Two others harrumphed in agreement. ASLE members were pure as driven snow.

And, of course, character assassination appeared in the form of pop psychology. One English prof suggested everyone ignore Greer by, of course, calling attention to Greer to do so. Frederick O. Waage, the godfather of envion-lit textbooks, suggested that Greer had some sort of personal issues he was projecting. A grad student called Greer a “crank.” A loud-mouthed old man. Then the listsev cop, Jeri Pollock, made the first threat to remove Greer from the listserv to stop him from responding to the personal attacks. No due process. Summary execution. In the tones of self-justifying rationalization found in Orwell’s “A Hanging,” Pollock threatened to report Greer to the thought police. It was for his own good. Besides, he was asking for it. He forced ASLE to do it. Emily Hegarty, associate professor of English, SUNY-Nassau Community College, summed up the voice of the lynch mob best with this sentence: “Chiming in to agree with this request for more intensive list moderation.” Doddistic rhetoric for “Shut him up.”

Frederick O. Waage called for Greer’s removal so ASLE could get back to the “real work” to “save humans” just as Duquesne is doing after Vojtko’s death. Just as Penn State is still trying to do after the conviction of serial rapist Jerry Sandusky and the impending trial of (alleged) serial liar Graham Spanier. Greer was history. Muted. Muzzled. But, in true Doddistic Soviet fashion, ASLE listserv members learned from Jeri Pollock that Greer wasn’t really banned. He just could no longer post.

Ex post facto, as Spanier did at Oregon State to justify firing Greer for First Amendment use, ASLE provided legalistic if legally questionable justification for silencing Greer. The ASLE managing director wrote: “Please be advised that you have been removed from the ASLE listserv due to behavior inconsistent with ASLE’s membership purposes stated in article 3.1 of our bylaws.” Article 3.1 reads:

3.1 The members of ASLE will be scholars, teachers, writers, and others who seek to increase their knowledge of literature and environment; to promote the creation, appreciation, understanding, and teaching of literature from environmental perspectives; and to share their knowledge to the benefit of all interested in literary research and teaching.

One long-time ASLE member, C.L. Rawlins, not an academic, added this comment on the listserv after Greer had been booted: “Having been on the ASLE listserv since its early days, I’ve watched it change from an unfenced commons on which anything from public announcements to many-sided brawls might occur. That it now resembles a departmental bulletin board reflects the aging of e-mail (and the listserv) as a medium.” She added these quotes from Greer’s favorite NY Times columnist, Maureen Dowd: “Pretending that false and ugly things don’t exist is a bit delusional. . . . All quarrels are not petty. Sometimes quarrels are about big things, and it’s an actual privilege to take a side in them.”

Greer once taught environmental writing in the Oregon State University honors program. Orion, Appalachia, Snowy Egret, Buzzworn, Friends of the Earth, Oregon Sierra Club, Oregon Conifer, and other publications printed his annoying prose in the past, including an interview with Vandana Shiva.

To read the entire listserv flame war between Greer and the humane ASLE academics, click this sentence. Read it before it’s blocked from public view.

We find no evidence at this time of any connection between Graham Spanier and ASLE.