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SUNY-Binghamton "Abandons Attempt to Suspend or Expel" Student Critic:

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) reports:

Binghamton University (formerly SUNY--Binghamton) has abandoned its attempt to suspend or expel a student who put up posters challenging the Department of Social Work. The department had ordered that social work master's student Andre Massena leave the program for one year with no guarantee of return, required him to apologize, and demanded that he publicly disavow his own views after his pseudonymous posters challenged the department for having hired the executive director of the Binghamton Housing Authority (BHA) -- an agency Massena thought was responsible for social injustice. When Massena appealed, the department's chair added entirely new allegations and recommended his expulsion. The department dropped the charges late Friday, one day after the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) took the case public.

For more on this case, see the FIRE press release and its links, or the post linked to below under Related Posts.

Happyshooter:
So the University is not only a collection of bullies, but also cowards.
11.17.2008 3:02pm
Anderson (mail):
Happy, it's entirely possible that higher-ups at the school didn't know what was going on until the media jumped in. That is one reason we have the media.

I would think the logical next step would be to investigate the dep't chair's actions, and to issue a reminder that professors are not supposed to behave like tyrants, but perhaps I am too optimistic.
11.17.2008 3:11pm
Bama 1L:
Good.
11.17.2008 3:18pm
RPT (mail):
Sounds like a good result. In the real world, the "logical next step" often backfires.
11.17.2008 3:22pm
jenny2:
Excellent! More just like this to clean out the swamps.
11.17.2008 3:25pm
hmonrdick (mail):
As the risk of sounding way too cynical, I wonder whether Mr. Massena will discover down the line that his Masters thesis is somehow ultimately found to be inadequate or otherwise insufficiently scholarly to justify awarding him the Masters degree that he is seeking. Bullies and cowards and tyrants they are, certainly. But also devious, as demonstrated by their second round of allegations when the first got challenged.
11.17.2008 3:27pm
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):
I agree; it will be very interesting to see what the progress of this student's Masters program is.
11.17.2008 3:38pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):
Its a Social Work masters, not anything "scholarly".

Masters or not, 60/40 chance "fries with that" is a big part of his first job.
11.17.2008 4:08pm
notaclue (mail):
hmonrdick, Massena might actually be sitting pretty. His enemies in the department might feel they have to bend over backwards to avoid any appearance of retaliating against him. He may find his degree path smoother than otherwise.
11.17.2008 4:24pm
EconGrad:
To me, it feels like the college/department got off easy. So long as those in authority (be it college administrators, police, or otherwise) are free to behave like tyrants, adversely and unfairly impacting the lives of others, and their biggest risk is that someone will have the guts/resources to take them to task over it, and on the rare occasion that happens, all they lose is a little face by saying "oops, nevermind", there is little incentive for them to change their behavior.

I'm not sure what Massena could have gotten in the way of compensation that would have made me happy, but it would have probably needed about 4 zeroes on the end, or involve the responsible Nazi administrator being "advanced" out of their job.
11.17.2008 5:15pm
Mike S.:
And trying to punish a student for speaking out is not cause for dismissing te department chair?
11.17.2008 6:19pm
PersonFromPorlock:
Apparently FIRE is just going to let it drop. Another opportunity squandered.
11.17.2008 6:34pm
Kazinski:
The department chair sent Massena a one sentence email announcing that they dropped the procedings:

Due to procedural misunderstandings, the case pertaining to you is no longer being pursued.


Which can be translated to: "I didn't realize there were any limitations on what I could do to students that annoy me, therefore I have been forced to eat a shit sandwich, and allow you to stay in the program, for now."
11.17.2008 7:05pm
Roy:
Sadly social work is one meaningless subject you can get a job in, a low paying jib usually, but still a job that can do a lot of damage.

I would sleep much better at night if I knew Social Work majors all were woking at McDonalds
11.17.2008 7:57pm
paul lukasiak (mail):
I guess that no one bothered to actually check out the supporting documentation...

for instance, FIRE claims that other members of the Birmingham faculty found the 51 page submission of Bronstein "ridiculous" -- but there is nothing in the supporting documentation that suggests that anyone at Birmingham considered Bronstein's submission anything but appropriate.

Massena was not being disciplined for exercising his "First Amendment Rights", rather he was disciplined for violating the NASW Code of Ethics's provision regarding honesty. Massena made numerous false claims, many of them malicious, and apparently the anonymous flyer was the last straw.

Having worked for a school of social work in the past, my best guess is that the reason that the school decided to drop the charges against Massena was to prevent further embarrassment for him -- reading the full documentation of the case, Massena comes off as less than "rational", and Social Workers are the kind of people who look at people with emotional/mental problems as needing help rather than "punishment"
11.17.2008 9:02pm
Reader (mail):
I think I may agree with Paul - there was no support provided for the statement that others at the school found the arguments ridiculous (there was a document, but if you take the time to read it it's just procedural back-and-forth).

I'm predisposed to agree with everything FIRE says, but it seems like they may have strayed here, protecting someone for putting up posters urging people to call faculty members to complain about things that never really happened. (Is that really a First Amendment right?) Then, when the school said that was an ethics violation (which it clearly is), the student said the head of the NAACP would want to be involved, which was another lie. (There are a lot more details that make it sound bad, but those seem to be the general countours.)

I think it's more likely that the school just got outlawyered, and this guy will have learned that playing hard-ball pays off.
11.18.2008 9:46am