A Culture of Fear
“They can and will do anything to your professional life.” “No matter how irrational their decisions, watch out what you say: they don’t like it if you question their decisions, and they have ways of using the tiniest pretext to professionally harass you.” “If your department speaks out collectively, then they will retaliate and harass your department.” Statements such as this have become increasingly common among College of Engineering faculty as the tenure of the current Dean progresses. In the current limbo when the departments in the College prepare their 2.7% across the board cut (announced as the 3rd and hopefully final of Dean Abernathy’s proposals for the 2012 budget cut), this atmosphere of fear of retribution and retaliation is palpable. What does this say about academic freedom within the College of Engineering?
The following emails were “sunshined” as part of a public records request.
“Evil and Nefarious Undertakings”
The first email below is from Dean Abernathy to Associate Dean (and former Chair of ECE) Mark Law, in response to a message from Mark Law saying that he did not get a Dean position at Auburn. It was sent on the evening of the same day that the Dean announced the Abernathy plan for dismantling the CISE department and stripping it of its research activity.
NOTE: UF is one of 24 US universities with a fully functioning nuclear reactor. The UF training reactor was associated with the Nuclear Engineering department that was recently dismantled by the College of Engineering administration, without even paying lip service to Senate Bylaw 22 on restructuring. Here are excerpts of a letter to the provost from a highly successful Nuclear engineering faculty member who departed as the department suffered the college administration’s “nuclear option” akin to the Apr. 11 Abernathy plan for CISE. The nuclear engineering program still exists as a disembodied entity split among unrelated departments. One of these departments is Materials Science and Engineering (the Dean’s department), where the program boosts their otherwise low undergraduate student credit hours.
Profiling Faculty as “Inside or Outside the Tent”
The next email below is from Associate Dean Angela Lindner, sent soon after the Abernathy Plan (to dismantle the CISE dept and its research activity) was publicly announced on Apr. 11, causing an uproar and plenty of activity in social media. Several PR personnel and some faculty inform administrators of activity in social media sites. This message by Angela Lindner suggests more than just information.
Note: The comment by President Lyndon B. Johnson on FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, NYtimes, 31 Oct 1971: “It’s probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.” Read also about LBJ’s famed “Johnson treatment” , his penchant for one-on-one persuasion, and his “credibility gap” during the Vietnam war.