UMAS~ Lowell, Bully Emeritus (Opinion Column)
If you can’t beat them with ideas or logic, try slander!
By: Charles Ormsby, Professor UMASS~Lowell
Last August I went to my mail box in the Mathematics Department at UMass Lowell (UML) and opened up the letter Letter1OConnor,
My initial reaction was a combination of amazement, pity, and laughter. Only after some reflection did I feel any outrage, which is probably the more logical reaction. I never felt any concern for my professional status because I had confidence in the common sense of UML’s management team.
Nevertheless, this attack requires a public response since it was broadcast widely (from the Governor and the university’s Chancellor to the Afro-American Students Society) and was clearly designed to discourage the exercise of my freedom of speech.
I’ve been writing articles for The Valley Patriot for over eight years and I estimate that my articles now total well over 125,000 words. As for the requested apology, I do not apologize for even one word in any of these articles, and that includes my use of the term “tarbaby entitlements” in my article in the August, 2012 edition of this paper
(An Open Letter to Mitt Romney)
Any objective reader of my article can plainly discern that the discussion has nothing whatsoever to do with race. The term tarbaby was used to highlight a disturbing characteristic of our largest entitlement programs; namely that, once embraced, they are exceedingly difficult to get away from. They are like the tarbaby that Br’er Rabbit gets stuck to in the Uncle Remus stories. The harder Br’er Rabbit tries to get away from the tarbaby, the more engulfed he becomes. A perfect description if I do say so myself.
I refuse to tiptoe around the verboten lexicon erected by the high priests of political correctness. If I want to use a term in good faith and have no immoral intent, I will do so without worrying about gaining the moral sanction of the likes of Gerard O’Connor.
I remember reading the Uncle Remus stories as a child. To this day I can remember the good feelings I had about the ex-slave who was such a wonderful storyteller. Reading these stories, I didn’t need to be watching a Technicolor movie; the colorful characters just came to life in my mind.
But O’Connor is not really concerned about racial overtones, nor does he have any real concern about references to tarbabies as described in the Uncle Remus stories (note that in 1988 the coveted Coretta Scott King Award was given to the Julius Lester version of these much-loved children’s stories). What O’Connor objects to is the conservative-libertarian ideas expressed in my articles, which he describes as “fanatically extremist” and as “intellectually bankrupt and morally contemptible.”
O’Connor’s letter does not discuss or refute any points made in my articles. It is possible that O’Connor has been so isolated intellectually that he thinks that any opinion that diverges from progressive dogma is not deserving of serious consideration or rebuttal. He seems to assume that those he addresses in his letter also share his narrow-minded perspective.
So much for academic freedom and valuing or respecting diversity.
It is also evident that O’Connor is troubled by the listing of my professional association with the university at the end of my articles. Apparently, he believes that a public university should have no employees that espouse conservative-libertarian views. Clearly, he doesn’t want anyone with views that diverge from his statist views to be teaching students … even if the subject is mathematics!!
Does anyone seriously believe that political indoctrination is rampant in university mathematics departments? What departments naturally lend themselves to exerting political influence? Who would dispute an allegation that the liberal arts departments of our universities (public and private) are heavily dominated by those having a liberal/progressive ideology?
With an overwhelming advantage in the percent of student-teacher hours in liberal arts courses reflecting the progressive ideology (probably greater than 95% progressive to less than 5% conservative-libertarian), why would O’Connor want to silence one of the few faculty members holding a minority viewpoint, even when that viewpoint is only expressed OUTSIDE the classroom!?
Why? Because his ideology is impotent. He can’t win in the contest of ideas, so he resorts to slander and bullying tactics.
Bullies are inherently cowards. They don’t attack unless they have a gang to back them up and they are confident that their target will not stand up to them.
I believe he miscalculated on both counts.
First, I’m confident the UML community will support academic freedom and will not back a bully.
Second, I advise O’Connor to not make the same mistake that Br’er Rabbit made. Continued punching will just get him in deeper and deeper because this tarbaby fights back.
PS: O’Connor sent a second letter in early September in response to a UML professor’s letter defending me. In this letter (Letter 2 OConnor), O’Connor abandons all restraint referencing the n-word, calling Rush Limbaugh a barbarian (how did he get involved?), declaring that “politically correct” is the accepted norm in public discourse, and suggesting that words like siesta, urban, food stamps, slut, urban, and foreign are code words implying racial, ethnic or gender slurs. I would consider dementia ut a praecessi stultitiae as a possible explanation, but that would be too kind to Professor O’Connor and might be politically incorrect … I’ll have to go check.