Accuracy In Academia Comments on AAUP Rejection of Hugo Chavez as Funding Source

Venezuela President Hugo Chávez
In a recent post, I shared a civil, polite e-mail exchange with Mal Kline, the executive director of Accuracy in Academia: a conservative watch-dog group that is critical of the putative progressive nature of higher education. Mr Kline had asked for amplification of some statements in my review of Cary Nelson’s, No University is an Island concerning the American Association of University Professors’ rejection of  an idea to solicit monies from Venezuelan President Hugo  Chávez. I was told subsequently by Cary Nelson that other names were floated for consideration but no solicitation of monies from third countries was pursued. Mr Kline’s comments about who is a leftist or who is more radical is somewhat unrelated to my point here. I would not have hesitated to accept funds from any source if it were legal, if there were no quid pro quos, if the independence of an organisation were not compromised and if the monies themselves were derived from legal activities. Given the January 2010 Citizens United debacle emanating from the Supreme Court, I am more concerned about corporate-financial power eviscerating what remains of participatory democracy in the United States than an organisation rejecting a suggestion to solicit funds from a third country to add office space in Washington, D.C.

I would also not hesitate to suggest that the various transgressions he attributes to President Chávez could be aimed at the United States. Venezuela for starters is not engaged in aggressive warfare and global imperialism as is the United States. Venezuela does not possess monstrous nuclear weapons and has not constructed torture centers in third nations such as Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo. It is an ideological rival of the United States and a harsh critic. That is good; that is freedom. The US need not dominate and control all thinking in a new version of Monroe Doctrine hegemony. Let’s worry about ourselves and not a developing nation with admittedly a faltering democracy in South America.

One  correction if I may. Mr Kline identifies me as vice president of the AAUP. I am vice president of the Illinois Conference of the AAUP: a state-level unit of the national organisation. See his post below and original link.

Hugo  Chávez & The AAUP

Malcolm A. Kline, January 5, 2011
Malcolm A. Kline
It turns out that Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez could have had a much closer relationship with the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) if the former head of the AAUP had his druthers. “While admittedly bizarre, Roger Bowen, former general secretary who joined the anti-academic freedom mob in a Wall Street Journal piece seeking the dismissal of University of Colorado Professor Churchill, pursued the purchase of additional office space and suggested seeking external funding from Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez,” Peter Kirstein writes in Illinois Academe.

Kirstein is currently the vice-president of the AAUP. When I asked the St. Xavier University historian for clarification, he wrote, “On p. 213 of Cary Nelson, No University is an Island, he states that Roger Bowen (then General Secretary of A.A.U.P.) suggested buying a couple of buildings with Hugo Chávez’s support.”

“President Nelson states ‘the proposal never left the office.’ There is no reference to when the idea was bruited about.” Bowen was general secretary of the AAUP in 2005. (I should note, and did in my query to Dr. Kirstein, “Full disclosure, my own relations with him have been less than amicable—Bowen that is. I never met the other chap.”)

Nelson, currently the president of the AAUP, is an English professor at the University of Illinois in Urbana. That would put Bowen, the former president of the State University of New York at New Paltz, to the left of Nelson, who characterized Bowen’s proposal as mad. Nelson himself is hardly a right-winger, to put it mildly.

“In the months leading up to the summer of 1967 I was completing my undergraduate degree at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio,” Nelson wrote in 2007 of his undergraduate years. “Antioch had hired me part-time as a draft counselor and that job continued into June.”

“In the midst of the Vietnam War and at America’s most progressive college, draft counseling really meant draft avoidance counseling.”

As for Venezuela in the Chavez years, the Obama Administration’s latest human rights report notes that “The following human rights problems were reported by the nongovernmental organization (NGO) community, the media, and in some cases the government itself:

•“Unlawful killings, including summary executions of criminal suspects;

•“Widespread criminal kidnappings for ransom;

•“Prison uprisings resulting from harsh prison conditions;

•“Arbitrary arrests and detentions;

•“Corruption and impunity in police forces;

•“A corrupt, inefficient, and politicized judicial system characterized by trial delays and violations of due process;

•“Political prisoners and selective prosecution for political purposes;

•“Infringement of citizens’ privacy rights by security forces; government closure of radio and television stations and threats to close others; government attacks on public demonstrators;

•“Systematic discrimination based on political grounds;

•“Considerable corruption at all levels of government; threats and attacks against domestic NGOs;

•“Violence against women;

•“Inadequate juvenile detention centers; trafficking in persons; and

•“Restrictions on workers’ right of association.”

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