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Documents on Brown #1

The press is so powerful in its image-making role, it can make the criminal look like he's a the victim and make the victim look like he's the criminal. This is the press, an irresponsible press. It will make the criminal look like he's the victim and make the victim look like he's the criminal. If you aren't careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.   --Malcolm X, Oxford Union Debate 
Many of you may have already seen my statement on Brown University's dismissal of me from its Masters of Teaching program. 

I promised to start redacting sensitive information from documents I have and posting them, because I think Brown University should publicly be made to defend its illegal dismissal of me from its M.A.T. Program. I am beginning to do that here. Brown makes claims regarding my academic progress, and more glaringly, in its statements about my treatment of other people. These allegations are false, and while the whiff of such an allegation can be embarrassing for anyone, myself included, I will not shrink from fighting them directly and openly. No one should be cowed in this way, and if Brown has attempted to do this to me, they have probably done it to others.

Brown alleges in its May 15th letter to me that it has had concerns about my academic performance since November.

Quoting from Brown's letter:
Dear James, 
I am writing in my capacity as Director of Graduate Studies for the MAT program in the Education Department at Brown University. In January 2017 we met to discuss concerns about your conduct and your academic performance in the program. (my italics)... 

So let's put this claim to the test. We'll start with grades. My transcript at Brown:





Caption for above: Some explanation is needed for some of these. Many courses at Brown are Satisfactory/No Credit. One can also see in the Fall 2016 semester I dropped EDUC 1080B, which is the undergraduate listing of the graduate course I was taking. I re-registered into the appropriate class and passed it. All of my letter-grade classes are As or Bs, and in fact the majority are As.


Brown apparently made a mistake on my transcript in that it gave me credit for the student-teaching practicum, but not the "Analysis of Teaching" course. It should be the reverse. But my independent study from the Spring 2017 semester is among the classes I've received As in.


The first meeting I had with Brown was November 17th, and I sent a follow-up email to the director of the program explaining some of the issues in preparation for the next meeting I had, which was on the 21st. It's clear that my grades are not at issue, and my behavior is also not the problem. It's the behavior of a professor that is in question. 

Let's see what Brown's letter has to say about this matter:
This special placement and accommodation [of having an adjunct Analysis professor/advisor] to you was necessitated and agreed to by you in January 2017 for the following reasons:  
• Over the course of the summer and fall semesters, you repeatedly demonstrated minimal respect for your faculty director in nearly all of your interactions, which culminated in an incident during the fall semester in which you blatantly, aggressively, and publicly interrupted your faculty director while she was in the middle of teaching...
This is not true. I raised my hand and was called on, and expressed my disagreement with the professor's summary of my comments. I have spoken to this before in a post on my website, in which I respectfully kept the identity of the professor secret. The class actually had an odd rule instituted, which the professor had insisted in an earlier class we as graduate students start using more actively-- the "oops/ouch" rule, where if someone says something in class that is unfair or hurtful, the affected party is supposed to say "ouch" and wait patiently to be called on to present their case. This is what I did (like I said, it's an odd rule, but I was following the protocol). It was the professor who was aggressive to me, not the reverse.

My version of events is corroborated by others, as well. Let's look at what one fellow graduate student had to say about the incident. S/he contacted me in March, to see how I was doing, and reported the following (names redacted):


 







 








More from Brown's May 15th expulsion letter:
• Following the incident with the faculty director, you refused to take responsibility for your actions, despite the director's attempt to reconcile the altercation amicably.
See the November 17th chain of emails, which I have redacted only to protect people's last names. What feels glaring in the dishonesty of Brown's letter is that the particular administrator who wrote it was also the person who exchanged these emails with me:

page 1

page 2
Caption for above: Note that amicably is highlighted, because later in Brown's letter it is alleged that I refused to amicably resolve my alleged aggression towards the professor, despite the fact that the record shows that the aggression was directed at me, and that I literally used the word "amicably" to describe my preferred course of action. I also described these events on this blog in the post "Anaphylaxis", where I tried to carefully parse the difference between legitimate and illegitimate uses of the term "politically correct".
Let's see the reply for evidence of the claims in the letter:



When resolving conflicts in writing with other people, it's pretty standard to be polite, but in this case it's clear that I am being treated as the affected party of an injustice and not the offending one. Brown's attempts to re-write history to make me an aggressor in this situation is solely for the purpose of dismissing my legitimate claim against the Learning Community charter school for its hostile working environment. 

But Brown goes further:
• You then proceeded to assault the character of your director, leading her to request heightened security measures before and during her teaching hours.
This is a remarkably brazen claim, and untrue. Because Brown has often disallowed me to attend meetings that determine my future, and has not allowed me to see the documents it uses as evidence, I cannot be sure that this claim even matches with the testimony of the affected professor. I have my doubts that this could possibly be anyone's narrative. 

To the claim that I attacked anyone's character, I have not. 

As to necessitating security measures, this is truly an outrageous claim. It's hard to disprove the absence of something, but let's try. Because there is some countering evidence. To begin with, at the invitation of the Graduate School, I attended the Resistance and Reclamation Education Conference on March 24th, which was co-organized by a number of faculty and students. I showed up early, and helped my fellow graduate students and professors to set up the conference. I don't have specific documentation of this, although I did have a conversation with a prospective M.A.T. student for next year who I had actually met with before. I think if my claim was tested that a number of people could verify it. And in fact, the professor who wrote the Brown letter saw me there, helping.

At the conference, I attended a panel that included a graduate student I know from the science M.A.T. program, as well as a graduate student from the social studies M.A.T. program. I sat down in the back, next to the keynote speaker from the conference, and had chitchat with him. When the professor who I had had a conflict with came into the room, it was cramped with people and there was only one place to sit-- away from the door, on the other side of me. I stood up, gestured to her that she was welcome to my seat, and sat in the next seat over. She came over and sat next to me, and acted grateful for the gesture. The professor who wrote the Brown University dismissal letter saw this-- I know he did, because I asked a question of the panel (It was to an African bilingual English student who was also on the panel, about whether he felt the Brown program he was part of allowed him to share his considerable talents in his first language). The professor who wrote this letter looked over at me and the other professor, smiled warmly, and made eye contact with me for several seconds.

So this is a blatantly untrue statement.

So touched was I by the interaction of having offered my seat to the professor with whom I'd had a disagreement, and having the offer warmly accepted, that I made mention of it to the graduate student above in my text messages to her, thanking her for having inspired me to be so generous. I also penned this email to the professor:

About a week later, I was observing classes at Alvarez High School and came into contact with this professor, because she was observing one of my colleagues in the social studies M.A.T. program. She spoke to me, and warmly said hello. I said hello back. My colleague witnessed this. It was so uneventful that I'm not sure anyone remembers it.

At a meeting about certification requirements I attended on April 12th, the professor with whom I had had an academic freedom conflict made cookies for the meeting, and I thanked her for the cookies after she gave me one.

That is the only contact I have had with this professor. And while, as I said, many of these incidents are hard to pin down in the way that one might do for proof beyond the shadow of a doubt, I feel confident in stating my case, because I know that not one soul out there can counter my claims, or would counter my claims. 

In future posts I will take on other aspects of the Brown letter. But I hope I have demonstrated clearly that Brown's attack on my character with regard to this incident is completely without merit. Because I have not seen what the actual evidence for Brown's claims are, it would not escape me to believe that the professor in question might not even have made this claim themselves. It may simply be an embellishment, designed to scare me from challenging Brown. It won't work. 

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