Since November of last year, I have been at significant tension with Brown University about its decision to ignore my rights to academic freedom at the university. The university has sent me numerous letters making it clear that it has decided to retaliate against me for having brought an unofficial complaint against a professor after that professor made threatening comments to me in a classroom setting about a political disagreement s/he had. Although that dispute was initially resolved in an amicable way, and although I am choosing the protect the identity of that professor since I think s/he is an otherwise upstanding and good person, the university administration's choice to use this incident to dismiss me is in gross violation of my rights as a student, as an employee, and as a human being more broadly.
The heart of this matter lies in the student teaching experience I had the following semester. The teacher I worked with was extremely hostile about my interactions with other staff. He cordoned me off from other people at the school. While teaching, I arrived one morning to walk into him having sex with another teacher-- someone he referred to openly as his "work wife" at school. Fearful of how the previous interaction with a professor over politics might be brought to bear upon this relationship, I made every possible effort to bend over backwards in order to work with this teacher, despite his actions. I brought my concerns to university officials in February, at the withdrawal deadline, and nearly resigned from the university, despite having previously had only As, Bs, and passing (pass/fail) grades.
Nonetheless, despite my best efforts to work with this difficult man, it did not work out. And despite the supportive feedback that a number of my professors have given to the university, the administration has chosen to steamroll my and their concerns.
Brown University first offered me the option of leave, which I actively pursued and was in the last stages of completing before my department chair withdrew the offer. I then pursued an appeal of my expulsion from the university. Other professors have spoken for me, including my advisor who undertook heroic feats of effort to stand up for my rights and my process, to defend my reputation, and to assert that I had done nothing wrong. Unfortunately the university canceled our meeting to speak with the deans of the Graduate School, and then this morning canceled yet another meeting for the appeals process.
I have not been allowed to speak or attend any meetings in which decisions have been made about my future. I have not been allowed to view the record of accusations against me. I have seen records of my teaching destroyed, so that I have no recourse to show what kind of a teacher I am. The university's letter to me dated May 15th makes allegations against me which are new and brazenly false, and I believe designed to make me fearful to stand up for myself lest my reputation be destroyed by the most powerful institution in the state. Essentially, having been the victim of a predatory relationship, I am now being painted by the university's letter as an aggressive and violent person with no regard for the social mores of the university. Many of you will know firsthand that I can be politically outspoken, and indeed the choice to publish a letter like this is quite bold, but I hope it has never been anyone's experience to think of me as a harmful person, and I will not allow the university to lie in order to say so.
Brown University chose the wrong target. I have nothing to hide. From November until now, I have painstakingly and patiently worked through the closed process of the university, respectfully channeling my concerns and doing everything I could to avoid public embarrassment to the department. I will not be cowed by this illegal action, and I will publicly put the university on the defensive for its attack of the First Amendment, the Academic Freedom code of the university, Title IX, the NLRA, and other provisions of law that should afford me rights in this process.
While I have reams of documentation of my case, I will need time to redact documents to protect innocent parties. I will be sharing everything from this experience publicly, once that has been undertaken. The university has taken action not just against me but against students and professors who have spoken for me, and while I believe those parties wish not to have their identities known, I will share name-redacted evidence I have of this retaliation by Brown.
Powerful institutions rely on our shame and compliance to do the things that they do. A key part of how evil happens in the world is that good people become cowed. Even within the process, it has been my experience that many of the people who have failed to stand up for me within the university have done so out of fear, misunderstanding, or institutional compliance, rather than malice. Nonetheless, this is wrong. We must always stand up, even when it seems likely that doing so will hurt us personally. I am a person of integrity, and having nothing to hide. I cannot say the same for Brown.