Has Prof. Steve Best breached ethical standards of academic conduct?

We believe academic freedom is an integral quality of institutions of higher education.  Scholars should be able to pursue their research and express their ideas freely.  We agree with the mission of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) which aims:

to advance academic freedom and shared governance, to define fundamental professional values and standards for higher education, and to ensure higher education’s contribution to the common good.

Academic freedom does not include the freedom not to be criticized.  Being a scholar also carries certain responsibilities which the AAUP embedded within its statement on Professional Ethics.  In part, the statement reads:

As colleagues, professors have obligations that derive from common membership in the community of scholars. Professors do not discriminate against or harass colleagues. They respect and defend the free inquiry of associates, even when it leads to findings and conclusions that differ from their own. 

In very simple words: it is not an academic right to harass or threaten a colleague simply because one disagrees with his/her ideas or line of research.

Sadly, Professor Best, form the Department of Philosophy, at the University of Texas, El Paso, does not seem to grasp this concept. Apparently responding to external pressures, he now seems in a hurry to erase his past associations with animal rights extremists.  In particular his collaboration with Camille Marino, of the web site Negotiation is Over.

Despite efforts to bury the evidence of this association, bits and pieces continue to surface which have triggered growing community attention and concern.  Here we provide two more examples.

The first is an image captured from Prof. Best’s personal blog, showing he played an active part in the Negotiation is Over’s  campaign against Prof. O’Leary at Wayne State University.

Click to Enlarge

Does anyone at UTEP or AAUP believe that publishing the imagery of a decapitated and mutilated academic colleague counts as a valid philosophical, argument against his work? Would it not be reasonable to suggest instead that the true intention of the image is simply to intimidate and threaten a colleague to comply with Prof. Best’s views and political positions?

A second example is a screen capture, again from Professor Best’s blog, shows him referring to Dr. O’Leary a “socially sanctioned sociopath,” and provides his personal information, including home address and phone numbers.  What could have been the reason for offering such information?  One can get a reasonable idea of its purpose if recall that:

In April 2010, he [Prof. Best] posted on NIO a video of himself attempting to confront a man rumored to trap and poison cats that wandered into his yard. The man wasn’t home, but his wife and small daughter were. “If I hear he’s hurting cats, I’m going to be all over his office,” Best told them. “You tell him I’ll have a thousand people all over this place. You tell him Steve Best dropped by. You remember that name.”

Best posted the man’s phone numbers and addresses, along with pictures of his wife and children, beneath the video. In an update the next day, he thanked “all who called and expressed concern” for letting the alleged cat-poisoner know “he is being watched.”

Given this evidence, along with the information linking his PayPal and email accounts to the NIO web site, is it not reasonable to ask if Professor Steve Best has breached the acceptable standards of ethical conduct as conveyed by the AAUP statement?

Is it not time for AAUP, UTEP and his own Departmental colleagues to take a closer look at this important question?

What do you think?  (Additional material below)

Speaking of Research

Addendum I: Camille Marino explains Prof. Best’s guidance of the Negotiation is Over organization.

Steve Best is “the person who largely drove the direction of my organisation, Negotiation is Over”.

Addendum II: Prof. Best using his academic credentials as Senior Editor of Total Liberation for the Negotiation is Over Web Site.

Prof. Steven Best is Senior of Total Liberation at NIO

Prof. Steven Best using his UTEP affiliation as Senior Editor of Total Liberation for Negotiation is Over

Addendum III: Marino publication of a how-to guide to anonymously harass investigators  electronically during Prof. Steven Best tenure as Senior Editor of Total Liberation.  

A how-to guide to harass individuals electronically published by Marino during the time Prof. Best was Senior Editor of Total Liberation at NIO.

3 responses to “Has Prof. Steve Best breached ethical standards of academic conduct?

  1. I agree. If the NHL, NFL and others can sanction their members for a tweeter line or coment considered inappropriate, shouldn’t Universities and places of higher learning do the same for their own supposedly well educated members who do even worse?

  2. Prof. Best relationship with Ms Marino is clear in his interview with the Barbie Twins, where he also uses dubious “scholarly language” to refer to those he opposes.

  3. Interesting video. Here is part of what he said towards the end:

    Barbie: “How can we support her [Marino]?

    Best: “Let me tell you what we can do… this is really important. Number one, there is a web site, it’s very easy, http://supportcamille.org. Okay… She needs money. We have raised a lot of money for her legal support but she is going to need more. [...] Number two, she wants us to continue… to help her continue her campaigns against the University of Florida. [...] We need to support Camille, we need to support her campaigns, and by doing so we will be in…the frontline to stop vivisection…”

    Excuse me? “We” have raised money?

    Well… this sounds like a clear admission of financial support to me. And your request to help continue her campaigns make you not only an associate but an integral part of her organization. Shame on you and shame on UTEP!