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