Everybody's Always Picking on Joel Beinin
by Winfield Myers • Nov 19, 2008 at 6:12 pm
Poor Joel Beinin: the world consistently fails to measure up to his high standards of conduct. Year after year, uncaring, boorish individuals fling darts straight through his thin skin and into his pure heart.
The most recent episode of brutish cruelty came earlier this month when, according to Beinin, two professors at Portland State University asked the Stanford professor inappropriate political questions during his interview for a position in PSU's history department. Beinin complained about this roughhouse ordeal in an email to Ken Ruoff, who headed the search committee that invited Beinin for an interview. Willamette Week in Portland published a story on the controversy (in which they erroneously clamed that Campus Watch is run by David Horowitz) along with Beinin's email to Ruoff.
Let's take a look at the email, with my comments and translations in bold:
From: Joel Beinin
Sent: Tuesday, November 04, 2008 10:36 PM
Regretfully [translation: I have got to find a way to save face], I feel I have no choice [trans: hope they fall for this] but to withdraw my name from consideration for the modern Middle East position [trans: in any event, it's sunnier in Palo Alto, even though our pinot noirs aren't as good as yours].
I appreciate very much your willingness to protest to the dean regarding Michael Weingrad's words to me at our breakfast meeting [Dean, Mike was waaay out of line with poor Joel! Can we at least send him roses?]. But a protest to someone who already has a record of even more egregious disregard for academic freedom [Beinin's favorite buzz term; translation: he wasn't obsequious in my presence] can't begin to address the problem [what would it take, then, an abject apology? a bar fight?]. If Michael Weingrad's comments were the only issue, it would not be of major concern to me [Trans: But there's this matter of actually being offered a job]. I'm quite sure he has no idea that what he said was inappropriate [so magnanimous of JB--feeling the pain of insult while recognizing the invincible ignorance of his attacker]. In fact, we got on rather well, and I wouldn't be surprised if he came away from our meeting well-disposed towards me [well, then, that explains everything].
Much more serious [hit the heavy mood music], as I told you on the phone, is that Tom Luckett asked me a highly inappropriate political question during my private meeting with him [and yet...]. He too, was unaware of the impropriety of this line of discussion [Who wants to work with folks who can't even lob a good insult intentionally?]. And when I mentioned, as light heartedly as I could [I said, you heard the one about the professor, the priest, and the rabbi?], to Marvin Kaiser that I had been politically vetted by Michael Weingrad, his response was, "Of course." It appears then, that at all levels [coaches, maintenance men, gardeners, physicists--they all hate me] at PSU there is a serious lack of appreciation for academic freedom [Trans: I can't work with people who see straight through me like this...]. This is especially unfortunate for a public institution [Trans cont: ...because they won't hire me!].
It is obvious that despite the improprieties, which are a matter of public knowledge although it has not yet reached the media, regarding the possibility of my joining the PSU faculty last year, insufficient measures were taken to ensure a fair and professional process this year despite my initial willingness to give PSU a second chance [Trans: I've now given you two (2) chances to butter me up sufficiently, and still you fail me! And why are there three (3) other candidates?!?].
Under these circumstances, my further participation in this process can only signal that I regard it as legitimate. And it is not [as if anything in his embarrassingly sanctimonious email is?].
I sincerely hope that PSU will set to work at repairing its deeply flawed institutional culture [you are permitted, dear reader, to lose your lunch at this point]. Until it does, I will urge my colleagues to exercise the greatest caution before considering applying for or accepting a position at PSU [This is supposed to discourage normal people from applying to PSU?].
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