SCOTT-ERWIN TRIANGULATION

marquit at physics.spa.umn.edu marquit at physics.spa.umn.edu
Wed Jun 28 11:07:53 MDT 1995


I think it is time to bring this "dispute" to an end. I replied
to Scott because of the university course's turbulent history
It was first initiated in 1975 under the title "Introduction to
Marxism" and was based largely on original readings from Marx,
Engels, and Lenin. Because it was not just Marx and Engels, but
also Lenin, the course immediately came under national attack
with a headline in the Christian Crusade Weekly: "College Credit
for Enemy Indoctrination." A national letter-writing campaign
against the course was initiated. At a state convention of the
Veterans of Foreign Wars a resolution was adopted demanding the
the University of Minnesota terminate the course. The dean of
the College of Liberal Arts complained that he had to go to lunch
three times a week with representatives of various organization
to ensure them that the State of Minnesota was not being
threatened with destruction. The University administration, however,
terminated the course. It was reinstated after some 2000 students
protested this action. It was abolished a second time and again
reinstated after faculty and student protest. However, when
reinstated the second time and established as a permanent course, it
was established as an unfunded course to be taught by faculty on an
overload basis, that is, in addition to their normal teaching
assignments, although the students paid regular tuition. A name change
was imposed on the course: from "Introduction to Marxism" to "An
Introduction to Marxism," a petty way of the administration wanting
to distance itself from Lenin. The course has since then been taught
by a team of faculty, although I have carried the main administrative
and teaching responsibility.
  The tactics of the administration then shifted from attacks on the
course to attacks on me personnally. Since the course is taught in
one college (Liberal Arts) and I am in another (Technology), attempts
were made to prohibit me, personally,  from teaching in the course,
Secret demands were made to cross-charge my salary, resulting in and
order from my chair to cease my association with the course on the
grounds that I was neglecting my duties. As proof of the neglect the
chair cited the fact that he had not seen me lately in the Campus [Faculty]
Club! The ban was rescinded when this story appeared in the University
newspaper. Other pressures took the form of denial of the usual "inflation-
offsetting pay raises. A secret review of my academic work was initiated
in which comments such as "no Western Marxist, who the author would no
doubt call a revisionist, Maoist, Trotskyist, or ultra-left humanist
would write in this dogmatic style." The paper that evoked this comment
by very distinguished Harvard professor in his confidential review was
"Dialectics of motion in discrete and continuous spaces" [Science &
Society 422 (1978-79), 410-25]. I won promotion to full professor
only after the Senate Judicial Committee ruled in my favor after I filed
a complaint against my chair and the Vice President for Academic Affairs.
In 1983, a month being promoted the dean submitted a budget for my
department without my salary (since I had tenure, I couldn't be fired).
My colleagues in physics called a special meeting to condemn unanimously
this outrageous violation of academic freedom--the dean resigned a month
later, in part as a result of this incident.
  The course continues and still as an overload course. And it has been able
to continue because of the openness of discussion in the class and the
nearly unanimous positive student evaluations it routinely receives.
Perhaps this brief history can explain why I felt compelled to react, and
perhaps to over-react to Scott's attack on the class.
  A word about Scott's complaint. The 11-week course has 4 weeks on philosophy,
one week of political economy on "early" capitalism, one week on imperialism,
one week on Marxist approaches to developing countries, one week on
strategies in industrialized capitalist countries, one to two weeks on socialism,
and one to two weeks on special topics: racism, women's issues, nationalism,
aesthetics, and sexual orientation, among others (the content in latter part
of course being fairly flexible). Although we dealt briefly with the Stalin-
Trotsky conflict, Scott insisted that we focus only on that and would not allow
the class to move on to other topics and vocally made it impossible to continue.
The students tried and failed to have it stop and appealed to me to take some
appropriate action to allow the class to proceed, at which point I had to use
the university's disciplinary channels, which to my knowledge did not cause him
any adminstrative harm.
  This is not the place to discuss Stalin and Stalin's methods, I have done this
elsewhere in a co-authored article "On Developments in the Socialist Countries," in
"Socialism: Crisis and Renewal, edited by Chronis Polychroniou, 3-14,
Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1993.
  In connection with my attitude to Stalin, I'll close with an account of a
conversation last year at a retirement party for a physics colleague against
whom I had filed a grievance when he was acting dean, the one who had initiated
the secret review of my work to justify salary discrimation intended to force
me to resign from the university. At the party he approached me and said,
        Do you recall that very cold wintry day in the midseventies
        	when we exchanged harsh words outside on the street?
I replied:
         Yes, I remember exactly. You said "the university has a right
         to use financial pressure on faculty to ensure that they
         conduct their research in conformity with the mission of
         the department.' I replied, "I survived Stalin, I will
         survive you!."
"You were right," he added. (I lived in Poland from 1951-1963 after having been
blacklisted in the U.S.)




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