There have been a few movements of late to unionize students who are in college and essentially working a job while they are there. Sports fans will remember the infrequent stories in the past of football athletes attempting to unionize, but they’re not the only ones.
At Cornell University, graduate students are seeking unionization for all the work they have to do as research assistants, teachers, and whatever jobs they get lined up to do.
A world-renowned professor of organic chemistry and Cornell’s chemistry department chair, Dave Collum, spoke out against the unionization efforts as a movement that would severely cripple graduate programs. And, before anyone should doubt what a chemistry professor would know about unions and what affect they would have, it should be noted that Collum has amassed a following for his annual 100-page papers on the state of business and politics.
Turns out, he knows a thing or two about economics and politics as well.
This brings us to a post over at Legal Insurrection, which (among others) has come to the defense of Collum. Collum has become the target of a smear campaign that seems to be orchestrated by the graduate students who seek unionization and the unions that back them (like the American Federation of Teachers).
Here’s an excerpt from the Cornell Daily sun, which helped make Collum’s views on the unionization effort public:
Prof. David Collum ’77, chair of the chemistry department, is under fire from Cornell Graduate Students United after sending an email filled with anti-union rhetoric. The email was allegedly sent only to faculty members, however recipients were blind-copied.
With the election just days away, CGSU members said they were “appalled” to see a faculty member “blatantly expressing anti-union views,” said Vera Khovanskaya, grad, a CGSU member.
Not only was the email shocking for its anti-union sentiments, but CGSU members felt that Collum seemed to encourage violation of the contract negotiated between CGSU and the University, according to Michaela Brangan grad, administrative liaison for CGSU. The ramifications of this email are to be determined.
William Jacobson, founder of Legal Insurrection and law professor at Cornell, writes in defense of Collum:
For his efforts, Dave became the focus of union ire, singled out by the national union and pro-union students.
Dave recently discussed how he was singled out during the course of a mostly economic speech, in which he also touched upon how dangerous it is for someone like him to speak out on issues not only of unionization, but also various campus politically-correct shibboleths. Little did he know at the time that he was just days away from an attempt to take him down.
And sure enough, they came for Dave Collum in a horrendous hit piece in the form of a letter to the editor of the Cornell Sun written by seven grad students, at least several of whom were involved in the union organizing. When I saw the letter in the Sun I was floored. I’m not going to repeat the vicious accusations against him, for reasons that will become apparent below.
The letter to the editor, linked in the paragraph above, goes through the usual routine of calling Collum “transphobic” and a “rape apologist,” and that’s not even the worst of it. The purpose of the letter is easy to see: “Cornell should fire Collum and probably have him locked away for good measure.” It questions his ability to chair the chemistry department (which he will only be in charge of for about two more months anyway) and whether or not he could fairly oversee sexual assault allegations in his department.
The chemistry department at Cornell, however, has risen to his defense. Students and professors praise him and defended him in the comments of the letter online.
Here’s where it gets obvious that this is little more than a smear campaign: the letter referred to several of Collum’s tweets and made him out to be some dastardly, hateful character. However, the tweets used are all pretty much taken out of context and blatantly misrepresented in order to destroy the man’s career.
Jacobson wrote a letter to the editor at the Sun, which you can read here. Below is the excerpt he provides on Legal Insurrection:
On April 20, 2017, The Cornell Daily Sun published a lengthy letter to the editor from seven graduate students: Kevin Hines, Robert Escriva, Ethan Susca, Mel White, Rose Agger, Kolbeinn Karlsson and Jane Glaubman.
The letter impugned the integrity of Cornell world-renowned Prof. David B. Collum, chemistry in the most serious ways, accusing him of being a rape apologist, misogynistic and unfit for the position of department chair. Several of the letter writers were graduate student union supporters active in the union vote drive. Prof. Collum has been widely criticized by union supporters for opposing the union drive. The letter appears to be payback.
In publishing that letter, The Sun gave a platform to a smear campaign against Prof. Collum in a manner that did not allow Prof. Collum to respond or provide for a verification of the context of the supposed evidence. I have researched several of the key tweets and quotes attributed to Prof. Collum in the letter, and it is clear that the way in which they are presented in the letter is misleading at best, and, in some cases, presents a false portrayal.
Jacobson goes on to say how the letter will forever remain on the Internet, and anyone who searches his name will be subjected to that monstrosity of a letter sent by the pro-union forces.
See, the graduate students want to be unionized, but when someone dares to question the wisdom in such a move, they couldn’t argue their case. Collum became the subject of a smear campaign over something completely unrelated to the matter of unionizing students because those same students couldn’t make the case for themselves.
That is what makes this whole attack so despicable. I’ve been the editor in chief of a university paper, and I spent some time in the newspaper industry outside of college. If someone had told me “We want you to run this letter to the editor,” my very first response would have been to go and verify the claims made in the paper myself.
It’s not a conservative versus a liberal issue. The attacks made against Collum were devoid of any verifiable fact and instead relied on out of context tweets and a thinly-veiled grudge over grad student unionization. The Sun acted irresponsibly for publishing it.
The graduate students who wrote the letter also acted irresponsibly in writing it. It is impossible to deny that people who were very publicly for something that Collum was against wrote that letter for any other reason than to shame him into silence, if not get him fired altogether.
This is Liberal Activism 101, which you do not need a degree or pre-requisite to get into. When you go up against an opponent with a following and popularity among his peers, you have to personally tear them down and try to isolate them. It is the Full Alinsky Treatment.
In the case of Collum, this did not work. His peers and students rose to his defense, and a large swath of the online conservative community has come along with them.
As for the graduate students who orchestrated the smear campaign? They may have done more harm to their cause than good.