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The Courts Censorship Education The Media

Chicago State University Lawyers Attack Faculty Bloggers 94

Posted by timothy
from the tenurous-grasp-on-reality dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A blog run by faculty members at Chicago State University (CSU) has been threatened by university lawyers with a cease and desist notice. Since 2009 the blog has posted information critical of CSU's policies and hiring practices. The notice threatened legal action if the site is not disabled by Friday due to violations of 'trade names and marks' without permission and violations of University policies. The blog admin changed the name of the blog in the meanwhile to Crony State University and replaced an image on the page pending legal counsel. Also the blog is currently still active."
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Chicago State University Lawyers Attack Faculty Bloggers

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Doesn't this fall under some anti-slapp law?

  • Name change (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @12:09PM (#45402241)

    I might also recommend: Crony Streisand University

  • by just_another_sean (919159) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @12:10PM (#45402253) Homepage Journal

    I can't think of a more ringing [photobucket.com] endorsement of what the CSU faculty are doing with this blog.

  • CSU better trademark "Crony State U" so they can shut down the new blog.

    Meanwhile, color me surprised that the administration is showing no interest in resolving the faculty members' complaints.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Well, shutting it down is a form of "resolution"...

      "The floggings will continue until morale improves!"

    • by Obfuscant (592200)

      Meanwhile, color me surprised that the administration is showing no interest in resolving the faculty members' complaints.

      Read the letter, looked at the blog. The university was right to act to protect their trademark.

      Where do you get your information that the University is showing no interest in resolving the complaints? The legal notice came from the legal department. It dealt solely with the trademark issue. The only complaint I saw in a quick look was "they are hiring their friends". Sounds like disgruntled losers in a promotion war. Classic "he said she said". Does the University trademark attorney have any part to play

      • by idontgno (624372)

        In any case, that group doesn't need to use university trademarks to make them.

        Of course they did. It's called "nominative fair use" [wikipedia.org]. They have to identify who they're criticizing; otherwise, it's just empty-headed bellyaching (the kind we could probably expect from you).

        Fair Use is applicable to trademarks, too. [wikipedia.org]

        • by Obfuscant (592200)

          Of course they did. It's called "nominative fair use". They have to identify who they're criticizing;

          That's not creating a need to use trademarks. They can identify them by simple language. I've put up web pages with complaints about various companies. Not once did I have a need to use any of the companys' trademarks to identify them. I just called them by name. And I can attest to the fact that using simple language to call them by name didn't stop them from finding the pages and complaining. They just had no legal grounds to demand a takedown because none of their IP was infringed.

          it's just empty-headed bellyaching (the kind we could probably expect from you).

          Thanks for demonstrat

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Did they shoot them?
    Did they charge at them with knives/machetes?
    Did they break a chair over their heads?
    Did they jump on them and start pummeling them?
    Did they walk up and punch them?
    Did they push them?

    ...

    The lawyers didn't really attack anyone or anything, did they? Let's start using words of specific meaning as they were meant to be used, shall we?

    Up next "bullying".

    • by Lieutenant_Dan (583843) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @12:22PM (#45402401) Homepage Journal

      No, they used "sarcasm". The deadliest attack of them all.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by rudy_wayne (414635)

        I looked at the blog and all I saw was a bunch of petty complaints. Things that may technically be true, but are not anywhere near the horrendous scandal that the blog's author tries to claim.

        For example, a couple of university press releases and documents from university board of trustees meetings refer to a person as "Dr. Henderson" 6 weeks before she officially received her PhD. Oh the horror!! And her resume fails to list the 4 months that she was demoted from Dean of Instruction to ordinary teaching

        • Re:Attacked? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by AthanasiusKircher (1333179) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @01:18PM (#45403285)

          I looked at the blog and all I saw was a bunch of petty complaints. Things that may technically be true, but are not anywhere near the horrendous scandal that the blog's author tries to claim.

          I'm also an external observer to all of this, but I think if you had read further, you might see the point of all of these seeming "petty" details.

          Basically, it sounds like a blog aimed at a huge increase in non-academic administration personnel. Apparently, in the past 4 years or so, the number of non-academic administrators and staff has risen by almost 50%, from 76 people to 112 people, while the rest of the university (including academics, etc.) has remained relatively stable. Salaries and numbers of upper-level administrators apparently also have risen significantly.

          I have no idea about the internal stuff that might be going on here, but a 50% increase in non-academic staff at a university in just a few years, while the rest of the university doesn't grow, does seem like an issue that people might care about.

          But, if you haven't heard, there's a significant concern these days with the large amount of administrators and administrative staff being hired [wsj.com] at colleges, which has apparently significantly contributed to the huge increases in college tuition at many schools.

          The random stories you refer to apparently are related to the way that some administrators are refusing to hire professors or consider them qualified on the basis of some minor details in their academic credentials:

          [The administrator] has also taken it upon himself to uphold the highest standards of the academy by weighing in on degrees and the quality of schools attended by CSU faculty applicants (across disciplines, it seems like he has a Ph.D. in everything). He has apparently decided that no one without a Ph.D. in hand should be hired at Chicago State and has often expressed the notion that CSU faculty should be able to "transfer" to Harvard.

          Etc. The blogger seems to be responding in kind, by picking apart some minor details in the credentials of the new administrative staff.

          Is some of this "petty"? Probably.

          But that doesn't mean there aren't larger issues buried if you read more than the top two blog posts.

          • These are called "sinecure" positions, "without care", a name from old school religion where paid appointments were made for multiplying positions outside the responsibility of saving souls. i.e. graft

            In this case, it means without care to the principle mission of teaching, i.e these are not actual teachers, TAs, principles, etc. However large the self-importance, people dedicated to feelings, environmental impact, speech code enforcement, and a hundred other things not directly tied to education raises c

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Non-Academic Administrators include people like me. I'm a librarian. That "Non-Academic" phrase gets thrown around a lot and frequently includes people like guidance counselors who DO have an impact on student success.

            • Non-Academic Administrators include people like me. I'm a librarian.

              Yes, I know what the phrase means, and I didn't mean to imply anything bad about all administrative (or "non-academic") positions -- AT ALL. I'm all for libraries and librarians. Apparently, if this blog is to be believed, the issue at this particular school is that there's also a significant amount of jobs going to friends of existing administrators going on in administrative hiring. I have no idea whether these claims are true, but the implication of the blog is that unnecessary jobs are being "created

        • Re:Attacked? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by nbauman (624611) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @01:25PM (#45403403) Homepage Journal

          For example, a couple of university press releases and documents from university board of trustees meetings refer to a person as "Dr. Henderson" 6 weeks before she officially received her PhD. Oh the horror!!

          Actually, it was two years before she got her PhD.

          If you're a PhD in academia, it is a big deal. Falsifying credentials is academic fraud, like plagiarism.

          It's like a military officer wearing a battle ribbon for a battle he was never in. There was a Navy officer who killed himself after Newsweek reported that he did such a thing.

      • by g0bshiTe (596213)
        Isn't that where the Sarlacc lived in Return of the Jedi?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Did they ruin academic careers?
      Did they chill discourse on campus?
      Did they impoverish bloggers with legal costs?

      Your narrow minded notion of the use of the work 'attack' couldn't be more naive.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      Lawyers wield the most dangerous weapon of all, the law.

      • by cstacy (534252)

        Lawyers wield the most dangerous weapon of all, the law.

        "Hunting the most dangerous prey of all..."

        I'll give you a twelve minute head start..

    • by hawguy (1600213)

      Let's start using words of specific meaning as they were meant to be used, shall we?

      Sometimes words have more than one meaning.

      http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/attack [merriam-webster.com]

      Attack:
      1: to set upon or work against forcefully
      2: to assail with unfriendly or bitter words
      3: to begin to affect or to act on injuriously
      4: to set to work on
      5: to threaten (a piece in chess) with immediate capture

      (emphasis mine)

      Though I guess maybe they only used friendly and sweet words in the letter.

  • Double standards? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @12:17PM (#45402323)

    Do Chicago State University lawyers also send cease ad desist letters to faculty bloggers that are supportive of its policies and hiring practices? Or do they apply the government standard of never prosecuting leaks that makes the government looks good even if they damage national security?

  • only in academia (Score:4, Interesting)

    by onyxruby (118189) <.onyxruby. .at. .comcast.net.> on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @12:39PM (#45402685)

    Only in academia would faculty feel entitled to freely criticize their employer while expecting their employer to turn a blind eye. In any other field you would be canned on the spot for doing something like this. Possibly government employees in some departments would have similar attitudes?

    Now you can argue that academia has it right and the rest of society has it wrong or you could call the faculty self entitled tenured representations of antiquity. Having worked in the private industry as well as some years in a very large University one could argue this either way.

    • Re:only in academia (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Ardeaem (625311) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @12:59PM (#45403013)

      Only in academia would faculty feel entitled to freely criticize their employer while expecting their employer to turn a blind eye. In any other field you would be canned on the spot for doing something like this.

      There are principles at play here that don't exist in other employment situations; for instance, academic employees have this thing called "academic freedom" [aaup.org] which, for decades, has meant that "[c]ollege and university teachers are citizens, members of a learned profession, and officers of an educational institution. When they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline..." and that "a faculty member’s expression of opinion as a citizen cannot constitute grounds for dismissal unless it clearly demonstrates the faculty member’s unfitness for his or her position. Extramural utterances rarely bear upon the faculty member’s fitness for the position."

      • by onyxruby (118189)

        People commit these kinds of things in corporations and other institutions on a routine basis. I assure you that if you publicly call out a company for someone's fabricated resume that your just as likely to lose your job as the person that fabricated their resume. I certainly don't support fabricating resumes (in my profession the background check would never let you get away with it anyways), but the point is about publicizing this kind of thing for the world to see.

        HR departments, especially in large org

        • Re:only in academia (Score:5, Informative)

          by khallow (566160) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @02:08PM (#45403895)
          The thing to ask here is whether Chicago State University has agreed to some sort of contract that requires it to honor "academic freedom". As it turns out, in order to be accredited, the university had to agree to certain standards [aaup.org] of academic freedom. They are accredited with the Higher Learning Commission. From the link:

          North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, the Higher Learning Commission

          The current version of this commissionâ(TM)s Handbook of Accreditation includes shared governance under the first of its five âoeCriteria for Accreditation,â specifically, under core component 1d, which states that âoethe organizationâ(TM)s governance and administrative structures promote effective leadership and support collaborative processes that enable the organization to fulfill its mission.â The explanatory paragraphs that follow describe shared governance (without defining it) as âoea long-standing attribute of most colleges and universities in the United States,â adding the qualification, âoewhatever the governance and administrative structures, they need to enhance the organizationâ(TM)s capacity to fulfill its mission.â Among the âoeexamples of evidenceâ that might indicate compliance with this core component is this: âoeFaculty and other academic leaders share responsibility for the coherence of the curriculum and the integrity of academic processes.â Under criterion 2a (âoeThe organization realistically prepares for a future shaped by multiple societal and economic trendsâ) explanatory paragraphs describe shared governance as serving âoeas a check and balance to ensure academic integrity.â

          While the North Central commissionâ(TM)s handbook does not employ the phrase âoeacademic freedomâ under criterion 4a (âoeThe organization demonstrates, through the actions of its board, administrators, students, faculty, and staff, that it values a life of learningâ), it does include the following âoeexample of evidenceâ relevant to this bedrock concept: âoeThe board has approved and disseminated statements supporting freedom of inquiry for the organizationâ(TM)s students, faculty, and staff, and honors those statements in its practices.â

          • by Obfuscant (592200)

            The thing to ask here is whether Chicago State University has agreed to some sort of contract that requires it to honor "academic freedom".

            Academic freedom has nothing to do with this. Academic freedom doesn't mean you can use your employer's trademarks on a website you create for your own purposes, even if that purpose is to harangue your employer over what you see as employment issues.

          • by quetwo (1203948)

            Academic Freedom generally covers scholarly duties and not employment or illegal items (unless those are under their directive for their scholarly works). That is why many schools offer things like tenure to professors that would give them a higher ranking and would in theory protect them from all scrutiny.

            Either way, pretty much everybody in academia is employed either via a contract or at will. As we move away from tenured faculty, the move is more to at-will faculty which means they can be fired for pre

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        Also remember that this is a government funded institution, so these profs are public workers criticizing a government agency.

        Even in the private sector, using trademark law to prevent using an organization's name in criticism is a clear misuse. No one is going to be confusing the original organization from the blog site.

    • Only in academia

      No. You should read the blog post titled "If You Want to Know What a Falsified Resume Looks Like, Here's an Example"

      When the compliants are 'company policy does not tolerate lying on resumes' and workers (Cheri Sidney in the blog) are hired and promoted after demonstrably lying on their resume (for 90k+ jobs not some CSR job) the point is no longer arguable.
      Hypocrasy is not a subjective value.

    • by mounthood (993037)

      Only in academia would faculty feel entitled to freely criticize their employer while expecting their employer to turn a blind eye.

      Straw-man.They being sued for bogus 'trade names and marks' not asking the university to "turn a blind eye."

      • by onyxruby (118189)

        My point was about staff in academia feeling free to criticize their employer when no other field would dare. I didn't say a damn thing about the lawsuit in support of either side.

    • Only in academia would faculty feel entitled to freely criticize their employer while expecting their employer to turn a blind eye. In any other field you would be canned on the spot for doing something like this. Possibly government employees in some departments would have similar attitudes?

      Now you can argue that academia has it right and the rest of society has it wrong or you could call the faculty self entitled tenured representations of antiquity. Having worked in the private industry as well as some years in a very large University one could argue this either way.

      Typical anti-intellectualism idiocracy, and one major reason that this country is heading into the toilet. At one time academics were respected for this wisdom. If they had an issue, they were trusted to be on the side of right. Now it's attack scientists and professors at every opportunity.

      • by onyxruby (118189)

        I take it you haven't actually read the blog with the inspired critiques? You also probably didn't catch that I worked in academia for years. You would probably be further surprised to learn that I took a significant pay cut from the private sector to do so. You were also oblivious to the fact that I openly left open the possibility that academia just might be right about this.

        Instead you made an ass of yourself and started spouting nonsense in an attempt to make yourself sound an intellectual. Next time yo

    • In this at least, academia had it right and the rest of society has it wrong.

      The traditions of the academy stem from outdated (medieval) notions of freedom. Colleges are supposed to be collegiate, as groups of free scholars able to speak their minds freely. The university administration should serve the colleges and if the administration is corrupt then the scholars owe it to the institution and to their students to object. Otherwise, there is no check on the administration.

      Professors should not be mere

    • by nbauman (624611)

      Why do you assume that the faculty are the employees?

      The administrators are employees. They're hired by the university to make it easier for the faculty to accomplish the university's mission of teaching and research.

  • I poked around the blog a bit. It's more than a little creepy. They have people's resumes and pay scales available for all to see. That's just weird. What did the janitors at Olive-Harvey do to deserve having their names and wages published? That's wholly inappropriate, and not necessary to make the author's point.
    • Re:Terrible blog (Score:5, Informative)

      by sribe (304414) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @01:02PM (#45403051)

      I poked around the blog a bit. It's more than a little creepy. They have people's resumes and pay scales available for all to see. That's just weird. What did the janitors at Olive-Harvey do to deserve having their names and wages published? That's wholly inappropriate, and not necessary to make the author's point.

      When you work for the government, your pay is a matter of public record, whether you're a senator or a janitor.

    • What did the janitors at Olive-Harvey do to deserve having their names and wages published?

      If you work for the public, you can't count on this information not being exposed in a freedom of information act request. I don't think it is fair either. But, this kind of information is posted at least once a year by our local newspaper for people working for our county.

      So if you don't want this kind of information publicly available, don't work in a public sector job.

    • by nbauman (624611)

      The resumes and pay scales are public documents, which are available to anyone.

      They're working for tax-supported a institution, and part of the deal if you accept the job is that your pay scale and resume will be public documents.

      In New York City, pay scales of high school teachers and policemen are public. If you know what a cop's rank is, you know how much he's making.

      It can't be any other way. The legislature sets the salaries, as part of a public proceeding.

    • by Yebyen (59663)

      You obviously clicked through a few of the posts on that blog, so how did you miss the part where they're accusing people in the administration of having resumes with totally falsified information? And the Human Resources department of "taking care of it" read: promoting those accused to even higher-up positions.

      Apparently the Human Resources dept have as much admitted they are aware of the falsifications and yet, they do nothing. As others have pointed out, nothing is posted other than information that w

  • News for nerds, stuff that matters, and the latest outrageous flamebait gossip to stir up ad-watching lynch mobs!
    • by nbauman (624611)

      University professors are nerds too.

  • "The reason academic politics are so bitter is that so little is at stake."

    Attributed to various people.

  • Rights? You have to upgrade your service plan to get those.

    Remember, it's a business, not a place for scholarly pursuits ...

  • You can say whatever you want about anything or anyone you want as long as it's true. The legal department can threaten you all they want and truthfully it's a joke. The University can't fight you on anything that you say as long as you don't lie! As for using images and banners from the University well chances are they are publically or facility usable, I would check with the University non legal department before anything else.
  • If they're being threatened by lawyers, I would take that as a sign that they're being very successful. It seems that this day and age, you aren't doing your job properly until you start getting cease and desist orders.

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