“Like Maoist China”: weather professor attacked by department for opposing carbon tax proposal
Student activists offended by his “watering pigs” metaphor
When a meteorologist blogged against a carbon tax proposal backed by fellow professors, he quickly became a target for climate activists, students and colleagues on campus.
Cliff Mass of the University of Washington, professor of atmospheric sciences with his own weekly weather segment on public radio, accused the College of the Environment of “serious violations of free speech and academic freedom” on his blog last week.
While his colleagues have used their UW affiliations to promote the 1631 Initiative, a carbon tax proposed by Democratic lawmakers that failed at the polls last November, Mass says his opposition “had no connection.” with the university.
His personal posts against I-1631 led to a social media campaign by UW students calling him a “racist, misogynist, climate denier” and worse, Mass wrote.
The atmospheric science department even held a meeting in which colleagues and students shamed him for his opinions, according to the professor, one of them emitting “a direct threat.” He called it “more like a performance at the Roman Colosseum than an academic proceeding at a leading research university.”
Mass recounted The College’s solution that he was the only University of Washington professor who actively opposed the measure, as far as he knew. He is “not sure” if he will seek a lawyer to consider his options against UW officials.
But he is satisfied with the public support he has received: “hundreds of support emails, including dozens from professors.”
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The college plays down the internal campaign against Mass and interprets the timeline differently from Mass’s narrative, which alleges multiple violations of politics and constitution by leaders of the Department of Environmental and Atmospheric Sciences.
A UW spokesperson said The fix that Mass was never “disciplined” and that his tenure was never “in jeopardy,” and Lisa Graumlich, his dean, echoed the university’s explanation.
“The College leadership’s version of these myriad events differs from Professor Mass’s descriptions, but let me be clear that his tenure and professorship have never been threatened,” she wrote in an email :
Professor Mass remains Full Professor at the University of Washington, with all the rights and responsibilities of that position. If it believes that a violation of the Faculty’s Code has occurred, the University has mechanisms to resolve these complaints.
When The fix Graumlich asked (left) to clarify her version of the timeline, which goes back about a year, she did not respond to follow-up emails.
According to Mass, neither President Ana Mari Cauce nor Marshal Mark Richards addressed the situation when he wrote his accusatory post last week. He is speaking now that an internal mediation process has been completed.
The UW spokesperson declined to give a direct answer to several questions in The fix on whether he will conduct an internal investigation into Mass.
“Protecting freedom of expression and academic research at the University of Washington are core values,” the spokesperson said. He described Mass’s claims of violations of politics and the constitution as a matter of “vigorous discussions, and even heated disagreements”, which can cause “discomfort and disagreement.”
“Potentially illegal use of university resources”
Mass is known far beyond college halls, at least in the Pacific Northwest. He even made an appearance by name in the 2012 Seattle-based novel “Where’d You Go, Bernadette,” which was made into a movie that debuted this summer.
In 2011 Seattle weather called it “the closest thing to a famous scientist in Seattle” because of its outspokenness on various issues, including “the need to communicate science”.
He had just been dumped by the Seattle NPR affiliate for what he described as a tendency to stray from the weather for unrelated issues, including math education and even the admissions process. UW. (Another Seattle-area NPR affiliate picked him up.)
Mass explained his opposition to I-1631 in terms of its regressive structure, which would “disproportionately harm” low-income people, as well as its distribution of taxes collected “by a council dominated by politically connected groups”.
He had supported a previous proposal with a carbon tax twice as high as that of I-1631. “I have agreed to be a signatory of the declaration against I-1631 in the official voter brochure and have done a few blog posts on the subject” without mentioning his university affiliation, Mass wrote in his article from blog.
In contrast, most of the faculty in the Department of Mass signed a letter to the editor supporting the initiative, including President Dale Durran. They used their UW affiliations. Dean Graumlich and several associate deans, including Robert Wood, who also signed public statements supporting I-1631, he claimed.
Mass claimed that Durran, “who has a substantial influence on salaries, sabbaticals and advancement in the department,” asked professors to sign the statement. Durran’s letter was also posted on the college’s climate change program website, which Mass called “potentially an illegal use of university resources.”
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Student activists at UW claimed Mass was in the pay of Charles and David Koch, the billionaire industrialists, and circulated images of his face next to a barrel of oil with a heart in between. Seattle alt-weekly The foreigner called him “Trump’s meteorologist.”
But some were outraged when he referred to the “pigs at the trough” metaphor in a blog post to describe the distribution of the carbon tax initiative by special interest groups. They complained that Mass was racist towards minority groups who supported I-1631.
Student activists convinced the heads of the Department and College of the Environment to write a letter of “civility” that was sent to students, staff and faculty in the department, explicitly shaming Mass.
The letter, which Mass did not publish, claimed his blog post “featured race-insensitive and offensive images and text.” He continued, “Racism is in direct contradiction to our common values and has no place in our college.”
A UW spokesperson confirmed The fix this “[s]all the people expressed their offense and opposition to what they saw as his comparison of Native Americans and others with pigs. Mass insisted his metaphor – an unexplained image, without text – was not aimed at minorities, although he has since deleted the image.
Other than Graumlich, the letter’s signatories – Durran, Wood, dean of administration Stephanie Harrington and deputy dean of diversity Terryl Ross – did not respond to To fix queries.
Mass called the letter “not only inappropriate and arguably unethical, but also a violation of the University of Washington faculty code, including the protection of academic freedom.”
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Other teachers said “they were afraid to speak out in my defense”
When Mass protested the letter as “illegal and unfair,” Durran called a departmental meeting “with the knowledge” of Graumlich’s office to discuss the dispute.
“With the promise of controversy and ready meals, there was a big crowd,” Mass wrote.
Durran (below) called on the “offended” students and others in the meeting to criticize the blog post. The president started “shouting” at mass when he tried to defend himself by talking about free speech. Durran then returned to calling the students, one of whom told Mass he would be “held accountable.”
“It was a direct threat. And nobody said a word about it, ”Mass wrote.
After it was over, some teachers told him that “they were afraid to speak up in my defense.” According to Mass.
All this left the professor with the impression that the shameful event violated the faculty code “and the basic principles of the university”.
There are “different views on what happened” between the masses and the administrators throughout the conflict, the UW spokesman said. The fix. But the most specific he would get was to say that the letter from the administrators in response to Mass’s blog post was not an attempt to censor him.
The university strongly disagrees that Mass’s colleagues acted unethically or illegally in defending I-1631 while using their UW affiliations.
“Under state law, university employees are only allowed to use state resources to advocate for or against a candidate or a voting initiative,” the spokesperson said. “[T]this is significantly different from using expertise to comment on the effects of proposed legislation.
As to what the university will do in response to the series of events, that is pending. According to Mass, the secretary of the faculty does not intend to implement policies on removing social media from the faculty because that person “does not have the authority” to do so.
“It’s really up to the top administration and regents of UW,” Mass said. The fix in an email.
(As the mass says The fix that a “chapter” of the Heterodox Academy, which advocates for diversity of views on campus, is being formed at UW, a spokesperson for the group said The fix Tuesday that he has no chapters. It has individual members in institutions, including UW.)
Washington University Should Not Censor Faculty Social Media https://t.co/0IhKO6SCNs pic.twitter.com/FVtGGry1jx
– Cliff Mass (@CliffMass) October 1, 2019
CORRECTION: The original article misinterpreted the organizational structure of the Heterodox Academy. It has individual members in institutions, including UW, but no “chapters”. The article has been corrected.
FOLLOWING: The warriors of social justice came for the head of this professor. He thrives.
IMAGE: KNKX Public Radio / YouTube, University of Washington
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