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Thursday, January 25, 2007

PZ Myers Defends Sally Kenney

On Pharyngula. He doesn't think much of the Drama Queen:

The source was the odious Michael Brodkorb. Did I say he was a hack? He'd have to acquire some infinitesimal modicum of dignity in order to drag himself up out of the gutter slime and qualify to the title of "hack". Right now, all he is is a junior shit-stirrer; he dreams of being a hack, if only a magic fairy would come along and enchant some hack-level measure of talent into his sludge-flinging brain. I'm sorry, Michael, but fairies don't exist, so there will be no magic to help you overcome your limitations.

Republican blogger Michael Brodkorb, who recently posted the e-mail on his website minnesotademocratsexposed .com, accused Kenney of using "a taxpayer funded tool not available to competing campaigns. ... It crossed the line into clear advocacy."

A tool not available to competing campaigns? What? Here, you lying wanker, I've got 20 gmail invites. Want one? E-mail is pretty much the lowest, simplest, commonest utility around nowadays; the university hands these things out to all of our students. Are we going to start monitoring email to make sure the users don't commit that horrible sin of expressing their own opinions?

As for advocacy: hell yes! University employees ought to be advocates for our own views. When I signed my contract, I don't recall one of the conditions being that my blood would be drained and replaced with some colorless, odorless, flavorless fluid that was designed to be inoffensive, nor was I told I had to be neutered to work here. If we are to function as public intellectuals, we cannot do so by burying our opinions and pretending to a false and magisterial aloofness—that's just not the way the world works.

Now Brodkorb is the kind of marginally multicellular ooze who might play this fake story up, but what I find particularly appalling is that some other university people are mumbling their support of his thesis.

A colleague of Kenney's, Larry Jacobs, director of the institute's Center for the Study of Politics and Governance, said that "as someone who works with people from all parties, it's just an inappropriate use of university resources. ... I don't ever recall seeing an e-mail like that from a faculty member."

Hmmm. Maybe Jacobs was hired under a different contract—one that required bloodlessness and castration. Does he really pretend that he is an objective observer with no opinions, and is he so fearful that he thinks no one will like him if he admits to an opinion? Email is a commodity, a privilege handed out with our employment, a teeny-tiny perquisite to help compensate for our teeny-tiny salaries, and it's hardly a drain on university resources for a faculty member to send out correspondence with it. If you want to see a drain on university resources, try turning university employment into an excuse to regulate every action of our faculty.

What the story got wrong was that Sally Kenney did not use her personal U of MN email address, but rather used a humphrey institute email address to send this message to a Humphrey Institute personal student listserv. There are legitimate concerns about acceptable use of University Resources on this one.