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When it's Anticipatory Retaliation.

April 13, 2005

Who Is Jean R. Cobbs? The Vegetative McCarthyism of the Left

Demosophist

Virginia State University is an historically black institution located in central Virginia, just south of Richmond. It was originally established as part of the extensive land grant system of higher education that was set up across the country in the late 19th Century under the Morrill Act. To get right to the point, the university is currently administered in a manner that would probably make the Tweed administration look principled by comparison. Cronyism and nepotism are the rule rather than the exception. Many of the administrators have little academic or even managerial credibility, and the current President, a fellow named Eddie Moore, Jr., has been in charge since 1993. As an example of how the institution is run the VP/Provost, W. Eric Thomas, managed to wrangle an appointment for his live-in girlfriend as head of the nursing program, a person with no advanced degree in nursing.

Dr. Jean R. Cobbs is a renowned sociologist and venerable member of the faculty at Virginia State University, with over 30 years of experience. Her area of expertise is in Social Services, where she has taught and served as chair of a department that she created and for which she won accreditation. She has an Ed.D. from William & Mary, is on the State Board of Social Services, is a member of the advisory board of the Virginia Center on Aging, and is also chair the Human Subjects Committee. She has an exemplary record of teaching and scholarship. Her primary liability is that she's a conservative black woman.

Early in his administration President Eddie Moore, Jr. decided that a defining aspect of his mission was to rid the university of as many black conservative tenured professors as possible, so began a long and perverse history of persecution of Jean Cobbs. Initially she was removed as chairman of the department that she created and developed, replaced by someone without comparable credentials. During a period in which her husband was suffering from a lingering terminal illness she took a short leave to care for him, and subsequently received an "unsatisfactory" review, a manufactured opening that Eddie Moore was prepared to pounce upon in order to advance his mission. In spite of the fact that the institutional rules allowed her an appeal (which would have overturned a patently inaccurate and unfair review) no appeal was ever granted. Jean Cobbs was subsequently fired from the university, after a long period of harassment.

And it gets worse.

In a fit of vindictiveness that puts the whining about "new McCarthyism," by people like Bernardine Dohrn, or the treatment of plagiarizing ethnic and professional frauds like Ward Churchill, in "interesting perspective" Virginia State University informed the Virginia Retirement System that after 33 years of service Professor Cobbs ought to lose all her benefits. This, under a clause holding that employees fired for "moral turpitude" are subject to such a denial. According to a faculty member at VSU who supports Professor Cobbs, this sort of treatment is generally reserved for convicted felons. Specifically, she was fired, without appeal and without any specification, for "unprofessional conduct:" almost certainly a euphemism for supporting conservative candidates for public office and testifying against President Moore in federal court. The institution continues to refuse requests for specific reasons for her firing, essentially because there are none that would hold up to any scrutiny.

And it gets even worse!

The Provost, W. Eric Thomas, who is directly responsible for firing Jean Cobbs in December, 2004, has managed to ensconce his uncredentialed but no doubt winsome girlfriend in the position formerly held by Professor Cobbs!

The American Association of University Professors is reviewing the situation, and could impose sanctions on Virginia State. If it viewed the situations at VSU and CU from a neutral perspective there's no doubt that they'd be compelled to impose sanctions. If they did, it would no doubt improve conditions not only for Jean (especially her shattered self-esteem, not to mention her financial well-being) but also for many of the remaining conservative faculty at VSU, who feel themselves under siege. It would therefore not be inappropriate to write or email the AAUP regarding the circumstances at VSU, urging a thorough and impartial review. However, remember to couch such a letter in professional terms, since indiscriminate railing could conceivably do more harm than good.

Update: The National Association of Scholars has a press release on the Cobbs case here.

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to Demosophia and The Jawa Report)

Launched by Demosophist at April 13, 2005 10:23 PM
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