Wednesday, January 14, 2004

My victimhood trumps your power 

Prof. Dick Andzenge again writes on the fallout from the Dean Lewis affair. In today's article, he reports on the sad decision of one faculty member to visit him and complain about his December article.
First, my colleague claimed the article was supportive of the former dean. According to my colleague, the former dean had harassed that colleague, was fired for that purpose, and deserved to have been fired.

I responded that my article was not supportive of anyone and that my colleague was giving me privileged information. I told my colleague I considered this information as gossip because the university had not explained the reassignment as a firing for wrongdoing.

This did not impress my colleague.

I argued further that my colleague needed to be careful in making such declarations and claiming credit for the reassignment decision, especially because the former dean was not present to refute the claims. At that point, my colleague accused me of being threatening.

During the same conversation, my colleague reminded me of how much that colleague has suffered. When I expressed my sympathy, my colleague responded that I was being patronizing.

My colleague reminded me that I was tenured and hence do not experience the insecurity and powerlessness suffered by those of who are not tenured.

I reiterated my colleague's claim to credit for firing a dean and for forcing the hands of the university's administration into making administrative changes. At that point, my colleague turned to the Bible on the shelf and accused me of betraying the teachings of the Bible.

There was nothing else that I could say.
I suspect the aggrieved colleague had simply missed the point that his or her powerlessness had been refuted by his or her claim that he or she had a hand in the dean's reassignment/firing/star chamber conviction. Part of the victim-claim is that the exercise of power through claims of discrimination do not diminish their claim of victimization.
People who claim to have no power use that powerlessness to hold entire institutions hostage. Civil, two-way discourse cannot be achieved within such an environment.

When a person or group voices opposition to their arguments they are declared threatening, and while attempting to understand their point of view they are branded as patronizing. Giving up and just sitting quietly is the end result.