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Hugo Chavez & The AAUP

It turns out that Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez could have had a much closer relationship with the American Association of University Professors (AAUP [1]) if the former head of the AAUP had his druthers.  “While admittedly bizarre, Roger Bowen, former general secretary who joined the anti-academic freedom mob in a Wall Street Journal piece seeking the dismissal of University of Colorado Professor Churchill, pursued the purchase of additional office space and suggested seeking external funding from Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez,” Peter Kirstein writes [2] in Illinois Academe.

Kirstein is currently the vice-president of the AAUP.  When I asked the St. Xavier University historian for clarification, he wrote, “On p. 213 of Cary Nelson, No University is an Island, he states that Roger Bowen (then General Secretary of A.A.U.P.) suggested buying a couple of buildings with Hugo Chávez’s support.”

“President Nelson states ‘the proposal never left the office.’ There is no reference to when the idea was bruited about.” Bowen was general secretary of the AAUP in 2005. (I should note, and did in my query to Dr. Kirstein, “Full disclosure, my own relations with him have been less than amicable—Bowen that is. I never met the other chap.”)

Nelson, currently the president of the AAUP, is an English professor at the University of Illinois in Urbana. That would put Bowen, the former president of the State University of New York at New Paltz, to the left of Nelson, who characterized Bowen’s proposal as mad. Nelson himself is hardly a right-winger, to put it mildly.

“In the months leading up to the summer of 1967 I was completing my undergraduate degree at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio,” Nelson wrote [3] in 2007 of his undergraduate years. “Antioch had hired me part-time as a draft counselor and that job continued into June.”

“In the midst of the Vietnam War and at America’s most progressive college, draft counseling really meant draft avoidance counseling.”

As for Venezuela in the Chavez years, the Obama Administration’s latest human rights report notes [4] that “The following human rights problems were reported by the nongovernmental organization (NGO) community, the media, and in some cases the government itself:

Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia [5].

If you would like to comment on this article, e-mail mal.kline@academia.org [6]