It turns out that Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez could have had a much closer relationship with the American Association of University Professors (AAUP ) 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  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  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  that “The following human rights problems were reported by the nongovernmental organization (NGO) community, the media, and in some cases the government itself:
- “Unlawful killings, including summary executions of criminal suspects;
- “Widespread criminal kidnappings for ransom;
- “Prison uprisings resulting from harsh prison conditions;
- “Arbitrary arrests and detentions;
- “Corruption and impunity in police forces;
- “A corrupt, inefficient, and politicized judicial system characterized by trial delays and violations of due process;
- “Political prisoners and selective prosecution for political purposes;
- “Infringement of citizens’ privacy rights by security forces; government closure of radio and television stations and threats to close others; government attacks on public demonstrators;
- “Systematic discrimination based on political grounds;
- “Considerable corruption at all levels of government; threats and attacks against domestic NGOs;
- “Violence against women;
- “Inadequate juvenile detention centers; trafficking in persons; and
- “Restrictions on workers’ right of association.”
Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia .
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