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Philadelphia Inquirer slanders embattled U. of Penn Prof. Gil-White - Here's the refutation.
by Jared Israel
[15 February 2005]
After a blackout that lasted a year, the US media has finally begun reporting on the University of Pennsylvania's attempt to fire Prof. Francisco Gil-White.
Gil-White, an assistant professor of Psychology and a fellow at Penn’s Solomon Asch Center for Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict is also the Deputy Editor of Emperor’s Clothes. The small avalanche of coverage so far includes three newspaper articles and two radio interviews in three days, plus requests for interviews from national TV programs.
Emperor’s Clothes welcomes this coverage - better late than never. Unfortunately, much of it is marred by glaring omissions and smear tactics.
Case in point: last Friday’s article in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Reporter Patrick Kerkstra’s omissions and distortions are particularly disturbing because Kerkstra interviewed Prof. Gil-White several times, checking the facts, and Gil-White gave Kerkstra documentation that overwhelmingly proves his case, none of which Kerkstra reported.
Let’s take a look at the major claims raised in the Inquirer article.
Claim #1: The Inquirer says the attempt not to reappoint Prof. Gil-White “raises the same basic question” as the uproar over a professor at University of Colorado, one Ward Churchill. In fact, the comparison is false and prejudicial.
Near the beginning of the article, reporter Kerkstra compares Prof. Gil-White to Ward Churchill who, according to Kerkstra, “… liken[ed] some victims of 9/11 to “‘little Eichmanns.’” (Adolph Eichmann was the main architect in charge of the German Nazi's attempt to wipe out the Jewish people.)
Regardless of whether Churchill did or did not say this, the relevant points for us are that a) Kerkstra asserts that Churchill said it and b) Prof. Gil-White has never said this or anything like it.
Gil-White has not been attacked for “broadcasting” (the Inquirer’s word) repulsive statements calculated to provoke; rather, Gil-White has been attacked for publishing fact-based articles refuting media smear campaigns against Israel and Serbia, for exposing the Nazi origins of the PLO and the PLO's antisemitic genocidal plans, and for refuting pseudo-scientific falsehoods that justify anti-black racism. (Gil-White has also publicly criticized the Penn administration for having helped pay Bill Baker's speaker's fee when he gave a speech sponsored by the U. of Penn Muslim Students Association. Bill Baker is an internationally famous anti-black racist and antisemite).
What does any of this have to do with a repulsive remark about some 911 victims being like “little Eichmanns”?
Patrick Kerkstra reports that Gil-White objected to being compared to Churchill (as well he might!) and comments that “Gil-White is no Churchill.” That being the case, why does Kerkstra make this damning comparison? My guess: to instill in readers, at the beginning of the article, the mistaken belief that Gil-White must have made some public statements as horrible as Churchill's apparent “little Eichmanns” quote; hence the Inquirer’s claim that Gil-White, like Churchill, has supposedly challenged the “reasonable bounds of professorial free speech.” (Those are the Inquirer’s words.)
But Kerkstra does not cite any such remark by Gil-White because Gil-White has not made any. He’s a teacher (about ethnicity and racism) and a writer (about those issues and about foreign policy issues), not a public provocateur. He has bravely published articles on Emperor's Clothes and Arutz Sheva (Israel National News) documenting the factual inaccuracy of the anti-Israel and anti-Serb stance of the media Establishment. What does this have to do with “testing the limits of academic freedom”? Unless of course one is “testing the limits” when one argues that Serbia is not at fault in the Balkans or that Israel is not at fault in the Middle East or that the PLO indoctrinates Palestinians to believe that killing Jews is the greatest good, or when one attacks pseudo-scientific, anti-black racism.
Claim # 2: Inquirer writer Kerkstra editorializes that: “… [Prof. Gil-White’s] frequent clashes with the department and other colleagues suggest that Gil-White has done more than test the limits of academic freedom. He has tested institutional patience as well.”
We have already seen that Kerkstra's claims notwithstanding, Gil-White has not “test[ed] the limits of academic freedom.” Now Kerkstra tells us that Gil-White did something more than this thing he hasn't done: supposedly Gil-White tested “institutional patience.” How did he? Kerkstra offers the following example:
Notice that although Kerkstra ends the first sentence in the above quote with ‘‘DeRubeis said,’’ the sentence is written so as to communicate that DeRubeis is telling the truth. But he isn't telling the truth, and Patrick Kerkstra knows it.
Here's what actually happened.
Last fall, U. of Penn Psychology Professor and Curriculum Director Robert Rescorla sent Prof. Gil-White a letter with objections/criticisms concerning his course on ethnic prejudice, which focuses on anti-black racism and antisemitism. Far from “refus[ing] to address” these questions, Gil-White wrote Rescorla a lengthy reply, sent a copy to Chairman DeRubeis, and posted the whole exchange on the website he'd set up to deal with his case.
In his reply to Rescorla, Gil-White explained point by point why he disagreed with Rescorla’s criticisms. The reply was 4500 words long. Of course, it may not have been the reply Rescorla wished to receive, but that’s what happens when people disagree. (C'est la vie...)
Disagreeing with Robert Rescorla is not the same as “refusing to address” his objections, so DeRubeis’s claim is false. What is worse, the Inquirer knows it’s false: Prof. Gil-White showed reporter Patrick Kerkstra both Rescorla’s letter and his reply. Why didn’t Kerkstra mention Gil-White’s reply? Why didn't he make the point that, regardless of who is right about the contents of Gil-White's course, DeRubeis is not telling the truth when he says Gil-White refused to reply?
Claim # 3: Continuing to misportray Prof. Gil-White as guilty of inappropriate behavior (rather than being guilty of writing articles with conclusions disliked by the US intelligence & foreign policy Establishment!) the Inquirer invokes one Jonathan Knight.
The Inquirer describes Jonathan Knight as being the “director of the American Association of University Professors’ department on academic freedom.”
According to the Inquirer, Knight told them that academic freedom does not justify a lack of “tact and personality” or “an egregious lack of professional civility….” Knight is quoted as making the following solemn declaration:
Very nice, but what views would Mr. Knight be referring to? In what inappropriate manner has Gil-White expressed these views? Mr. Knight does not tell us, and this is scarcely odd because, as the Inquirer admits, Mr. Knight “had no personal knowledge of the Gil-White case.”
This guy has no personal knowledge of the case? Does he have some non-personal knowledge? If so, would he like to share? And if not, why on earth is the Inquirer quoting him? Unless, once again, to give a supposedly expert stamp to the claim that Gil-White has engaged in “uncivil” behavior.
The theme that Gil-White is in trouble because of his own behavior runs through the article. To support this story line, Kerkstra quotes Gil-White supposedly saying, about his effort to challenge the factual basis of the Establishment line on Serbia, “The more I pressed, the more reluctant they [i.e., his colleagues] seemed.”
Do you see the subtext here? Gil-White supposedly said he “pressed” and that his colleagues simply “seemed reluctant.” This would seem to suggest that Gil-White has been the aggressor. He has seemingly damned himself with his own words.
But were these Gil-White’s words? Not according to Gil-White. He says Patrick Kerkstra is writing fictional dialogue:
There is public evidence that Gil-White is telling the truth.
Prof. Douglas Massey, who at the time was chairman of the Sociology Department at the University of Pennsylvania, attended Gil-White's talk on Kosovo.
Massey, now a professor at Princeton, is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a former President of the American Sociological Association. He's also one of the most distinguished sociologists in the world.
In a letter to Prof. Gil-White, written for publication, Prof. Massey describes the response when Prof. Gil-White read his paper. Gil-White's paper disputed the claim that the Serbs were the oppressors in Kosovo, and it was delivered before an audience of directors, fellows and others at the Solomon Asch Center. This is what Prof. Massey says he witnessed there:
Talk about “an egregious lack of professional civility”!
(By the way, according to Prof. Gil-White, Prof. Ian Lustick, a director at the Solomon Asch Center and one of the main people behind the attempt to fire Gil-White, was one of the worst offenders on that day.)
Inquirer reporter Kerkstra was shown the letter from Douglas Massey, a distinguished professor who witnessed the actual events. It is posted on Gil-White’s website. Why doesn’t Kerkstra even mention this vital testimony?
Claim # 4: The Inquirer alleges that Prof. Gil-White rushed to make public accusations against U. of Penn.
About this, the Inquirer gives a specific supposed example. The only problem is, the example is a lie.
Mr. Kerkstra writes:
“Promptly posted”? Rozen's email is dated 16 March
2003. It was posted by Gil-White on 2 February 2004. That's almost a
year after he received it.
2 February 2004 is the date when Prof. Gil-White first set up his website devoted to the attempt to fire him. Then or soon thereafter, Gil-White also published articles about the attack. These appeared in the Daily Pennsylvanian and Arutz Sheva (Israel National News).
That date, February 2, is no accident. Earlier that week Gil-White had met with Psychology Department Chairman Robert DeRubeis about the department's decision concerning his reappointment. DeRubeis told Gil-White that the department had lots of problems with his teaching and research, and had barely voted to recommend reappointment. In the context of the threats Gil-White had received, (now documented on Gil-White's website ), and given that, as noted later in this article, Gil-White has an excellent teaching and publication record, Gil-White concluded that the university was preparing the ground to fire him. He decided that he had no choice but to appeal to the public to defend his right to continue teaching.
Why does Kerkstra make the false claim that Rozin’s email was published “promptly”?
The truth is precisely the opposite. Psychology chairman DeRubeis had asked Pr. Gil-White not to make the email threats public so as to protect Rozin, and Gil-White agreed. It was only when Pr. Gil-White realized that DeRubeis's promise to keep the reappointment process free of political pressure had been a lie that he published Rozin's emails in order to defend himself - but that was a whole year after the email was sent. It would appear, therefore, that the Inquirer wants to discredit Gil-White’s evidence page. Since the evidence is unanswerable, the Inquirer attempts to prejudice readers against it by suggesting that Gil-White “irritated” his colleagues by publishing emails that he considered threatening with irresponsible haste.
By the way, Arutz Sheva (Israel National News) published
an account of the Rozin email, with comments by Gil-White’s main
persecutor, Prof. Ian Lustick, and by Gil-White, who presents a strong
case that Rozin’s email was a threat. (This article appeared in February
2004, again, a year after Gil-White received the email.) You may read
this article at
Claim # 5: The Inquirer suggests that Prof. Gil-White’s teaching and research leave something to be desired.
Patrick Kerkstra reinforces the false claim that Prof. Gil-White is in trouble for “lack of civility” by posing that claim as an established fact: the Inquirer cites Psychology Dept. Chairman DeRubeis as saying that Gil-White’s supposedly “dogged attempts to engage his colleagues” (i.e. the alleged ‘uncivil’ behavior) did not play “a role in his review.”
So what did play a role? According to DeRubeis, there were problems with Gil-White’s teaching and research.
Or, to paraphrase the old joke, sure he beats his wife (“egregious lack of civility”), but we didn’t arrest him for that - we arrested him for murder (problems with research and teaching.)
The Inquirer then presents supposed evidence that Gil-White has such problems. But this evidence refutes their case.
A) Supposed problems with Prof. Gil-White's teaching:
The Inquirer reports that “According to the Penn Course Review, which tabulates student evaluations of teachers, Gil-White has received slightly lower ratings than the psychology faculty have averaged as a whole.”
This is very misleading. Here’s why.
First, we have posted Gil-White’s evaluations scores, as listed in the Penn Course Review. 
As you can see, students are asked to evaluate teachers on a scale of 1 to 4, where 0=poor, 1=fair, 2=good, 3=very good and 4=excellent.
Gil-White’s scores are right around 3 - that is, right around “very good.”
Second, the U. of Penn Psychology Department is well known for having excellent teachers. Many of them have been teaching for twenty years or longer, and of course teachers improve with experience. So, in a department full of excellent teachers, many of whom have years - or even decades - more experience than average, Prof. Gil-White does just “a little below average.” This means the psychology department average is quite high, because Gil-White's scores hover around “very good.”
Third, undoubtedly, if Gil-White’s scores were compared to a pool that included only the junior faculty, he would be above average.
Does this sound like a reasonable basis for denying him reappointment?
B) Supposed problems with Gil-White’s scholarly writing.
The Inquirer writes: “As a researcher, Gil-White has published at least four articles in academic journals that can be considered prestigious, according to journal evaluation system developed by the Institute for Scientific Information.”
The Inquirer then adds: “Those articles, though, were all published in 2001 or earlier. Many of his more recent articles have been published in journals not tracked by the institute.” [My emphasis]
So, the idea is that there is something wrong with Gil-White’s record of publication.
But is there?
First of all, Gil White, who has been teaching only 3.5 years, has already, according to the Inquirer, published many articles. As any academic will tell you, any junior professor anywhere would be proud to have a publication rate as fast as Gil-White’s. And it is more amazing because Gil-White has maintained this rate of publication even while defending himself from an attempted political firing. (And by the way, none of this includes the work he has published on Emperor's Clothes.)
Second, prior to the convening of Gil-White’s reappointment committee in the fall of 2003, he had, according to the Inquirer, already published at least four articles in “prestigious” scholarly journals. Other junior faculty members at Penn have in the past been reappointed with a) fewer total articles published; b) fewer articles published in prestigious journals; c) a smaller proportion of single-authored articles, and d) their articles have gotten fewer citations in the scholarly literature.
Third, plenty of prestigious journals are *not* included in the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) database. For example, in 2002 Prof. Gil-White published a paper in Field Methods, which is a high quality peer-reviewed journal. But Field Methods doesn’t happen to be included in the ISI database. (And by the way, the ISI also includes some not-so-high-quality journals.)
In any case, based on the Inquirer’s own evidence, Gil-White’s publication rate is superb.
Coming next: the Inquirer distorts the record on what Gil-White said about US intelligence consultant (and U. of Penn professor) Ian Lustick, and other matters…
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Footnotes and Further Reading
 When the Muslim Student Association brought neo-Nazi Bill Baker to give a public talk at U. of Penn, with his fee covered, at least in part, by funds from U. of Penn, Gil-White raised the issue on the Daily Pennsylvanian, the UPENN student newspaper, and on Arutz Sheva, Israel National News: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/article.php3?id=2943
* Professor Gil-White's talk on Kosovo,
Serbs Were Not Oppressing Kosovo Albanians... Quite the opposite,”
which was greeted with discourtesy and disruption when it was delivered at
a forum, including by Prof. Ian Lustick, a director of the Solomon Asch
Center for Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict, can be read at
* Gil-White's article on Israel,
 Gil-white's website with documentation on his case is at http://www.psych.upenn.edu/%7Efjgil/open.htm
 Professor Gil-White's 2003 and 2004 course ratings are posted at http://emperors-clothes.com/gilwhite/ratings.htm
Professor says his views
may cost job
Francisco Gil-White, an assistant
professor in Penn's psychology department, has called the Sept. 11
terrorist attacks "an inside job." He has written articles alleging
that NATO framed Slobodan Milosevic. He has tried to convince his
colleagues that the United States is a secret enemy of Israel.
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