At least Clyde Magarelli isn’t molesting students, I don’t think, but William Paterson University in New Jersey has a real clunker in their sociology department. He’s teaching conspiracy theory nonsense instead of sociology. It’s the usual stuff: the Holocaust was exaggerated, the moon landings were faked, etc.
“We can’t land on it [the moon] and get back. We’ve never landed on it, you didn’t know that?” he says in one clip.
Magarelli also claims that the Gestapo, the secret police of Nazi Germany, only engaged in torture during the “last part of the war.”
In another video, he tells his students that Native Americans are not indigenous people.
“We call them Native Americans but those that have their own government outside — they were never considered part of the system,” he mumbles. “They had their own tribal system.”
Magarelli also believes that the Irish were the first slaves in America — a theory debunked by Irish experts who said their indentured servitude was “in a completely different category from slavery,” according to the New York Times.
Video clips of the guy saying stupid stuff can be found on this Twitter thread.
He is a full time, tenured associate professor at the university, and has been teaching there since 1967 (!!!).
Now this is a case, though, where academic freedom does come into play. He’s saying stupid, wrong, ignorant things, but the whole point of tenure is you’re protected — you can defy the orthodoxy in all sorts of ways. He’s doing it. You can’t fire him for that.
But the flip side is that he has a job — he’s supposed to be teaching young people sociology, and he’s failing to do that. Academic departments have ways to deal, though: from the clips, it seems he’s teaching a first year course called “Social Problems”, which is almost certainly not part of the core curriculum. I’m going to guess that what the functional part of the department has done is shunted him off into non-critical electives, because you certainly can’t expect him to prepare students for other courses in sociology, and are limiting the harm he can do as much as possible. The curriculum can be thought of as a network that routes around damage, and deadwood faculty — he looks like the very definition of the term — are interpreted as damage and shuffled off to the side until they get around to retiring, or die.
The students should view him as a practical exercise in dealing with bad ideas.
The greatest harm he is doing, though, is that he’s taking up space that could be used more productively and creatively with a new faculty member — and he’s probably getting paid more than he’s worth. But that’s one of the inherent flaws of the tenure system.
I was just introduced to my favorite meme on this subject ever:
“Of course NASA faked the moon landing. But the problem was they hired Stanley Kubrick to direct and he insisted that they film on location…”
…and he’s probably getting paid more than he’s worth.
Ronald Couch says
I had a history professor who had a full blown meltdown in one of my final undergraduate classes close to the end of the quarter (well in all the classes he was teaching at the time). Unfortunate since it was the historiography class, mandatory and upper level. Another guy came in to finish out the year, but I guess I shouldn’t complain since we all got A’s.
In the early years of Pharyngula, I seem to recall another professor emeritus that used to visit frequently… that resembled this person quite closely. pretty sure he’s dead now (anyone remember his name?).
I love it so…
Indeed, you even commented on his passing
I actually misremembered his last name as “Davidson”, at first. Memory is like a whatchacallit.
I can’t even comprehend what this is supposed to mean.
Um… what? Those videos shows a guy in his 40s… 50s tops.
woozy @6: The words are English, but arranged in such an order as to have no meaning.
Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says
I’m gonna guess a few grad students have gone missing and there are some LARGE “lab equipment” purchases in his department…
Meg Thornton says
Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y @ 9:
Sociology as a field isn’t one which really has that much lab work. Participant observation and ethnology, yes. Labs… no. Which means even the most incompetent administrator would be raising eyebrows, not to mention some serious flags in the system, if they got a budget request for serious amounts of lab equipment from the sociology department. (It’s humanities: their one remaining virtue to university administrators everywhere is all you need to teach ’em is a classroom and a professor – no fancy equipment required. The humanities are cheap, which is the only reason they survive in the modern university environment).
wanna know why I stopped bothering to try to figure out why cranks are cranks?
one of the last comments in that thread:
because even if you figure out why someone is the way they are, they inevitably surround themselves with people like this commenter, and so it becomes a worthless effort to try and understand why someone is the way they are, if your goal is ever to try and reach out or get them help.
it’s entirely pointless.
so I stopped trying to figure out why cranks are cranks, and just laugh along with everyone else now.
better, or worse? no longer care.
Is there any exception, though, to academic freedom, for teaching outright falsehoods? Isn’t he, as you say, not performing his job, same as if he just didn’t show up for his classes?
I think that if I taught alchemy in my general chem class, or even in the advanced electives, as the truth of where chemistry is now, and just said that it’s my right to say my opinions, that academic freedom wouldn’t cover me. Or taught that water has a memory, etc. I think that I’d be counseled, then perhaps disciplined, then fired, for not doing my job.
This is the social sciences, though, where perhaps “facts” are a little less agreed on? Just wondering where the line is between academic freedom and not doing your job to the point that tenure doesn’t cover you.
I’m afraid it seems to me, he (the professor) is saying Indians were never part of the government, cultural and society of “America” and thus aren’t really “Americans” and the tweeterer is misclaiming this as a claim they are not indigenous.
Which for all I know, this professor might claim as well; it’s a common quack theory that is just up the professor’s alley.
Yes. It appears that he doesn’t understand the difference between “indigenous” and “citizens.”
Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says
I’m with you. I think that the quote is asserting non-Americanness, not non-indigenousness. It still doesn’t make much sense, but as a percentage it makes quite a bit more sense that way.