Bulletin 129


9 July 2004

Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,

Please find below a description of our meeting with Standhal University President, Patrick Chezaud, which was the second of two meetings held on campus yesterday, where the survival of CEIMSA was discussed.

Francis Feeley
Professor of
American Studies
Stendhal University


8 July 2004)

The meeting with the President of Stendhal University, M. Patrick Chezaud, was scheduled for 10h30. It was preceded by a meeting of the Conseil de l'UFR d'Anglais, which began at 9h. I attended both meetings.

After more than an hour into the UFR meeting, I excused my self at 10h15, explaining that I was leaving for a meeting with President Chezaud, concerning the current attempts to liquidate the UFR d'Anglais Research Center, CEIMSA. I announced that I intended to try to  negotiate with the University President to reach a compromise by  which CEIMSA could continue to exist as a small local research center, and it university web site (http://www.u-grenoble3.fr/ceimsa) would be restored. I declared to my colleagues on the Conseil de l'UFR d'Anglais, before departing for the presidential meeting, that "A university must represent on its campus all the elements in the "universe of ideas" and that the scholarly and pedagogical activities of CEIMSA are opportunities to represent important elements in contemporary American society, aspects which are not well known nor completely understood by many Europeans. The Directress of our UFR, M. Susan Blattes, and my other colleagues on the Conseil de l'UFR d'Angais (many of whom had already signed petitions defending academic freedom and supporting the continuation of CEIMSA research and pedagogical activities as a useful part of the UFR d'Anglais program at Stendhal University) agreed that a General Assembly should be called at the start of the fall semester, where traditional academic freedom and CEIMSA's right to exist could be discussed by all parties involved directly and indirectly with this crisis.

I left the UFR meeting before it was over, at 10h25 and hurriedly walked to the President's office.

Two representatives from my teachers' union, SNEsup, had agreed to attend this meeting. I met Marc Troivallets (professor of economics and president of the U. Stendhal chapter of SNEsup) and Jean Derioz (former director of the UFR d'Anglais and also member of SNEsup) at the entrance to the building where the President's office is located. At the bottom of the stairs we encountered Mme. Odile Lagacherie (Vice-President of Stendhal University and also a member of SNEsup). We greeted her warmly, after which she informed me that she did not appreciate the fact that I had told people that no explanation had been given for the removal of the CEIMSA web site from the university server. "The University has roles," she scolded me, "and you must obey them." In my mind, I had disobeyed no rules and what I had told people was the truth, namely no reason WAS given for the removal of the CEIMSA web site, and at the time I was using it in a summer course on the history of U.S. foreign policy with students from The University of Texas-Austin. As Mme. Lagacherie walked away, I reminded her that "this university exists for us, and we do not exist for this university." Then she disappeared up the stairs into her office.

The three of us -Marc Troisvallets, Jean Derioz and myself- walked up the stairs to meet the University President, M. Patrick Chezaud. After a few minutes he came to the outer office and greeted us. He at that time made two surprising announcements: a)Vice-President of the Conseil Scientific, M. Michel Lafon, would not attend this meeting, as he had previously agreed, and b)there would be no negotiations on changing the decision to liquidate CEIMSA.

When I asked why M. Lafon would not attend the meeting to discuss the future of CEIMSA, the President told me that he simply did not want to. (In in the course of the one-and-a-half hour meeting which followed in the President's office, President Chezaud mentioned several times that he wished Michel Lafon were present to respond to our questions.)

As we were about to enter the President's office to begin the meeting, he looked around and announced that this meeting had been scheduled for Feeley and himself, that the representatives of SNEsup could see him at a later time if they wished. Marc protested politely, saying that he thought that SNEsup could help resolve this labor-management conflict by negotiating some solution to the problems created by the liquidation of CEIMSA and its web site. It was at this point that President Chezaud announced categorically that: "There will be NO negotiations!" This decision was taken at the administrative level, he continued, and it was not open for nagotiations. No modifications of this decision would be made.

I turned away and was about to refuse to enter his office by myself when President Chezaud relented and said, "Well, okay, both of you can come in with Feeley and listen to what I have to say to him. I don't have to let you come in, but I will. I don't mind."

The four of us, including President Chezaud, then entered the President's inner office, and we sat down at a table with six places. Jean Derioz and I sat at opposite ends of the table, and Marc Troisvallets and the President sat across from each other, next to Professor Derioz.

The discussion began with President Chezaud stating that the decision to eliminate CEIMSA had been taken at the March 23 meeting of the Conseil Scientifique (C.S.), which both he and I had attended and that there was nothing he could do to change that decision.

Marc spoke politely defending the activities of CEIMSA over the past three years in general terms and the importance of not depriving teachers of their pedagogical materials (i.e. the CEIMSA web site, then in use). Finally, President Chezaud responded, "Yes, but there is nothing I can do."

In the course of the discussion, I explained that the vote taken at the March 23 meeting of the Conseil Scientifique concerned explicitly CEIMSA's formal request to receive a BQR (a subsidy from the university) of 1,000 euros, to be used for the up-coming conference with Jim Hightower, on 22-23 April. The discussion never revolved around the "extinction" of CEIMSA, as was subsequently claimed by President Chezaud and Vice-President Lafon. Again, there had been no clear discussion of the liquidation of CEIMSA and the removal of it web site from the university server.

During the discussion about the 1,000 euros subsidy (the BQR) and the Hightower conference, I acknowledged that CEIMSA was a small research center (we had only four local faculty members at the time and I was doing most of the publishing) but that it had attracted the attention of a large number of students and scholars, many of whom were among the over 1000 participants at each of the three International Conferences, which CEIMSA had organized these past three years (beginning in January 2002). In addition, CEIMSA had published the scientific writings of dozens of French and American scholars, as well as outstanding essays by Grenoble students.

I concluded by presentation to the CS by stating that I was surprised the BQR proposal was on the CS agenda in March, one month before the CEIMSA conference, since I had been told I would not receive a BQR and had not recently asked for one. I went on to say that if I were granted the BQR for 1,000 euros that I would be able to enlarge the conference in April by inviting former U.S. Senator The Honorable James Abouresk, from South Dakota, who had already agreed to come for the Conference if funding was available, and perhaps The Honorable Barbara Lee, U.S. Representative from District 5 in northern California.

I quickly added, however, that if the CS decided not to give CEIMSA the BQR of 1,000 euros, the conference would simply be smaller in size. Michigan artist, Joanna Learner, had already sent her pacifist art work for exhibit at this conference on "The Contemporary State of American Political Culture," and authors Jim Hightower and Susan DeMarco (from Austin, Texas), along with Professor Keith Gushorn (California State University) were planning to attend the conference, as were several scholars from Paris, Montpellier, and Chambery. This smaller conference was made possible with a grant from Tramway nomme culutre, on campus.

My second statement at the March 23 CS meeting concerned the future of CEIMSA: My preference, I told my CS colleagues, was to remain an small independent research center, until I could recruit more active members and create a network with other university research centers in southern France, as had been suggested by the Ministry of Education in Paris the year before (in January 2003). However, I continued, I was also prepared to request M. Lafon permission to join his very large equip and to work inside the university structure in this manner. (I remember clearly, Michel Lafon smiling at me and saying "S.O.S., right Francis?") There simply was no discussion about the "extinction" of CEIMSA at that meeting and, to my knowledge, no vote was ever taken on this question.

Having reminded President Chezaud of the discussion at the CS meeting in front of my SNEsup comrades (neither of whom had attended this CS meeting), I went on to recall that three weeks ago, when I met President Chezaud and M. Lafon in the corridor near the President's office, I had asked M. Lafon to place me on the Agenda of the next CS meeting, which was scheduled for 22 June, so I could defend CEIMSA against the plan to liquidate it. He replied that the July agenda was full, and when I asked to defend CEIMSA at the September CA meeting, he again told me that this agenda was also too full to allow me to speak in defense of CEIMSA. Finally, we agree to the current meeting on 8 July in the President's office, which of course M. Lafon did not attend.

Michel Lafon, Vice-President of Research at Stendhal University, had taken nearly three month, since the CS meeting in March, before deciding to tell me he would not permit CEIMSA to join his equip. In the same message in which he rejected my request, he informed me (on 12 June) that he and President Chezaud would inform me of the "extinction" of CEIMSA. The CEIMSA web site containing more that 3000 pages of scholarly writings was removed from the University Stendhal server on July 1, 2004 and is no longer available to students and scholars.
It was clear at the meeting with President Chezaud yesterday, 8 July, that the chronology of events was not in dispute, but that the meaning of these events clearly is:

1) President Chezaud claims that the CS clearly voted for the extinction of my research center. I claim that the vote was taken not to subsidize the Hightower Conference, which I had already stopped asking for long before March. I would be satisfied, I announced to my colleagues in the CS, with a small conference.)

2) President Chezaud claims that the research center, CEIMSA, is dead, that there is no reason for me to defend its existence. I claim that, after Michel Lafon's refusal, on 12 June, to include CEIMSA in his equip, CEIMSA must have the right to continue its work until I find another solution. This was the spirit of the decision take my former President Lise Dumasy in January 2003, and I ask nothing more that the opportunity to confer with my colleagues on the CS at a regular meeting in the fall semester.

3) President Chezaud claims that the large attendance at the CEIMSA International Conferences lends proof that the work of this research center is "not scientific". I claim that topics in American civilization , and particularly in contemporary history, attract popular attention, due to the news media. Scholars, students, and social activists come together in large numbers to hear social analysis and reports from scientific research on topics they have heard something about already. In brief, it is because of popular interest and not due to unscientific demagogy the these international conferences have attracted such large numbers of people.

4) President Chezaud claims that the removal of the CEIMSA web site (http://www.u-grenoble3.fr/ceimsa) form the Stendhal University server is not denying access to students and scholars because I can easily purchase the services of a private server (like "wanadoo.fr"). I claim that as a scholar and professor in the French university system, my academic work should be associated with Stendhal University, that the CEIMSA web site should be housed at the University Stendhal server, "u-grenoble3.fr".

The presence and brief interventions of SNEsup representatives, Jean Derioz and Marc Troisvallets, helped everyone present at the President's meeting with me to come to a better understanding of the procedure by which our research center CEIMSA has come under the threat of "extinction".

Before leaving his office, I told President Chezaud:  a)that I did not want CEIMSA to be marginalized by Stendhal University, b)that the CEIMSA web site should be restored immediately so that my Master and Doctoral students could continue using it for their academic research this summer, and c)that I wish to present my case to the CS for an open democratic discussion and vote on the important issues at hand, which include traditional academic freedoms and freedom of expression.

Chezaud replied: 1)CEIMSA does not exist, 2)the web site will not be restored, and 3)if I really want the CEIMSA question to be on the agenda of the Conseil Sceintfiique meeting next fall, that I must contact Michel Lafon (of whom President Chezaud had repeatedly said, "I which he had come to this meeting.").

Francis McCollum Feeley
Research Center Director <http://www.u-grenoble3.fr/ciesimsa>
and Professor of North American Studies
UFR d'Anglais
Université Stendhal
Grenoble, France