KC University Backs Labor Professor In Video Controversy
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- University of Missouri-Kansas City officials say they're standing behind a labor studies professor whose lecture comments about union agitation tactics have created an Internet stir among conservative commentators.
Video clips on conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart's Big Government website show professor Judy Ancel seemingly endorsing violence as a union tactic during a recent class. UMKC Provost Gail Hackett pledged support for the academic freedom of the school's professors and said videos posted on Breitbart's site rely on "selective editing" and are presented in "an inaccurate and distorted manner."
A campus review of 18 hours of unedited video continues, Hackett said in a statement released late Thursday.
Breitbart was at the center of two video controversies in recent years – one that led to the firing of a U.S. Agriculture Department employee over an edited video of what appeared to be a racist remark, and another that embarrassed the community group ACORN when workers were shown counseling actors posing as a prostitute and pimp.
In the Kansas City video incident, Ancel says she was paraphrasing a statement made in a documentary shown in class about the 1968 Memphis garbage workers' strike and Martin Luther King's assassination.
Ancel, director of the university's Institute for Labor Studies, called the Breitbart video "part of a broad agenda to weaken unions."
The professor called the Internet images "chop shop manufactured videos" and suggested that public dissemination of the edited lectures – obtained from a university website available only to students enrolled in the class – is a possible violation of federal privacy laws. Hackett raised similar concerns.
"This kind of attach has an enormously chilling effect," she said.
The edited videos also featured comments about union tactics from Don Giljum, an adjunct professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis who helped Ancel teach the class. Giljum, a former union business manager who represented workers at utility Ameren Corp., resigned this week.
Giljum did not return a phone call by the AP seeking comment Friday.
Breitbart, when reached by the AP, declined comment but referred a reporter to a posting on his website. The posting attributed to someone writing under the name "Insurgent Visuals" accuses Ancel of distorting a quote from the film. The posting also features a video clip from the documentary apparently shown in Ancel's class in which a former Memphis sanitation worker discusses "nonviolence as a tactic," not violence.
"Ancel cannot deny that she and Giljum were discussing violent tactics – and in Giljum's case, recalling his personal experience in using fear and intimidation," according to the posting on Breitbart's site.
Breitbart is best known for disseminating an edited video that showed a U.S. Agriculture Department employee making what appeared to be racist remarks.
Shirley Sherrod, who is black, was fired from her job as Georgia state rural development director in July 2010 after the video surfaced. She is seen telling a local NAACP group that she was initially reluctant to help a white farmer save his farm more than two decades ago, long before she worked for USDA.
Missing from the clip was the rest of the speech, which was meant as a lesson in racial healing. Sherrod told the crowd she eventually realized her mistake and helped the farmer save his farm. She has since filed a lawsuit against Breitbart.
Breitbart's websites also featured a 2009 hidden-camera sting video that brought embarrassment to the community group ACORN. The videos show ACORN staffers offering advice on taxes and other issues to actors posing as a prostitute and pimp.