Political Payback, Oregon-Style
Confused visitors will be forgiven for thinking Oregon State University is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Congressman Pete DeFazio and the “progressive-socialist” wing of the Democratic Party. Or for likening what’s going on there to political retribution as practiced in Third World thugocracies.
The idea that three outstanding students – PhD candidates at OSU – could face dismissal, and worse, shortly before receiving their degrees, is simply shocking. That this could be happening because their father had the temerity to challenge an entrenched 12-term Democratic congressman (and OSU earmark purveyor) could make people think the university is in Zimbabwe, not America.
Dr. Art Robinson is president of the nonprofit Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, on the family farm in southwestern Oregon, 180 miles from Corvallis. OISM focuses on biochemistry, diagnostic medicine, nutrition, preventive medicine and aging – and improving emergency preparedness and basic education.
After his wife died in 1988, Robinson raised and home-schooled his six children – all of whom became remarkable scholars, collaborating on research and a popular DVD series on math and science for home-schooled students and their parents. Five of the children have BS degrees in chemistry; one a degree in mathematics. Two earned doctorates in veterinary medicine; one a PhD in chemistry.
The three youngest are all at OSU, working on PhDs in nuclear engineering. They entered the field at a young age, helping their father write and publish the “pro-science, pro-technology, pro-free enterprise” newsletter, Access to Energy, which explains and advocates nuclear energy.
Dr. Robinson is well known for the Oregon Petition Project, which says “there is no convincing scientific evidence” that humans are causing “catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere” or disruption of its climate. It urges Congress to reject the Kyoto global warming agreement – and has been signed by more than 32,000 Americans with university degrees in physical sciences (including yours truly and over 9,000 PhDs).
The petition, and Robinson’s support for DDT in combating the malaria pandemic, drew anger and outrage from the political Left, climate chaos industry and “mainstream media,” giving him his first brush with the politics of personal destruction. But it did not prepare him for the lengths and depths his opponents would go to “discourage” his political activities.
With our nation drowning in debt, energy prices skyrocketing, and unaccountable pseudo-scientific agencies like EPA and Interior hobbling economic growth with endless delays and red tape, Dr. Robinson decided to run for Congress. As a scientist and thoughtful, Christian family man, with proven math and budgetary skills – he felt he could bring much needed expertise and perspectives to the House of Representatives.
He challenged DeFazio, who initially figured he would have a cakewalk against this political neophyte. But Robinson raised $1.3 million from over 5,000 individual donors (against DeFazio’s $1.5 million from special interests, MoveOn.org and other contributors), gave numerous speeches and ran a highly effective campaign. With polls showing his lead narrowing, an increasingly desperate DeFazio struck back.
Bristling with a sense of entitlement, the congressman ran print, television and radio ads, painting Robinson as a nutcase who would promote racism, put radioactive wastes in drinking water, end Social Security and Medicare, close schools, repeal taxation of oil companies and destroy Oregon jobs. With help from Rachel Madow and MSNBC, DeFazio claimed Robinson lived off Social Security in a survivalist compound and was funding his campaign with cash from money launderers and drug dealers.
Despite the libelous attacks, Robinson garnered a very respectable 44% of the vote – and promptly announced that he would run for DeFazio’s seat again in 2012. If the soft-spoken father of six thought DeFazio’s campaign had been in the sewers, what happened next beggared belief. Now the targets became Robinson’s three youngest children.
During the election campaign, OSU President Edward Ray and other faculty and administrators improperly used the campus to campaign for DeFazio and against Robinson. Then, almost immediately after the 2010 election, they launched a series of despicable and unprincipled actions designed to ensure that Joshua, Bethany, and Matthew never receive their degrees – regardless of their outstanding academics, examinations and research, or the thousands of hours and tens of thousands of dollars they had invested.
Even though they have been working on their PhDs for almost five years at OSU, and have about a year to go, Joshua has been forbidden access to the equipment he built for his PhD work, while Bethany has been told she will be dismissed from school. Matthew, who turned down a nearly “full ride” from MIT to go to OSU, has been there for two years – but now is waiting for the ax to fall on his work, and on his thesis professor, Dr. Jack Higginbotham, who came to the students’ defense.
Nuclear engineering professor Higginbotham has been at OSU 24 years; he is president of the OSU Faculty Senate and director of a large NASA program on the campus. His inside knowledge of what the Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Health Physics deans and certain faculty were doing to railroad the Robinson children made him Public Enemy Number One to the department Torquemadas who are trying to destroy his career and get him fired for his impertinence.
Right now, Higginbotham’s salary and career hang by a thread, preserved only by attorneys he has hired to protect himself from OSU attacks. The Robinsons’ studies have been severely disrupted. Meanwhile, however, public outcry in favor of Higginbotham and the students has grown in intensity, especially in Oregon, and a group of prominent alumni donors has offered to pay for the student’s remaining PhD work and legal costs to settle the dispute. (Higginbotham is a nuclear power guy; the culprits are in “radiation health” and generally anti-nuclear power.)
Rather than being chastened, though, President Ray and his staff have refused even to speak with the alumni group. University administrators have become incensed that their actions are now public knowledge, and that alumni and other donors are vocally supporting Higginbotham and the children. Ray and his entourage have circled the academic wagons, stonewalled public inquiries and refused to talk to the Robinsons
They appear to think they own the university, and “academic freedom” means they are entitled to deny academic degrees to children of parents whose politics differ from their own. As more alumni join this effort, however, and the university’s reputation becomes increasingly radioactive, OSU appears to be wavering. Perhaps a dose of sanity may yet take center stage.
Oregon State is a prime example of what happens when educational institutions fall under the control of intolerant progressive-socialists, and dependency on taxpayer handouts from political overseers in Washington. DeFazio and his fellow congressional Democrats gave OSU a reported $27 million in earmark funding during the last legislative cycle alone. That’s $9 million per Robinson student denied a PhD.
No wonder President Ray and the Nuclear Engineering deans have given new meaning to “payback,” while DeFazio smirks in silence in the congressional office that he seems convinced should be his for life.
In depressing testimony to how far America has strayed from its Constitution and founding principles, we have reached the point where congressmen can lavish key supporters with tax dollars – and in return get votes, campaign contributions, rallies and volunteers on our campuses … and be assured of vicious retribution against the families of anyone rash enough to run against them.
If you want to read all the gory details in this sordid case, visits www.OregonStateOutrage.com
If you want to tell OSU what you think of its actions, send a message to President Ray at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org in the OSU press office. If you thought the last Robinson-DeFazio bout was a humdinger, stick around. You ain’t seen nothing yet.
Paul Driessen is senior policy advisor for the Congress of Racial Equality and Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow, and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power - Black death.
Learn about Mr. Stolyarov's novel, Eden against the Colossus, here.