Happy 2nd
11 April
 Witch-Hunt in Norway  
by Glenn Campbell
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Chapter 15:
Analyzing Alistair

May 5-8, 2014,
Elkton, Maryland

I don't claim to have been personally harmed by my speaking debacle in Norway. I didn't lose anything on airfare or my rental car, because I put them both to good use exploring a new part of the world. I lost some friends (I hope not permanently), but I also gained a fascinating writing project. If I were to put a dollar cost to the damages I suffered, it would peg it at approximately $0, but that doesn't mean I am free to bow out. Like the guy who has his wallet stolen then returned (Chapter 4), I have a responsibility to go to court and testify against the offender so that other people's wallets aren't stolen. I do this not for myself, who suffered no lasting injury, but for those who follow.

At Red Cross Nordic, I was submitted to a disciplinary process. The Rektor received a complaint about me; the Rektor and Deputy Rektor processed this complaint according to their usual standards, and the outcome of that process was that I was not permitted to speak on campus. Although this process involved an outsider, the same personnel, policies and philosophy would probably be involved in any internal disciplinary process. If a complaint is made against a student or faculty member, on any grounds, he or she will be subjected to the same sort of data processing system that I experienced.

If you are the subject of a disciplinary process at Red Cross Nordic, you can't expect it to be any more fair than the treatment I received. Even if there are different procedures, the same people will be involved using the same degree of mental discipline. Don't you see why I must speak up? Before I came to Norway, I had no interest in the internal processes at Red Cross Nordic. They were none of my business—until I became of victim of those processes. Now it is my business. If I walk away now, I would be abandoning future victims of similar charges. It would be like refusing to testify in court, letting the perpetrator walk free and essentially giving him permission to steal again.

In this narrowest sense, this is about Facebook. How far will the school administration go to mediate students' online communications and "protect" them from outside influences? You can also ask, in a narrow sense, how well this Friday speaking program is working. Are they recruiting a healthy mix of speakers who are truly useful to the students or restricting the field to "safe" academics and diplomats talking only about world peace. In a broader sense, however, this is about the school's openness to the outside world and whether current members of the administration are appropriate gatekeepers. You also have to ask whether they have the competence to mediate any kind of dispute on campus.

Alistair presenting Red Cross Nordic to the world.
I am focusing on the Deputy Rektor because he was my "waiter". Since Dr. Pedersen never contacted me, Alistair was the primary public representative of the school. I know it may be unfair to judge the whole school by this one person, but he is in a position to guide the school's course, determine its interactions with the outside world and mediate disputes on campus. Based on my own experiences (a single meal), I am forced to ask, "Is he the right person for the job?"

You already have access to most of the evidence at my disposal: the dozen emails that passed between Alistair and myself. The only evidence you don't have is the many emails between Hero and myself. Hero has not given me permission to publish these and has done nothing to give me implied permission (like Abigail did) so I have only included a minimal portion of our communication.

All I can say about the rest of the emails is they make me mad. Alistair forced Hero to defend me because he didn't have the courage to contact me himself. In essence, Hero was required to act as my lawyer in a secret trial to which I was not invited. The charges were so vague there was no way to defend against them, but Hero tried his best. Hero was frustrated with Alistair because he seemed immune to all logic. No rational argument seemed to have any effect on him. I think Hero was absolutely heroic in defending me, especially without knowing the content of my private communication with Abigail, but it should not have been his role. In the end, I don't fault him for joining the Monday Night Massacre. Stuck in the middle between competing loyalties and forced to choose between his "family" and an outsider, I understand why he chose as he did.

But I don't need Hero's emails to make my case. Just the emails you have already seen are sufficient. Let's go through them again and do some analysis. The case I am trying to prove is simple. I am not questioning Dr. Robertson's competence in his credentialed fields of expertise: biology and curriculum development. What I do question is his ability to handle the human matters of the school: internal disputes, disciplinary cases and diplomatic relations with the outside world. I contend that he does not have the training or psychological equipment for dealing with other humans in tense situations. If he screwed up my case, then he has and will mishandle others. If human relations are part of the job description of Deputy Rektor then he shouldn't be there.

Now that you know my thesis, let's look at the emails again to see how well I can support it. I'm going to act like a lawyer here and review our correspondence in detail. This may become tedious at times, but I want to make my case as clearly as possible.

Response to my Proposal

Our brief contact in January was not at the school's initiative but my own. Alistair sent an email to Hero, and Hero forwarded it to me. Back on Dec. 15, Hero had submitted my proposal to members of the staff, and 18 days later this was our first reply. At this point, I didn't know who the players were; I knew only that Alistair was someone in the administration concerned with the school's accounting. In his January 3 email to Hero, Alistair was responding to the erroneous assumption that I was asking for funding for my visit. My micro-analysis...
I'll bet you had stimulating discussions with Glenn Campbell.
...he wrote to Hero. This line—my first impression of Alistair—struck me as condescending, as though he was treating Hero as a child, not an equal. I don't think anyone outside academia has "stimulating discussions"; instead, they solve problems, make plans and get things done. This one irritating line was more a clue than reliable evidence, but I started to form theories based on it. I assumed, based on that one line, that Alistair was a career school employee who had hardly set foot outside academia.
Are you suggesting that RCN fund his travel from the US?
No, we were not suggesting that, and the fact he was asking meant he didn't actually read my proposal (attached to the email he was responding to). At least he didn't get to to the "at my own expense" part on Page 2. I promptly replied directly to Alistair (CC'd to Dr. Pedersen, the Rektor, Hero and the World Today Committee) to try to make that clear...
I would require zero funding. (That's $0 or 0 or NOK 0.) I would work it into a European trip I am already planning for April.
I made only this one modest request...
The only thing that might be nice is lodging at or near the college on Friday night.
In response, Alistair sent me the only direct communication from the school in the nearly four months between my proposal and the start of my journey to Norway. His entire 3-sentence reply was this....
Thankyou for your offer. I became involved purely as [Hero] requested extra-ordinary travel funds in a message to me. It's appropriate, now, that this possibility is considered by the College "World Today" group.
Why is this reply important? Because it looks to me like he is trying to blame a student for his own mistake. I believe there was no message from Hero requesting "extra-ordinary travel funds". Alistair came to an erroneous conclusion that I was seeking funding because did not read my whole proposal and did not see "at my own expense" in it. That could be seen as an honest mistake by a busy administrator. What is dishonest is trying to shift responsibility onto someone else. If Hero had indeed requested extraordinary funding, the burden of error would have been shifted to the student, and Deputy Rektor would have saved face.

But such a request from Hero would make no sense. Hero's email message introducing me to the staff was quoted in its entirety at the end of Alistair's Jan. 3 email. Alistair was directly responding to that message, but as you can see, Hero made no funding request there. Did Hero send a second separate message to Alistair asking for funding? That is technically possible but it would still make no sense, because it was always clear between Hero and I that I would be paying my own way. (I mentioned it starting in my first message to him about my speaking idea: "I would pay my own way to get there.") On Jan. 4, Hero said this in his Facebook message to me at the same time he was forwarding Alistair's Jan. 3 email to me via regular email...

Btw, they sort of got it wrong; thinking that we are suggesting that RCN should fund your travel.
Why does any of this matter? Because it begins to establish Alistair's intellectual discipline and emotional style. Based on what I know (and what you now know), I am suggesting there never was a "request for extra-ordinary travel funds". Alistair either inferred it or invented it. As an information processing device, Alistair was beginning to show himself as unreliable and ego-driven. When Alistair tells you something happened, you can't trust it without verifying the data for yourself.

Alistair's short email was going not just to me, but to the Rektor, Dr. Pedersen and student members of the World Today Committee. Instead of acknowledging his error in front of all these people, he was shifting responsibility for it onto a student who couldn't easily fight back. It may have seemed a trivial thing at the time, but I think it takes on more significance as we look at the rest of Alistair's communications.

The Welcome Email

There was no communication at all from the school in the three months between Jan. 5 and April 8, when I was boarding my plane for Norway. You can't blame this non-response on Alistair, because it was probably Dr. Pedersen's responsibility. (See Chapter 12.) Alistair may not have known on April 8 that he was the only member of the staff who had communicated with me. Nonetheless, he started things out badly. You have already read his welcome message on April 8. Let's look first at the core allegations against me (covered in detail in Chapter 3) and how I responded to them.
In the interests of openness, I'm afraid I must comment that one of our students who you met this winter in Copenhagen expressed some concern to the Rektor that you would be visiting RCN this w/end. In confidence, she felt uncomfortable with some of your interactions with her on social media. I discussed this with the four members of our Education Management Team this afternoon - including the Senior House Mentor responsible for student welfare - and they asked me to pass on this concern directly to you.

Please understand we take our duty of care for our students very seriously, and ask that you observe the sensitivities surrounding adults interacting with students in a residential context for students of this age-group.

On the surface, this is actually good development. After a week of private inquisition hidden from me, they are actually bringing the matter to my attention and giving me a chance to respond. And I did respond. In my prompt email reply, I wrote this simple defense...
Usually, when you say something that upsets someone on Facebook, they just unfriend you or restrict you. Right now, all of the people I friended are still my friends, without any obvious restrictions, and _ALL_ of them messaged me that they were looking forward to seeing me on campus... so I am suffering from a bit of a disconnect.

Do you see my confusion? If one of these students finds my contact upsetting, why are they still connected to me?

Given the fact that I had no idea who complained or why, I thought this was a pretty strong defense.

So how did Alistair respond? He didn't. He did not acknowledge my argument in any way. He raised an issue; I responded to that issue, then he dropped it.

He dropped the subject, I believe, because he was losing. His lack of response here did not surprise me, because I saw a similar evasion back in January (trying to blame Hero for his own error). This is a man who cannot acknowledge making mistakes. He will drop the matter or change the subject or blame someone else if the weakness of his position is exposed.

In my email, I also brought up the fact that no one had contacted me until this point...

Hey, great! Thanks for contacting me! I was wondering if anyone ever would. It was exceedingly strange to be heading for an speaking engagement when the people in charge had never been in touch with me.
He didn't acknowledge or respond to that either, even though it could be regarded as a fairly serious complaint: that no one had bothered to contact me or formerly invite me after I submitted my proposal. He could have apologized on behalf of the school—a gesture that would have cost nothing while repairing relations with me—but apparently that's not his style. I propose, in fact, that you can never win an argument with Alistair. If you raise a good point, he will simply ignore it.

After all the issues raised in my two well-reasoned emails (which you can read in Chapter 8), Alistair gave me only a single-sentence response (in a slightly longer email that I received upon my arrival in Norway)...

The reference request was late, I understand.
That was the only thing he was going to respond to. All the other points I raised were ignored.

Request for "Reference/Recommendation"

In Alistair's April 8 message, which I received as I was waiting for my first flight toward Norway, Alistair made this request...
I appreciate this is late in the day, but the Rektor usually requires me to request a reference / recommendation for a guest speaker coming for the first time to our College.
This was the last line in the email, and you are seeing the entire request. There is no explanation of what "reference/recommendation" is, what form it should take, who should be giving it, what the school will do with it, etc. As I was waiting to board my plane, I was dumbfounded by the insanity of it. Nonetheless, I tried by best to compose a rational reply on the plane from Boston to New York. Apart from the points raised in that email, I want to highlight some other observations (which I may have mentioned already in Chapter 8)...

I was, and still am, dumbfounded by the "reference/recommendation" request. I have two theories about it: (a) Alistair is so naive about the outside world that he had no idea how absurd this request was, or (b) He is deliberately giving me an unfulfillable request as a way to stop me from speaking. (It could also be a combination of the two.) Neither conclusion speaks well of his interpersonal skills.

The fact that he did not CC the Rektor suggests he feels he knows more about the policies of the Rektor's office than the Rektor does. This is an understandable for someone who has been second-in-command for 16 years and seen many Rektors come and go. He might begin to think, after a while, that he knows the policies of the Rektor's office better than the Rektor, so he doesn't need to CC the current Rektor about the requests he is making under his authority.

What is "egocentrism"? It is being so locked into your own viewpoint that you are unable to grasp anyone else's. Egocentrism is requesting a "reference/recommendation" from an outside speaker without making any attempt to explain what that is. An egocentric person cannot put himself inside the head of someone else to appreciate what they might be seeing, so he cannot anticipate the questions or objections they might have.

Egocentrics can be fine technicians but they make poor diplomats because they cannot appreciate the position of the opposing side. Young children are highly egocentric, believing that the whole world revolves around them. Adults are supposed to grow out of it, learning to anticipate what others think and feel, but some adults never get there. We can't expect emotional maturity from everyone, but we also don't want to see them in positions of power.

The Battle of Bergen

In Chapter 9 and Chapter 10, I describe the "Battle of Bergen", where a series of emails lead to the school formally withdrawal of my invitation to speak (even though no invitation had ever been issued).

I felt Alistair's actions during the battle were dishonest. The Rektor stepped in to take control of the situation, but I think Alistair gave him distorted information about what I had written in private messages. Based on this bad information, the Rektor made bad choices.

I was planning to reach Flekke on Thursday afternoon so I could meet with the people involved with the speaking program before my Friday presentation. Back in February, I changed my arrival from Friday to Thursday at the request of hero, presumably at the behest of Dr. Pedersen. (Why else would Hero make such a request?)

Now, on the night before my planned arrival (Wednesday April 9), the Rektor stepped in to change the plan, insisting that could not come to campus unless I talked to them by phone from Bergen. I declined this request on the simple grounds that calls on my American cellphone cost $2/minute. If meeting on campus made them uncomfortable, I offer to meet them in the nearby town of Flekke. I felt that no phone call was going to resolve the misunderstandings; they had to meet me in person.

"Hold it right there, stranger. Conference
call or you ain't leavin' Bergen."
"The schedule called for a meeting in
person, so that's what I'm aimin' to do."
The Rektor's change of plan started as a "recommendation" (source)...
I recommend that you speak directly to Alistair and Erik on the phone this afternoon to go carefully through what looks like a series of misunderstandings. I have asked both of them to be available to speak with you at 4.30pm (Norwegian time). Please let Alistair know the number to contact you on.
But a few hours later, it turned into a demand (source)...
I have been informed by Alistair that you are unwilling to talk on the phone before visiting to clear up these misunderstandings.

I have just had a meeting with Alistair and Erik (the staff in charge of this visit) and [Hero] — we all agree that it is important that a) this phone call takes place before you depart Bergen b) that you are welcome on our campus on Friday and Saturday (but not on Thursday).

So what happened in-between? Evidently, Alistair "informed" the Rektor of my behavior, and the Rektor made a decision based on this information. I believe the information Alistair was providing to the Rektor was grossly distorted. You can read our entire exchange in Chapter 9, including private messages between Alistair and myself that the Rektor probably didn't have access to. Does our conversation justify a conclusion of "unwilling to talk"?

My reply to the Rektor's first "recommendation" was CC'ed to everyone...

There is a problem: my only phone is an American one where the calls cost two dollars a minute. It is cheaper to come to Flekke, which I intend to do anyway.
Then there was a private exchange between Alistair and myself, not CC'ed to anyone else.


I can call your hostel in Bergen: please send a number.

Please understand, I have never suggested the need to review your presentation before-hand: the WT group has invited you to present it and interact with students Friday evening.

My simple reply, sent from my cellphone...
It would be really awkward to talk about this matter in the hostel common room surrounded by other travelers. I am coming to Flekke tomorrow. If the staff is uncomfortable with meeting me on the campus we could meet in Flekke itself. I will not come onto campus unless I have permission.
This was an important offer. Instead of meeting on campus, we could meet in a nearby town where I had every right to be. Don't most of the staff live in Flekke? Certainly, there must be a pub where we could sit down and chat. I thought this was a reasonable concession. I was saying, in effect, "Let's meet halfway." I would not be intruding on campus, which was apparently important to them, yet we would still have a chance to talk in person, which was important to me. It seemed a reasonable diplomatic solution.

I suspect, however, that this offer never made it to the Rektor. It was in a private message to Alistair, so the Rektor could not know about it unless Alistair told him. I suspect he didn't, because the Rektor's only response was that I was "unwilling to talk", with no mention of my Flekke offer. The opportunity for diplomacy passed; our respective positions hardened, and our tiny little war began.

So now you have my evidence against Alistair, solely from our email exchanges. What conclusions about him can we make from that evidence?


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Happy 2nd
11 April
 Witch-Hunt in Norway  
by Glenn Campbell
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 Next Chapter Facebook Anonymous Feedback
Videos: Leadership Crisis | Finnmark | Tiny Little War | Assault Summary | College Choices | Introduction
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