American-Islamic group, others speak out against hiring of Larry James at MU

Wednesday, February 6, 2013 | 7:13 p.m. CST; updated 11:23 a.m. CST, Thursday, February 7, 2013
American-Islamic group and others speak out against MU hiring Larry James on Wednesday at the MU Student Center. James is currently the dean of the School of Professional Psychology at Wright State University.

COLUMBIA — Jan Eddy held up an article printed from the Internet. The headline read "Psychologist accused of war crimes opposes torture investigations."

"A simple Google search turns up all kinds of stuff about this man," Eddy, an MU engineering student, said. "Do we really want someone that comes up with this headline working at Mizzou?"

Eddy chimed in at the end of questions at a news conference at the MU Student Center on Wednesday held by the St. Louis chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR. The group opposes hiring Larry James for a leadership position in the College of Education at MU.

James, who led behavioral science consultation teams at Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba and Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, is dean of the School of Professional Psychology at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.

James has repeatedly said he did not have the authority to stop the enhanced interrogation techniques he witnessed and he worked hard to teach investigators not to use such techniques. He has been on campus this week interviewing for the job of division executive director.

Other groups represented were the MU Muslim Students Organization, the Mid-Missouri Fellowship of Reconciliation and concerned MU faculty members.

The speakers repeatedly emphasized that hiring James would reflect poorly on MU.

"Mizzou has a high standard of ethics, and his possible hiring would put a black tarnish on that," Faizan Syed, executive director of CAIR-St.Louis, said.

"This is not a good person to represent the mission of the University of Missouri," Michael Ugarte, an MU Spanish professor, said.

Aamer Trambu, a graduate student and vice president of the Muslim Student Organization, cited several passages from James’ book "Fixing Hell: An Army Psychologist Confronts Abu Ghraib."

"There are statements showing he has a disturbing disregard and disrespect for people he disagrees with," Trambu said.

CAIR-St. Louis hopes to enlist faculty and students at other University of Missouri System campuses to actively oppose James, Syed said.

A CAIR petition opposing James's hiring had 289 signatures as of 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, but the organization will not present the petition to university officials until it reaches 1,000 signatures, Syed said.

James arrived in Columbia on Monday for his interview. He took questions from the community at a public forum on Tuesday and was scheduled to return to Dayton on Wednesday.

James is one of two finalists. The other, Matthew Burns of the University of Minnesota, interviewed on campus last week.

Ugarte and other faculty members drafted a letter to MU Chancellor Brady Deaton opposing James’ candidacy. On Friday, protesters walked from the Islamic Center of Mid-Missouri to Hill Hall, home of the College of Education, and then on to Jesse Hall, where the chancellor's office is.

At the Wednesday news conference, Bradford Boyd-Kennedy, a member of the Mid-Missouri Fellowship of Reconciliation, commended the College of Education for wanting to examine James’ record for themselves but stood firm against James as a candidate.

"The vast majority of educators do so because of a deep desire to improve our society and the world,” Boyd-Kennedy said. "The University of Missouri owes its past, present and future students the assurance that all university employees support and embody these life affirming values."

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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Skip Yates February 7, 2013 | 6:11 a.m.

Hiring a person with real world experience would evidently upset the mediocrity at the Department of Education. Certainly CAIR, the Mid-MO reconciliation folks, a Spanish professor, etc., are the ones to evaluate professional credentials.

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