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ASA, 26 Other Academic Groups Condemn Glenn Beck’s Attacks on Piven

WASHINGTON, DC, February 15, 2011 — The American Sociological Association (ASA) and more than 20 other academic organizations issued a joint statement Tuesday condemning radio and television personality Glenn Beck for his attacks on Frances Fox Piven and calling on public officials, political commentators, and others in the media “to help discourage the rhetoric of hate and violence that has escalated in recent months.”

Piven, a renowned professor of political science and sociology at the City University of New York Graduate Center, is considered one of the foremost commentators on America’s social welfare system. She has also held a number of leadership positions including President of the ASA, Vice President of the American Political Science Association, and President of the Society for the Study of Social Problems.

Beck has accused Piven of creating a plan to “intentionally collapse our economic system” and has labeled her one of the nine “most dangerous people” in the world. “These attacks have been based on rhetoric, rather than substance, and have incited threats of violence, rather than encouraging open debate,” said the Feb. 15 statement signed by 23 academic organizations including ASA, the American Anthropological Association, the American Educational Research Association, the Consortium of Social Science Associations, and the Social Science Research Council.

“For many years, the academic community in the United States has stood firm in its support of scholars across the world who have been threatened or endangered by their scholarship, research, and writing,” said the statement. “We must do the same for scholars in the United States.”

Although Beck has not directly called for violence against Piven, his attacks have created an opening for threats of violence to emerge. During the past few months, Piven has received a flood of hate mail and been the subject of menacing Internet postings, which include a series of death threats. Much of the violent vitriol has appeared on Beck’s own website.

“Both scholars and commentators, regardless of political orientation, strive to serve the public good,” said the statement. “We can only benefit from their work when all parties respect the rights of others to disagree without fear of violent reprisal.”

Despite their concern about the threats directed at Piven, ASA and the other academic organizations emphasized the importance of First Amendment rights.

“We vigorously support serious, honest, and passionate public debate,” the statement said. “We support serious engagement on the research of Professor Piven and of others who study controversial issues such as unemployment, the economic crisis, the rights of welfare recipients, and the place of government intervention. We also support the right of political commentators to participate in such debates. At the same time, we insist that all parties recognize the rights of academic researchers not only to gather and analyze evidence related to controversial questions, but also to arrive at their own conclusions and to expect those conclusions to be reported accurately in public debates.”

The other signatories include the  American Council of Learned Societies; Association of American Geographers; Association of Baccalaureate Social Work Program Directors (BPD); Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning; Association for Humanist Sociology; Board, American Society of Criminology; Board, Research Committee 19 (Poverty, Social Welfare, and Social Policy) of the International Sociological Association; Board, Society for the Study of Social Problems; Caucus for New Political Science; Eastern Sociological Society; Linguistic Society of America; Mid-South Sociological Association; Midwest Sociological Society; National Women’s Studies Association; Pacific Sociological Association; Planners of Color Interest Group, Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning; Rural Sociological Society; Social Science History Association; Sociologists for Women in Society; Sociologists Without Borders; and Southern Sociological Society.

Read Full Text of February 15, 2011 Statement

About the American Sociological Association
The American Sociological Association (www.asanet.org), founded in 1905, is a non-profit membership association dedicated to serving sociologists in their work, advancing sociology as a science and profession, and promoting the contributions to and use of sociology by society.