The mystery has been solved!
Why was Finkelstein’s participation in a University of Pittsburgh National Security Symposium cancelled at the last minute?
If Finkelstein thinks otherwise, it’s because of his irrational “fury.”
So, here’s what happened.
Why was Finkelstein disinvited?
Well, it’s…uh…still unclear.
The sponsoring student organization first said it’s because his paperwork was submitted too late.
(FACTS: Finkelstein was first invited to speak five months ago on 20 April 2015. He was first asked to sign a contract on 26 August. The contract was signed, scanned as an email attachment and returned on the same day.)
The sponsoring student organization then said that it’s because of a shortfall in funds.
(FACTS: Finkelstein was promised a $2,500 speaker’s honorarium. It was not requested of him to accept a smaller honorarium after the alleged discovery of a shortfall. The sponsoring student organization explained that it’s not “polite” to reduce a speaker’s fee. That is, it didn’t bother contacting Finkelstein because it’s more polite to shred his contract and disinvite him altogether. Finkelstein was the first person invited to speak at the symposium and he was the only invitee cancelled due to an alleged shortfall. Finkelstein’s round-trip airline ticket had already been purchased, and his expenses were being shared with an outside organization; he also declined to stay overnight, so no hotel expenses were incurred. In other words, Finkelstein’s expenses were the lowest of all outside speakers yet, although the first to be invited, he was the only one cancelled.)
When asked why it was telling two altogether different stories, the student organization replied that it was a communications breakdown.
The student organization then convened a meeting with faculty advisor Luke Peterson to convey the ever-so-sad news that Finkelstein had been disinvited.
The student organization told Professor Peterson that Finkelstein was cancelled because the necessary paperwork was filed too late and/or because of a shortfall in funds. But Peterson heard them say, “Finkelstein was cancelled because of the Administration’s bogus and trumped-up charges against him.”
It was another communication breakdown.
(Shouldn’t prospective students be warned that attendance at University of Pittsburgh might cause damage to their auditory faculty?)
It happens all the time.
You say Tuesday. I hear Thursday.
You say 6:00 a.m. I hear 6:00 p.m.
You say, “Finkelstein was cancelled because of incomplete paperwork and a shortage of funds.” I hear, “Finkelstein was cancelled because of the Administration’s bogus and trumped-up charges.”
Don’t they sound exactly alike?
It is now said that Professor Peterson was out of the loop. The absent-minded professor from Cambridge University is not only hard-of-hearing but also hadn’t a clue what was going on around him: “Peterson hasn’t been involved in the planning, the decision making, nor has he been fully informed throughout the organizing process. [Peterson is] not an organizer at all. It’s entirely student-organized.”
(FACTS: All Finkelstein’s communications over a five month period were with Professor Peterson. Finkelstein counts twenty-eight (28) personal email exchanges with Peterson. They also had numerous telephone conversations. Peterson generously arranged the airline flights, booked the tickets, and purchased the tickets out of his own pocket. Finkelstein did not have one single conversation or communication with any member of the sponsoring student organization or the University administration. Not one. The one and only person in the loop was Professor Luke Peterson.)
At the end of June 2015, Peterson asked Finkelstein to pay for the airline ticket until the funds were approved. This email exchange ensued:
Many thanks for getting back to me. I wonder if I might ask a question.
It’s often the case that when it becomes public that I am being invited to speak at an event, a faction mobilizes to prevent it.
Do you think it’s prudent for me to purchase an airline ticket now or should I wait until it’s certain that the university won’t buckle under the pressure?
Date: Wed, Jul 1, 2015 at 11:29 AM
Subject: Re: NSS Symposium at Pitt, Sept. 2015
Your query is, of course, a prudent one. I have conferred with the student-organisers and we are all of the opinion that you would bring a very valuable perspective to the Symposium. We anticipate there will be ructions once your name is officially added to the program agenda but we are prepared to deal with those in order to have you participate. And in fact, we had your name on a short list of potential speakers from the very beginning of this process. As such, departmental administration cannot claim to be surprised by your participation. The university is, of course, another matter. But at the end of the day they are only tangentially involved in this Symposium – we are using their facilities but they are contributing no funds to the venture. In short, if you are still interested in participating please feel free to book your travel and accommodation. We are confident that the event will not be cancelled or significantly interrupted owing to your presence.
We look forward to hosting you at Pitt.
It would appear that exactly what Finkelstein predicted came to pass.
It might appear that Finkelstein is a prophet.
It’s giving him way too much credit.
Finkelstein just imagined how this scandal would have played out at a North Korean university.