David B. Collum is a world-renowned Chemistry Professor at Cornell University, where I teach at the law school. He has been at Cornell since 1980, and is Department Chair through the end of this academic year.

I don’t know Dave well, but we have met before.

He is something of a Renaissance man, able to converse not only in his specialty, but also in the fields of economics and politics. He’s an iconoclast, and self-identifies in his Twitter bio as “Libertarian. Fan of Austrian business cycle.”

He writes monumental 100-plus page annual reviews of the year in business and politics that garner a strong following:

David Collum is a professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Cornell University. A quick review of his Cornell faculty page tells you that this is a man who can deal with complexity.

Collum, as it turns out, writes one of the best annual reviews going.  He has been publishing annual reviews at Peak Prosperity for several years now along with an occasional sizzling commentary.

As best I can tell this started with Collum managing his own money. Observing the price behavior of assets in his personal portfolio, he realized that the financial markets were manipulated and funny money was growing.

Cullum writes to connect the dots between what he observes in his life and the bubbles being blown by central banks and politicians. His observations are both terrifying and hysterical (as Mel Brooks once said, “we laugh so as not to cry.”)  His insights, however, are far superior to financial commentary emerging from the financial industry.

For the past year or so there has been a divisive and ugly unionization drive by some graduate students, backed by the political power of the American Federation of Teachers and New York State United Teachers. Democratic politicians in the state came out in support of grad student unionization.

I didn’t follow the unionization fight very closely, because the law school doesn’t have the kind of salaried, long-term grad student teaching assistants that exist in the departments that have Ph.D programs.

But I did see that Dave got in the middle of it all, after he circulated an email among faculty pointing out that grad student unionization would devastate the graduate programs. One of those faculty must have released the email to the student union organizers, one of whom went public with it to the Cornell Daily Sun:

Prof. David Collum ’77, chair of the chemistry department, is under fire from Cornell Graduate Students United after sending an email filled with anti-union rhetoric. The email was allegedly sent only to faculty members, however recipients were blind-copied.

With the election just days away, CGSU members said they were “appalled” to see a faculty member “blatantly expressing anti-union views,” said Vera Khovanskaya, grad, a CGSU member.

Not only was the email shocking for its anti-union sentiments, but CGSU members felt that Collum seemed to encourage violation of the contract negotiated between CGSU and the University, according to Michaela Brangan grad, administrative liaison for CGSU. The ramifications of this email are to be determined.

Of course, by going public with a non-public email bashing the union, the union organizers spread Dave’s message to to the graduate students who would be voting, something he had not done himself.

In an interview with the conservative Cornell Review Dave elaborated on why he opposed the grad student union. It’s worth a read.

As of this writing, the unionization effort has been narrowly rejected, though there are enough disputed ballots in theory to close the gap if those disputed ballots are almost 100% for unionization. An arbitrator will announce the final results soon.

For his efforts, Dave became the focus of union ire, singled out by the national union and pro-union students.

Dave recently discussed how he was singled out during the course of a mostly economic speech, in which he also touched upon how dangerous it is for someone like him to speak out on issues not only of unionization, but also various campus politically-correct shibboleths. Little did he know at the time that he was just days away from an attempt to take him down.

(As an aside, note how he counts three conservative professors on campus, including “a guy in the law school.”)

And sure enough, they came for Dave Collum in a horrendous hit piece in the form of a letter to the editor of the Cornell Sun written by seven grad students, at least several of whom were involved in the union organizing. When I saw the letter in the Sun I was floored. I’m not going to repeat the vicious accusations against him, for reasons that will become apparent below.

The pretext for spreading the allegations in the letter was the demand that Dave should be removed as Department Chair, something that’s going to happen anyway in a little over two months.

I know what it’s like to be targeted. As I’ve mentioned in passing here from time to time, within a couple of weeks of my starting Legal Insurrection I was targeted by liberals who demanded I be fired, who called me all sorts of names, who threatened to mount boycotts of the law school over me, and one time, a threat sufficient that the university assigned a detective to shadow me at graduation.

So I understood, perhaps more than others, what Dave must have been going through. It’s Alinsky Rules in action, freeze and isolate the target and cut him off from support. And the way you do that on the modern campus is to accuse someone of one of the “isms” or “phobias.” And worst, to claim the person is a rape apologist or misogynist.

All of those charges were lodged against Dave in the Sun based mostly on selected tweets he had made and it just hung out there from the Thursday April 20 publication through the weekend.

The comment section exploded, with many Chemistry grad students denying that Dave is any of those things, and other anonymous students slinging more mud. One person, purporting to be one of the letter writers, repeated the charges in the comment section.

But those defending Dave in the comment section assumed that the tweets were what they appeared to be, and argued that’s not the Dave they know. But I suspected that the tweets, and one quote attributed to him, were not what they appeared to be.

So I researched not only the accusations, but also the interactions on social media.

I submitted a counter-letter to the Sun, detailing the results of my research, Letter to the Editor: Prof. David Collum, Chemistry, is owed an apology and a retraction.

You should read the whole thing. Here is an excerpt:

On April 20, 2017, The Cornell Daily Sun published a lengthy letter to the editor from seven graduate students: Kevin Hines, Robert Escriva, Ethan Susca, Mel White, Rose Agger, Kolbeinn Karlsson and Jane Glaubman.

The letter impugned the integrity of Cornell world-renowned Prof. David B. Collum, chemistry in the most serious ways, accusing him of being a rape apologist, misogynistic and unfit for the position of department chair. Several of the letter writers were graduate student union supporters active in the union vote drive. Prof. Collum has been widely criticized by union supporters for opposing the union drive. The letter appears to be payback.

In publishing that letter, The Sun gave a platform to a smear campaign against Prof. Collum in a manner that did not allow Prof. Collum to respond or provide for a verification of the context of the supposed evidence. I have researched several of the key tweets and quotes attributed to Prof. Collum in the letter, and it is clear that the way in which they are presented in the letter is misleading at best, and, in some cases, presents a false portrayal.

After going through the evidence with screenshots to show the sequence, I concluded:

What is critical is that they key evidence used to smear Prof. Collum as a rape apologist is misleading, taken out of context, and creates a false narrative as to what Prof. Collum was writing.

I wrote to each of the original letter writers raising each of the points raised above and asking for a response. As of this writing, I have received no response.

These accusations in the letter to the Sun forever will appear in search engines when Prof. Collum’s name is searched. To paraphrase Raymond J. Donovan after his acquittal on fraud charges, to what department does Professor David B. Collum go to get his reputation back?

The Sun and the letter writers owe Prof. Collum an apology and retraction.

My letter has reverberated throughout campus. From what I hear, the Chemistry department faculty and students celebrated that the smear against their department chair and colleague had been refuted.

It also has been picked up by Instapundit, Twitchy, and The Federalist, where Ashe Schow provides good background:


Dave has openly expressed his appreciation to me directly and on Twitter:

and in the comment section at Instapundit:


Others have tweeted support as well:

Of all the things I’ve done at Legal Insurrection, coming to the aid of those under attack is one of the things I value most. I’ve been there. I know how even a small amount of support can make a big difference.