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Prof Fired by Johns Hopkins for Standing up to Protesters Turns Down Facebook Job

Prof Fired by Johns Hopkins for Standing up to Protesters Turns Down Facebook Job

“Facebook placed conditions on the hire that Povey didn’t accept.”

The saga of former Johns Hopkins professor Daniel Povey is a fascinating glimpse into the world of campus protest culture and what can happen to those who stand up to it.

We first noted this story in a recent quick take, but it’s a much bigger story now.

I covered much of this in an article I wrote for the Washington Free Beacon:

Johns Hopkins University Fires Professor Who Defied Campus Protesters

Johns Hopkins University has fired Daniel Povey, an associate professor of speech and language processing, who used bolt cutters to gain entry to an administration building on campus that was taken over by student protesters who had chained the doors shut.

The university, located in Baltimore, has been attempting to create a private, armed campus police force to deal with crimes on and around campus for months. In April, activists from SAPP (Students Against Private Police), took over Garland Hall, the main administration building. Some chained themselves to railings and fixtures while others chained the building’s doors…

“I was the main person in charge of managing the servers in the basement of that building, which are used by me and a large group of researchers in CLSP [Center for Language and Speech Processing],” Povey told the Washington Free Beacon.

“That morning I was told the situation could last for weeks, and during that time we would have no physical access to the building. Servers were already starting to crash, and I felt it would not be long before our whole research infrastructure was unavailable.”…

Povey was fired by Johns Hopkins on August 8, following an investigation. A letter from Andrew S. Douglas, vice dean for faculty, cites complaints that Povey’s conduct “was motivated by racially discriminatory animus and created a hostile environment.” A few paragraphs later, it states in bold letters: “We are hereby terminating your appointment with the university.”

Read Povey’s full account of what happened at Johns Hopkins.

This story seemed to be over when Povey supposedly accepted a job working in the field of speech recognition for Facebook in their Seattle offices.

CNBC reported last week:

Facebook has hired the professor who Johns Hopkins fired after he stormed a building occupied by protesters

Facebook confirmed on Monday that it has hired a speech recognition researcher who was fired this month from Johns Hopkins University after the university said he put students in danger while trying to enter a building occupied by protesters.

A spokesman for the company told CNBC that it has hired Daniel Povey, who had been a research professor at Johns Hopkins since 2012, according to his LinkedIn profile. Before joining Johns Hopkins, Povey was a researcher at Microsoft as well as IBM.

Now CNBC is reporting that Povey has declined Facebook’s job offer:

Fired Johns Hopkins professor won’t work for Facebook after all

Povey was slated to start working on speech recognition for Facebook out of the company’s Seattle office next Monday. But on Thursday, Facebook placed conditions on the hire that Povey didn’t accept.

Specifically, Facebook told him that he could work as a contractor for six weeks without permission to come onto Facebook’s property, Povey wrote in a note on his website. A full-time offer would be contingent on the results of a Facebook “investigation into what happened,” Povey wrote.

“I declined that offer,” Povey wrote in a note on his website…

In an email to Povey that Facebook shared with CNBC, the company explained it would normally never hire a person who was fired from his last job over safety issues. However, Povey had been working as a contractor for the company already, so it decided to give him a chance to continue his contract while the company investigated.

Povey is reportedly going to seek work with a startup company or a foreign outfit.

I wish him luck and congratulate him for standing up to a campus mob.

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Comments

So in a situation like that, how does the university compensate all the down-stream customers for loss of service / access? Students who missed classes … tuition refunded? Cost of housing which absent classes to attend is an unnecessary expense for students? With servers crashing and inaccessible, any non-university researchers affected?

And chaining doors – a fire code violation – why no citations and arrests?

What Povey did – now that was a Spartacus moment – absent any brave men and women to stand with Spartacus of course.

Lucifer Morningstar | August 18, 2019 at 1:34 pm

“I was the main person in charge of managing the servers in the basement of that building, which are used by me and a large group of researchers in CLSP [Center for Language and Speech Processing],” Povey told the Washington Free Beacon.

“That morning I was told the situation could last for weeks, and during that time we would have no physical access to the building. Servers were already starting to crash, and I felt it would not be long before our whole research infrastructure was unavailable.”…

If after such a short time the “servers were already starting to crash” and your “whole research infrastructure” was in danger of becoming unavailable then I would suggest you hire a competent computer technician to “manage” your servers and network. It’s painfully clear you don’t know what the heII you are doing and should get out of the “server management” end of things as fast as possible.

Just saying.

    stevewhitemd in reply to Lucifer Morningstar. | August 18, 2019 at 1:52 pm

    Alternately, they may have a special situation with their servers about which you know nothing. Just saying.

      randian in reply to stevewhitemd. | August 19, 2019 at 12:23 am

      It’s possible the server crashes were the result of sabotage by the protesters.

      Lucifer Morningstar in reply to stevewhitemd. | August 19, 2019 at 8:25 am

      Alternatively, perhaps it’s time to take the cobbled together and unreliable “research infrastructure” that is prone to crashing and rework it into something more robust so that simple lack of access to the servers won’t cause it to immediately fail and crash. Seems to me that if you’re hanging your research and reputation on this “research infrastructure” then you’d want it to be as robust and reliable as possible. Just saying.

        Alternatively, it’s time to get the “students” (I think they’ve earned the air quotes by now) out of the way so that normal work can proceed. JHU failed to do that in a reasonable time, and we can all see who’s in charge there.

    And alternatively, you know nothing about server management of systems that include hundred’s if not more, user developed software. (i.e. their research). He probably has to reboot to changes in that user developed software on a daily basis to keep systems stable.

      MrE in reply to kyrrat. | August 18, 2019 at 2:23 pm

      You mean like having to manually shut down a rogue cron job launched by a remote user? God bless sysadmins!

      Exiliado in reply to kyrrat. | August 18, 2019 at 2:37 pm

      Let’s assume that they created such “user developed software” that requires them to go there, physically go there in person, and either reboot the servers or their “hundred’s if not more” pieces of software. Assume that they need to “reboot to changes in that user developed software on a daily basis.”
      Yeah, somebody is biting more than they can chew. They should get help from someone who actually knows what they’re doing.

      I am on his side about defying the protesters, by the way.

      Lucifer Morningstar in reply to kyrrat. | August 19, 2019 at 8:43 am

      And alternatively, you know nothing about server management of systems that include hundred’s if not more, user developed software. (i.e. their research). He probably has to reboot to changes in that user developed software on a daily basis to keep systems stable.

      LoL. Good try. But uh, no. In a properly managed server environment you don’t have to reboot the entire server system simply to “upgrade” user software whether commercial or as possible here handwritten. You do the upgrade, restart the program in question and you’re set to go. And if you have to reboot a server on a daily basis to keep it stable you are definitely doing something wrong and should hire professional assistance to manage your systems.

    ‘Lucifer’, I’ll pass that along to management. They’ll be impressed. They don’t want to hire project managers, CM specialists, or QA. But I expect they’ll hop right out there and hire some server admins. Cause you said so.

      Lucifer Morningstar in reply to Max17. | August 19, 2019 at 8:55 am

      ‘Lucifer’, I’ll pass that along to management. They’ll be impressed. They don’t want to hire project managers, CM specialists, or QA. But I expect they’ll hop right out there and hire some server admins. Cause you said so.

      Please do that. Because if the researchers are hanging their reputations and research on these servers you’d think they’d want as robust a system as they can get. And not one that crashes without daily intervention on the server level. Which means they need to get some professional help with the mess they’ve obviously got.

2smartforlibs | August 18, 2019 at 2:45 pm

When we stop allowing the inmates to run the asylum we are all going to be better off.

You maintain servers with the resources you have. It wouldn’t be surprising, in academia, if he had to maintain an ancient server because some grad student custom wrote a program which was exactly what a professor needed – and this program was a total hack job relying on stuff modern OSes don’t allow, or quirks in ancient Oracle / SQL, etc.

In academia, the people who bring in grant money typically get what they want even when it makes no sense.

    CorkyAgain in reply to ecreegan. | August 18, 2019 at 5:17 pm

    I have often heard, but personally cannot prove, that most software written by academics is nowhere near the quality of commercial or open source software with large userbases. It’s said to be more jury-rigged and full of awkward quirks that are only accepted because its few users know how to work around them.

      Not only yes, but (censored) yes. I once was approached by a Sociology professor (back in the early 90s) who needed to migrate the specialized statistics software they had written in one version of Fortran with SQL calls to a Census database that calculated centroids (the point of a planar solid where it can balance on a pencil) because they were shutting down that server after ten years of operation and moving to a new one that only supported the *newer* version of Fortran. Oh, and the ported software needed to be able to process the ten years of archived data and compare results to make sure the old software and the new software produced the same answer (because this was Real Science, not made up numbers). I looked at the code, which had been patched and updated and modified for well over a decade, figured out how many hours per *line* it would take me, and told him he needed to hire a team, and it would take Serious Money, because I’d still be translating that monstrosity today if I had taken him up on it. (and Fortran has been updated fairly regularly since then, so I never would have caught up)

      You should see the horrid quality of the internal tools of the companies who make software. The cobbler’s kids have no shoes.

      Curious- did he own the bolt cutters, borrow them, or buy them that day?

      healthguyfsu in reply to CorkyAgain. | August 18, 2019 at 10:08 pm

      Not only that but software written for academia by smaller market companies that don’t appeal to a general audience suck horribly as well. They are also overpriced and technical support is a mixed bag of incompetence and slow response.

    Lucifer Morningstar in reply to ecreegan. | August 19, 2019 at 9:22 am

    In academia, the people who bring in grant money typically get what they want even when it makes no sense.

    True. And then ten years down the road when their research paper(s) are called into question and are up for retraction they find out their homespun databases in WTF format are unreadable, and they lose both their papers and reputations as a result. All because some “tenured” person who brings in the “grant money” was lazy and didn’t keep with the times.

    artichoke in reply to ecreegan. | August 19, 2019 at 10:39 am

    Or when it makes perfect sense but most people don’t understand it. It’s called prototyping and hacking.

    If I don’t have a car and I need to build something to get me to the grocery store and back, what I slap together in my garage won’t look much like a BMW or even a Chevy (nor would it be street legal), but it will probably work for the task intended.

tommy mc donnell | August 18, 2019 at 5:32 pm

povey’s actions created a hostile environment. do you think taking over a building to lock everyone else out might create a hostile environment? show that the administration approved of what the protesters had done.

Povey has two potential lawsuits: certainly one against the university that fired him, and possibly one against facebook.

    It seems irregular for a large company to attempt to get into the details of a firing at another company. This seems “special” because he could offend the snowflakes that work at FB.

    Since his political views were not in question here, I think Cultural Revolution 2.0 is in full swing.

    He had no tenure, so what would he sue the university for? And what case could he possibly have against facebook? Are you claiming they have no right to impose such conditions even on existing employees, let alone on new hires?!

JusticeDelivered | August 18, 2019 at 8:16 pm

School administrators need to stop cowering everytime the affirmative crowd screams racism. Grow a pair, call in the stormtroopers to forcibly remove the degenerates.

I have done many things during my working career, one of which was managing a disco. Our seating capacity was 1200, it was common to get some badass who thought he was tough. We had at least six bouncers.

New years eve a guy was smacking the woman with him, he was told to leave, claimed he was a blackbelt. He was escorted out by four bouncers. We had separate in and out doors, with a metal divider. The bouncers were having problems with the guy, and he accidentally got rammed into that divider, after that they had no problems tossing his sorry tail out. The police were waiting and one thanked the bouncers for subduing him. This is the kind of treatment Antifa and other similar kinds of lowlife need to civilize them.

We had a scorched earth litigation policy.

Looks like the leftist mob got to Facebook and top mgt. overrode the department head or whatever who saw a huge opportunity to get a big talent in the door.

Of course Povey could not work under the revised “terms”. But FB did a good thing by trying to hire him. Now a lot of things are obvious about how people feel and about who runs things.

If it’s the obstructing “students” who run things, let them have the whole JHU campus. It’s in and of Baltimore.

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