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Advertising Prof Deb Morrison uses Journalism faculty meeting to accuse Harbaugh of cyberbullying

Last updated on 05/22/2015

I wasn’t there, but I’ve received a few emails from Journalism faculty, telling me that Professor of Advertising Deb Morrison used the occasion of a Friday J-School faculty meeting with UO’s VP for Equity and Inclusion Yvette Alex-Assensoh to assert that I was engaged in cyberbullying.

The official .gov definition is here:

Cyberbullying happens when kids bully each other through electronic technology. Find out why cyberbullying is different from traditional bullying, what you can do to prevent it, and how you can report it when it happens.

Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place using electronic technology. Examples of cyberbullying include mean text messages or emails, rumors sent by email or posted on social networking sites, and embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles. According to online sites similar to Broadband Search, 87% of young people have seen cyberbullying happening on their social media.

I sent Prof Morrison an email asking if she’d like to meet for coffee to discuss her statements, and got back this response:

From: Deborah Morrison
Subject: Re: cyberbullying?
Date: April 24, 2015 at 11:05:43 PM PDT
To: Bill Harbaugh

Wow, that didn’t take long. I did see a few folks look up with a bit of glee during the faculty meeting so I suppose I did my part to keep everyone awake.

As Yvette talked about beautiful ideals of cohesion and collaboration and fairness and problem-solving (I love all of that!), I simply thought here was another problem of academe. We talk about this but no one talks about the reality that your blog and your posse is toxic for the campus community.

I’m sure this is no surprise to you. My take publicly and without anonymity on your blog has been that I’ve often praised you for SAIL and the Lariviere energy. I still appreciate both of those.

But whatever truth you’ve offered on the blog in the past couple years – and there has been some – is totally negated by the meanness, innuendo, libel, belittling, lying, castigation, name-calling, and snark that you’ve thrown out. It’s not fair or healthy. It’s bullying.

I wouldn’t mind having coffee, but it would have to wait til after a big New York trip I’m leading. Spinning plates til then.

Some of Professor Morrison’s previous comments on this blog, anonymous and acknowledged, are available here, related to a panel on public records, at a meeting of the Society of Professional Journalists at UO, with myself and former J-School Dean Tim Gleason:

1) Morrison, commenting as “Unknown”:

Gleason continues to have great support amongst our sojc faculty and industry because of the work he’s done. He’s shown vision and integrity at a time when we needed it most. So stop this nonsense, UOM. Your being asked to speak to the SPJ was disappointing (at the least) and wrongheaded. What you do is nowhere near journalism.

Your value as leader and truth caller has been consistently devalued. Why? Snark, silliness, miscommunication, untruths, slander, lies. It’s meant to degrade and confuse. No one except your posse cares about what you churn out because the agenda is you, not the truth. That’s sad. And most emphatically, it’s not journalism.

2) Morrison, commenting as Morrison:

I hate anonymous posting. It’s probably the lowest point of humanity. So…
I’m UNKNOWN above. I don’t write press releases and this does not call for one. And I don’t want a long harangue with you and your followers, Bill.

But here’s the reality: this is the type of stuff that’s wrong. Gleason is not hostile to Freedom of Information and your post and the subsequent comments imply he is. The crap you’ve said about him and others is unfair and unethical.

That’s what you do: you make work of implications and gossip and innuendo and then you all chew on it as if it’s fact. I’ve praised you very publicly before when you were asking hard questions, especially around the Lariviere issues. I’ve worked with you on SAIL and honor you for that.

But as I noted in the other post, all the strong voice is negated when there’s constant misleading or simply vicious information like this post. The stuff you say about people, the attempts to disembowel and ruin careers, the side remarks that you and dog and old dog and anonymous, etc all peck to death has no value except as venom. You have your followers. But so many (most of whom are not politically active or in the JH culture) are simply turned off by this and see it as ruining the culture and opportunity at this University. There are better ways to solve problems and make things happen.

This is an attempt to be honest. I hope it will be accepted as such.

3) My response:

To Deb Morrison:

This post was my effort to respond to the claims Tim Gleason made at the SPJ conference regarding his history of support for public records and transparency. I thought his claims did not reflect the actual history at UO, where he has actively tried to make it more difficult for reporters and others to get public records.

I have more documentation on that I could post. But I think the post has made that point. Re-reading it, I don’t see anything excessively personal it it, and in contrast there is plenty of substantive information, facts, documentation, and an accurate portrayal of what Gleason said at the session, and how it was received by the reporters present.

In contrast, your comment on this post says:

“But here’s the reality: this is the type of stuff that’s wrong. Gleason is not hostile to Freedom of Information and your post and the subsequent comments imply he is. The crap you’ve said about him and others is unfair and unethical.”

I don’t recall seeing you at the session. Your comment does not include any documentation for your claim that Gleason is not hostile to public records access, or any information that conflicts with anything in my post. Your comment does include a personal attack on me, but you also don’t provide any support for that either.

Obviously Gleason are I are not on friendly terms. You can see this quite clearly in my live-blogging about the union bargaining sessions, or in the “Open Letter” that he helped write, accusing me of being “anti-university”. At least I think he helped write it, UO’s public records office won’t tell me unless I pay them hundreds of dollars in fees, and Gleason won’t answer my questions about it. This is remarkably similar to nasty anonymous blog comments – except those don’t come on official UO letterhead!

Regardless, I don’t think you attended any of those 42 union bargaining meetings either, so you don’t seem to be in a good position to do more than give an opinion about the origins of that mutual animosity either.

That said, I’m happy to provide a place for you to write about me, since I think that opinions, even uninformed and nasty ones, can be an important form of civil speech.

Bill Harbaugh


  1. the sheep resist 04/25/2015

    People really should read what they right and give it some reflection.

    She admittedly ruins a nice talk on ” .. beautiful ideals of cohesion and collaboration and fairness and problem-solving ..” by bringing up something SHE views as negative and divisive. What was accomplished other than establishing that if you run in her crowd, you can do all the so-called bullying you want under some self-righteous idea of correct behavior. Then she claims that any truth that has been uncovered here is negated by what she perceives as bad behavior. By her logic, her negative attitude at the meeting and her email admissions above totally negate any of her claims about this blog. My, my … such critical thinking skills.

    • just different 04/25/2015

      I know absolutely nothing about Morrison, but the nastiness and passive-aggression (she saw “a few folks look up with a bit of glee”??) of her email leapt out at me too. At least she can’t say her snide mean-girlery was quoted out of context.

  2. scaredwitless 04/25/2015

    Morrison’s comments at the meeting and in her email are completely consistent with her actions and statements over the past 12+ yrs. She has been and is a Johnson Hall defender-at-all-costs, along with her ex-boss Tim Gleason. They and a few other full profs in Journalism have created at atmosphere of intense fear among us non-tenure faculty. How can an academic program survive when people are afraid to voice their opinions for fear of getting fired? The irony that this program is journalism is not lost among us. It is for this reason that many of us are looking for jobs elsewhere.

  3. Anon 04/25/2015

    Hey… can I be part of UOM’s posse?

    Sorry Deb… you sound as silly as Tim behaved at the SPJ function. Nowhere near journalism? I’m not sure if I should be encouraging you to keep up with the times or take a page from the history of journalism.

    • just different 04/25/2015

      I think we might need a “UO Matters Posse” t-shirt. A badass slogan on the back would be a nice touch.

      • just different 04/25/2015

        OK, the best I can do is “Taking the brawl to Johnson Hall.”

      • unbelievable 04/28/2015

        You are pack of wolves.

        • uomatters Post author | 04/28/2015

          Better than a herd of sheep.

  4. dog 04/25/2015

    Doesn’t anyone realize that the “snark” nature of UOmatters really refers to the proper definition of snark, as originally used by Lewis Carroll?

    Snark: a mysterious, imaginary animal.

  5. Old Man 04/25/2015

    Deb is a Professor of Advertising. Advertisers are not paid to reveal and convey truth, but to persuade. To think that an advertiser might understand journalism is like thinking that a sniper might understand international relations. They might, but it is definitely not part of their job description. Hey, will someone tell me why Advertising is in the J-School instead of the B-school?

    • charlie 04/27/2015

      Can someone give Old Man Comment of The Week swag?

      • Fishwrapper 04/27/2015

        Here, here!

  6. Deb Morrison 04/25/2015

    Bill, I guess the good news for both of us is that after posting my email to you without permission and this lively discussion ensuing, we can cancel that coffee we were going to have. Somehow I thought talking through issues might be good but much has been said here. As for the blog, I’m going to follow the advice of my colleague in the J-school, Deb Merskin, who told me yesterday during the meeting: Just don’t read it.

    • Fishwrapper 04/25/2015

      Can you blame BH for posting the e-mai, though? He had it on his machine, and wanted to save the $373.45 it would have cost to get the redacted version through a public records request…

    • the sheep resist 04/25/2015

      Maybe this isn’t the real Deb Morrison posting?

      Surely the real Ms. Morrison wants to be part of the solution to what she sees as horribly wrong on campus. Cancelling coffee isn’t the way to build cohesion and collaboration she so values, so we must assume this is an imposter..

    • Anonymous coward 04/25/2015

      Deb, this morning you emailed the SOJC faculty listserv a link to this post, recommending everyone read your email to UO Matters. Now you are saying it was posted without your permission. What’s up?

    • Grus canadensis 04/25/2015

      waitaminit….don’t you lose control over your email the moment you press “send”?

  7. Anas Clypeata 04/25/2015

    Deb wrote: “But whatever truth you’ve offered on the blog in the past couple years — and there has been some — is totally negated by the meanness, innuendo, libel, belittling, lying, castigation, name-calling, and snark that you’ve thrown out.”

    This is the consistent line from defenders of the administration. It is simply wrong. The truth offered on this blog far outweighs the sometimes petty, immature, and understandably frustrated reactions to the cavalcade of false statements, cover-up, and spin provided by the administration.

    The primary functions of this blog, as I see it at least, are to highlight poor decisions on the part of the UO administration, at many levels, and to highlight problems in higher education nationally, with a focus on the intersection of college athletics and higher education. Conversations about these issues are important to solving problems at the UO and at universities nationwide, and unfortunately, this blog is the best UO-related place that has been created to host those conversations. I am sure that the editor of this blog would welcome a university-created forum focused on investigating and resolving these issues, but none have been created yet.

    This blog has occasionally praised the administration when it has made good decisions (see here and here for examples), and I’m sure that more praise will be forthcoming when future good decisions are made.

    Keep it up, UOM. A world in which we didn’t need you would be a fine one indeed.

    • Buzz 04/26/2015

      Yes, well said.

    • Anon 04/27/2015

      Moreover… nothing outweighs truth to begin with. The truth remains, regardless of anyone’s position on the rest of what UOM offers a forum for. Myself, I’d like to see more good and clever humor, of the type that some will not get.

      I think this is the second time this week I’ve had castigat ridendo mores come to mind.

    • unbelievable 04/28/2015

      except there can’t be conversations when one person deletes the folks that disagree with him. Also, who was the idiot who said that putting a thumbs down on this site constitutes trying to silence free speech? Wouldn’t a thumbs down or up constitute free speech? it is all well and good to TALK about free speech but this blog does not encourage it.

      • Ben 04/28/2015

        Given that you are implying Bill deletes comments on the basis of their opinion content, the presence of your comment negates your argument.

        • uomatters Post author | 04/28/2015

          I try to follow the UO M comment policy pretty closely, despite its mathematical irrationality. Lately I’ve been deleting some of the short “I agree with X” and “The previous commenter is an asshole” type comments, particularly if not from a familiar screen name, just to improve the flow.

          I rarely delete substantive comments, except for a few of Fed Lit’s more obvious troll attempts. If you feel you’ve been improperly deleted, revise and resubmit and try leaving out links as the spam filter doesn’t like those.

  8. Devonly 04/25/2015

    What doesn’t make sense to me is that the SOJC claims to be a First Amendment defender, which also means, or perhaps means above all else, defending speech one might might not agree with. What gives?

  9. Observer 04/26/2015

    I agree with Anas Clypeata 100%.

  10. Sam Dotters-Katz 04/26/2015

    Whenever anyone criticizes this blog to any degree, whether it is one post or the general tone of the writing, Bill’s foaming at the mouth supporters go nuts. Everyone starts to throw insults at the person being critical, and completely dismisses whatever the person said. You all honestly sound like a bunch of scientologists.

    Why can’t you recognize that this blog in some ways and at some times has a beneficial impact, while at other times is nothing more than Bill’s forum to slander people he has personal problems with.

    • uomatters Post author | 04/26/2015

      Sam, I’m sorry if this comes across as condescending, but I think it’s time for you to move on with your life and stop worrying about this blog.

      • Not a prison scholar 04/26/2015

        Question: Why is okay for Bill to viciously and voraciously check the powers that be on campus, but not someone to check Bill? Morrison et al aren’t approaching the level of vitriol and retraction-worthy statements he makes, but you’ll cheer those on while jeering anyone who dares get in his way. Sounds like borderline McCarthyism to me.

    • just different 04/26/2015

      I didn’t see any slander in this post. I did see a story about an SOJC professor who hijacked a faculty meeting and a VP presentation solely to badmouth someone else for being critical of people she happens to like and/or sucks up to.

      She’s certainly entitled to her opinion, but what could she have been trying to accomplish by airing it there, of all places? You don’t suppose it was an implicit threat to the rest of the faculty about how criticizing the administration would be regarded at SOJC, do you? It’s amazing how the first people to accuse someone else of divisiveness are invariably the ones who are doing their damnedest to force others to pick sides.

  11. cyberbully 04/26/2015

    Why does any thinking person send an email to UOM, knowing that it will instantly be posted along with snarky comments? And then to be following with insulting comments from the masses. Sounds like cyberbullying to me.

  12. zach 04/26/2015

    Perhaps the current student government can create some marvelous resolution that could make any blog skeptical of any UO money laundering magically disappear ? If not the O “brand” may be devalued. Funny how Frohnmayer left the ASUO to rot in the building he claimed was unsafe.

  13. Not licensed in Oregon 04/26/2015

    The Facts of the Case:

    Professor M interrupts a faculty meeting about diversity and fairness to give a potentially defamatory attack on Professor H, who is not there to defend himself. H learns about the attack, and invites M to talk about it over coffee. M responds to H with a letter repeating her attacks, and implying she did it because the presenter was putting the audience to sleep. H posts her letter to his blog along with a previous anonymous comment from M. After a series of comments from readers criticizing her, M gets mad and refuses to have coffee with H.

  14. Senator Morrison? 04/26/2015

    The UO Senate is a pretty milquetoast group. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a faculty member use the words “meanness, innuendo, libel, belittling, lying, castigation, name-calling, and snark” on the floor, much less all of them at once. So here’s hoping Professor Morrison will run for a Senate seat, and get elected by her journalism peers. She will surely elevate the tone of the discussion in just the way that Scott Coltrane hoped for when he called for new blood.

  15. SaveUofO 04/27/2015

    When you send someone an email, letter, or pass them a note during class, the person you sent/passed it to owns that letter and they can do with it as they please. Yes the whining about publishing it then sending out a faculty wide SOJC email inviting all to read it is over the top. Sam Dotters-Katz, I’m wondering how long you’ve been a student at UofO and if you’ll retire as a student? Bill isn’t the most social sort and he simply calls it as he sees it. Is Bill right all the time? Hell no. Does he shine a light where it needs to be? Yes. Political correctness UofO tries to drown everyone in is part of the problem especially when it really is more hyperbole and hypocrisy than anything else.

    • Fishwrapper 04/27/2015

      I’m not an attorney, and I don’t play one on TV, but you are flat out wrong. When you write a letter, or an e-mail, copyright protection automagically subsists on that work. Publishing a letter without the author’s permission can be a violation of copyright law.

      There are, of course, limits to absolute copyright protection. But I am reacting to the statement you typed:

      When you send someone an email, letter, or pass them a note during class, the person you sent/passed it to owns that letter and they can do with it as they please.

      This overly broad statement is patently false. Now, in the context of Prof. M’s e-mail, there is a bit of wiggle-room that could suggest Prof. H, or, more to the point and more accurately, the proprietor of UOM, was able to publish without fear of violating copyright protections.

      Fair Use, an overly-used and overly-embellished doctrinal umbrella of protection by those who use other people’s works in their own, allows for numerous instances where one can appropriate another’s work for purposes of review. Section 107 of Title 17 clearly lays out those exceptions.

      As an Institutionalized News Media Organization, publisher Harbaugh could be covered under the Fair Use doctrine by publishing the e-mail in its entirety; so, too, could he be pushing the boundaries of protection offered under Fair Use, an all-to-common occurrence in academe and publishing. Then again, Prof. M. originally published her work using a public university’s e-mail system, rendering it immediately as a public record.

      Reading it, I cannot see Prof. M.’s missive should require any redaction under Oregon’s public records laws, so, in a utopian world of public records transparency, publisher Harbaugh should eventually have had access to the full text, and, as a public record, would have been allowed to publish.

      The correction I hope you see me making is that his right to publish does not stem from his having received the e-mail – that does not convey ownership to him in any way, rights-wise – but from the public record basis of the communication coming through the system as it did. That he chose to circumvent the public records process and publish based on the availability of the message on a machine to which he has access is his choice; one I am sure he has weighed and vetted with better legal analysis than my own (I am not an attorney and don’t play one of TV).

      At least I hope so.

      Regardless, your statement was incorrect, and one would hope individuals connected to an institution of higher learning and research would have a better grasp issues of intellectual property subject to copyright protection and the fair use doctrine.

      • Ben 04/27/2015

        I think the real question here is the ethics behind revealing her authorship of an anonymous post.

        First, is that ethical on its own right? Second, does her unethical misuse of a faculty meeting to slander him have any bearing on the ethics of revealing her as the anonymous author? As the victim of such slander, does Mr. Harbaugh have the ethical recourse to defend his name through the use of not just public record (her email), but also through her anonymous (non-public record) postings?

        Obviously, I am assuming he has that right on the basis that he has the right to defend himself, but my point is that if you are going to question his actions (from a purely ethical viewpoint), you are questioning the wrong half of this episode.

        • UO Grad Student 04/27/2015

          She outed herself in the subsequent comment.

          “I hate anonymous posting. It’s probably the lowest point of humanity. So… I’m UNKNOWN above. “

          • Fishwrapper 04/27/2015

            Outing oneself in a posting that is published as a comment on the blog is a different act than sending an e-mail. Just because one outs oneself does not confer rights to publish all other communications.

            As far as ethics – that’s a different question…

            My (lengthy) response was to the assertion that receipt of an e-mail message automagically confers publishing rights to the recipient. Don’t conflate the separate acts/modes of communication.

          • Ben 04/28/2015

            In that case, problem solved. Simply a case of an individual defending himself against unethical slander. No questions need to be asked except why she thought it appropriate to slander him in that setting.

  16. Still clicking my heels 04/29/2015

    Wow. What a great thread. Sorry I missed it. Did anyone else notice that “automatically” above becomes “automagically”? I assumed this was a joke the first time, and a good one at that. But by the second time I wasn’t so sure.

    On Tim Gleason. As his bargaining table antics prove: he is completely against Free Speech and Freedom of Information. Read the proposals he brought to the table and the Comments he made. Oops. I forgot, even though the university has a complete transcript, you don’t get to see them! And bargaining was completely public!

    • tinkerbelle 04/29/2015

      Automagically? Yes, totally noticed … but what is all this besides smoke and mirrors? Ha.

    • Fishwrapper 04/30/2015

      Automagically is the word I chose – it was not not auto- or manual-magically conflated via spell-checking or fat fingers on the keyboard. I can’t take credit for it, but it’s one of my favorite neologisms.

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