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A Professor Knows Breast

An American University anthropologist goes rogue.

8:45 AM, Sep 13, 2012 • By CHARLOTTE ALLEN
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The problem with all this verbiage was that the Eagle hadn't actually published a single word about Pine and the breastfeeding incident. In fact, Eagle editor Zach Cohen, a junior at AU, had informed Pine by email that "providing anonymity" was an option, and that the paper could find "alternative ways of identifying you in the story." It was thus Pine herself who publicized her mammological victim status and ensured that it would be electronically eternal. Sure enough, no sooner had Pine's article appeared in Counterpunch than the web-based trade paper Inside Higher Ed picked up on it, followed by the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, the local Fox station, and the Drudge Report.

Furthermore, AU administrators seemed not to be swayed by Pine's breast-centric interpretation of her in-class performance. An AU statement issued in the wake of Pines's Counterpunch article focused on a genuine public-health concern raised by Pine's bringing a sick infant into a busy classroom (Pine admitted in her article that she herself had caught baby Lee's violent cold a few days later). The statement pointed out that AU provides paid leave "to care for the sick child and protect the health of the community." The university also provides private places for nursing mothers to express their breast milk, the statement pointed out. Indeed, since babies don't start crawling until they are about eight months old, Pine's daughter was clearly of an age to take the occasional bottle. Pine stated twice in her Counterpunch article that she had been nursing for a "year" in various public places. (Her reason for breastfeeding in class: "I hate cleaning bottles.") This isn't even getting close to the wisdom of letting an infant crawl freely on a heavily-trafficked classroom floor where small school supplies are likely to fall and outlets for laptop chargers are aplenty.

Pine had stated in her Counterpunch article that right after her email correspondence with Mongilio, "I spoke with my departmental chair, who gave me his full support and—with my permission and gratitude—notified my colleagues and Dean that we were about to be drawn into a pointless story centered around my breasts." I emailed Richard Dent, the chairman of AU's anthropology department, to find out whether he had actually said this. He replied, "I did say in an e-mail that 'Prof Adrienne Pine has my full support as a scholar and teacher as well as a caring mother.' I said nothing further." Pine herself, when I contacted her by phone, said, "I have no comment."

The AU administration was also unhappy about Pine's hostile and quasi-paranoid stance toward the hapless undergraduates who staff the Eagle. Pine had originally incorporated their personal contact information into her Counterpunch article and then removed it at the administration's request. It is highly unusual for professors to turn on students, much less disclose private information about their whereabouts.

Meanwhile, the Eagle has yet to publish any story about Pine and the breastfeeding brouhaha, even though few other news media have been so hesitant. "It's being deliberated," Cohen told me. "We're trying to get all the facts." Cohen did, however, vigorously defend the much vilified (by Pine) Heather Mongilio. "Heather demonstrated the utmost professionalism," Cohen said, "and I'm proud to have her as a member of our staff."

Charlotte Allen is a contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute’s Minding the Campus website.

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