I was well-positioned. During the second year in Louisiana, Jim Kuipers up at Dartmouth College, and I kept pushing the Journal forward. The website had close to 600,000 hits on it, and it had become a hotly discussed topic at conferences and among my faculty. We were getting all types of submissions for peer review, and there was no shortage of content to referee for publication. Then one day, I got a call from my old professor at the University of Florida named Dr. Lynne Webb. Lynne was one of the peer reviewers for our Journal, and she had somehow successfully secured a full professor position at the University of Arkansas alongside Steve Smith. Steve told me that it was because her husband had been hired Dean of the law school at the University of Arkansas, and they had to find her a trailing spouse position at the University. Steve also told me to be careful with her, because her ethics were not always in alignment with her actions. I wish I would have listened to him, in hindsight, because he was absolutely right. She was a meddling and vicious woman, who only sought to advance her own cause and did not believe in the concept of utilitarianism — the greatest good for the greatest number. Anyway, she told me about a colleague of hers that was one publication short of tenure and promotion at the University of Arkansas and asked me if we could do a quick turnaround review of one of her research articles. She told me how stressed-out this person was, and that she would consider it a personal favor if we tried to help her because she might lose her job. Naturally, I felt empathy toward this person, and if I could somehow help I would be more than willing to do so. I received the article, send it to Dr. Kuipers for review, and promptly forgot about it. Three weeks later, Jim Kuipers told me that the article had been rejected on a one to two decision. This was not good news for my friend, and this was not good news for Dr. Webb.
I read the research article. And while it was very simplistic in design, it had some meaningful conclusions and I told Jim that we were going to publish the article anyway based upon my personal review of the research. He argued with me. He scolded me. He called the article shit and said that I was bending the rules for a friend — which, I kind of was. I held firm on the decision to publish the article, to which Jim responded by resigning from the Journal publicly on our Amerian Communication association Board of Directors listserv. Everyone connected to the Journal read Jim’s comments, citing me for a lack of ethics, and then for the first time ever my world completely caved in. All sorts of comments, from all sorts of people, from all ranks and states, started attacking me online. There were emails calling me names, and citing the breach of trust and dereliction of duty that I had exhibited by fudging the review process. Dr. Webb called me and screamed at me, even though she told me on the phone to publish her friend’s essay. I started getting headaches. I was manic. And this lasted for a 3 to 4 week period of time, during which my hands would shake uncontrollably on the mouse to the point where I could not operate a computer.
Dr. Webb’s strategy was for me to remain completely silent and say nothing to the allegations or charges being levied against me. She told me not to dignify the ethics charge with a response. She also told me that she would publicly defend me, which she did. But that’s only because she was connected to me in the crime. Michael Calvin McGee — my friend at the University of Iowa — assume the role of prosecutor. He kept asking me how I could possibly be employed anymore given my clear breach of ethics. He called for my job. I remained quiet, and Steve Smith moved into the conversation and let everyone see just how power operates in organizational politics. In the end, Jim and I were both reinstated as editors of the Journal. But the scandal had done its own psychological damage to me, personally. I was embarrassed, ashamed, ridiculed, and publicly tarred and feathered among the very people I had been working for over the past three years. When I would walk down the hall of my house, the walls of the house would bend inward to me. My anxiety, depression, and even delusional thinking kicked in and I would cry at the drop of a hat. It was a lot like the student Government Association politics at the University of Florida. I’ve been humiliated by my own friends once again.