We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people. ~John F. Kennedy
On Friday morning, April 29, 3WM found that the Web site had been shut down. After contacting Bluehost support, 3WM found that someone contacted them requesting that their name be removed from the ATEK stories, thereby shutting down the site. The violation was labelled a “copyright violation” and 3WM was deemed in violation of the “Terms of Service.” Below is the chat session that occurred once 3WM saw that the site was down:
[6:37:40 PM] Full name of Russell Bernstein needs to be removed from the following urls.
Thomas: [6:41:30 PM] If someone doesn’t want their full name, image, address, phone number, email address, etc listed on a site they have the opportunity to request that it’s removed. We received a notice from this individual about getting the information removed. Section 9.05 (listed below) states that you cannot post this type of information without their consent.
# Private Information and Images. Subscribers may not post or disclose any personal or private information about or images of children or any third party without the consent of said party (or a parent’s consent in the case of a minor).
Russell Bernstein was the former Internal Communications Officer who left ATEK (after basically taking it over) to run Global Team Players which, interestingly, also lists Greg Dolezal, former ATEK president and current National Communications Director as staff and Jeff Nunziata, current ATEK National Membership Officer, as a Board Member.
On Saturday, less than 24 hours after the site had been down, ATEK sent 3WM an odd letter claiming they “had nothing to do” with the site being down.
ATEK had nothing to do with any issues your site may be having. It’s not part of our tactics or strategy to stifle debate or criticism. If the complications arose because of any individuals they did not represent ATEK, its members, or officers. We have always appreciated criticism that remains focused on issues and policies rather than personalities. We respect and support having a free and open press that acts as a watchdog or spotlight on any subject of interests no matter how esoteric or relevant.
If dissent is impossible then we are unable to carry out our mission – as we see ourselves as dissenters in a country that often espouses or at least allows ineffective, discriminatory, and sometimes illegal practices in the educations system. In this we are on the same team.
Gregory C.F. Dolezal
National Communications Officer
The Association for Teacher of English in Korea
Now we are “on the same team.” Before and since the story came out, 3WM had heard several times that Bernstein still maintained some sort of role in ATEK from abroad, that his hand was still on the wheel to some extent. The facts show based on his own emails that he single-handedly shut down ATEK’s Web site after he realized that he could not control the commentary anymore. He obviously had full access to the site and was acting as a Webmaster even though ATEK claims they haven’t had a Webmaster for “over two years.”
Sources for 3WM have since reported that ATEK sought the services of Caleb Cook a Seoul PMA member who recently told 3WM in a e-mail, “I signed on to fix the website, that’s been my goal from the beginning.” Furthermore, a Caleb J. Cook wrote a comment on Chris in South Korea over the weekend that is below which seems to confirm the obvious.
Another issue that needs to be addressed is the constant squawking by members of ATEK that the right questions weren’t asked and that many of those that were arrived “loaded.” Below is one example.
His assertion that my questions were loaded is not true. After my first set of questions regarding former President Oh’s election, accomplishments (What would you say have been your greatest accomplishments so far?), challenges (What do you say to those people who criticize the organization’s progress?); (Currently how many of the 64 rep positions are full and operating? Is Seoul more important because it is home to so many schools and teachers? Why/why not?), I sent a second set to obtain more information and verification of the recent events I was researching. Several examples:
- I have read that the Ethics Chair Charlotte Lawrence became involved in the dispute contrary to Bylaws that say she must be invited. Is this true or hyperbole?
- Some information I received says you were opposed to the motion from the beginning. Can you offer anything further on this?
- Are you aware of the “conflict of interest” issue that arose with a Mike Reyes? Is he with the organization any longer?
- Could you confirm or deny the accusation that you contacted Mr. Reyes’ employer to influence Mr. Reyes’ actions related to ATEK?
The closest I got to any answers was:
The issues arose as internal matters in the association and have been resolved internally. The closure of the website, for less than a 24 hour period was a result of such concerns. The motion was not upheld by the association.
The association continues to work hard to balance the interest of members and to serve as a network of teachers of English in Korea. All members and officers have the right to comment on association debate. The association cannot at this time make comment about any current or former officers of the association or their actions as these are internal matters for the association and the association wishes to avoid any legal actions. The association is actively encouraging officers to join the association in all PMAs.
And near the end of the email, “This is the last time ATEK’s national officers intend to comment on this matter in relation to your story.”
They were given a chance to directly address the accusations made against them. But as one clownish critic said, “Even my research design class highlights the fact a high rate of non-respondents undermines reliability.” Oh, well you took a class? Really? So if people are evasive or don’t respond, then we might as well abandon a story. How many stories in journalism would not have been written if those who wished not to speak, who wished not to have the truth brought to light controlled the story with their silence?
In addition, recent assertions by former National Communications Director Rachel Bailey on Chris’s Web site are mendacious in places. 3WM doesn’t have any communications directors (we probably should by now) or any other highfalutin titles so sometimes a word may be wrong in an email that is fired out of the bunker of one editor or another (in this case it was invited). Anyway, Rachel is right that ATEK contacted 3WM requesting the opportunity to respond to the piece. They also asked to run a “progress report.” See below the comment and the exact email Rachel sent.
Now that your piece on our organization has run in its entirety, ATEK would like to an opportunity to respond. I have drafted a response, which I could send out in the form of a press release, but it seems more appropriate, since most of what we have to say has to do with your article, to publish it alongside your write up. Perhaps 3WM would be interested in posting ATEK’s response at the end of the third installment of your piece or as a separate article. I also have a progress report that I wrote up a few weeks ago that I would like to make available to your readers, as one of the main concerns of your argument seems to be that ATEK isn’t doing anything of substance.
Please let me know some time today if 3WM is interested in running these items.
National Communications Officer
Association for Teachers of English in Korea
I see no need to point out the clear differences between what’s implied by Rachel and what she actually wrote. Additionally, my e-mail back to her is below.
First, we would be willing to run your writing with the 3rd installment on Thursday as an update (that is our day for updates).
Secondly, we would expect that you’d recant your assertion that we ran the wrong photo of a former member of your organization, thereby misrepresenting that individual.
Thirdly, perhaps you misunderstood part of what I was trying to get at: that you’ve attempted to do good things and have had some great opportunities, but those have been scuttled by an ineffective and bloated bureaucracy along with a series of individuals who put their own self-interests and egos ahead of ATEK and the many teachers they seek to assist. The mission is noble. The execution has been far less than average.
Fourth, ATEK should start over. Remove the absurd you-have-to-fill-out-seven-forms-every-time-your-visa-runs-out membership process (E-2’s have to reup every year!). Dismantle the bizarre, parliamentary nonsense that stands at every corner. People want to help–let them do it without being babysat like a 2-yr-old. And do something about this 1-yr term limit stuff unless you’ve found it helpful so far (which from what I have learned during 10 months of investigation, is not helping). Lastly, there needs to be true follow-through with each and every case; so many people have told me that they’ve been left hanging.
In sum, we’d surely be willing to run a press-type release after reviewing it and concurring with you. We are not an anti-ATEK site (we’ve run plenty of critical content about things from plays to K-pop). We just want a group that has been touting its existence and pseudo-accomplishments to take responsibility for the reality and become what it truly aspires to be.
Perhaps it’s beyond normal understanding but ATEK had weeks to defend itself in comments or in some other publication. We had zero obligation to allow them to use our site as a publisher. Nevertheless, I told Rachel we’d do it after “reviewing it” and getting back to ATEK with any issues–this is something we do with all our contributors. I never said or wrote “corroborating” but perhaps that’s semantics. What’s funny is that Rachel says they decided to take things elsewhere. But what really happened is that Rachel went elsewhere, literally. She left ATEK.
After not hearing back from her for several days, I e-mailed again asking why I hadn’t heard back from her and within less than a few hours, Greg fired back a long, rambling, acerbic e-mail threatening a lawsuit if the stories were not changed in places. At the end of the same week, another e-mail came from Ethics Officer Lawrence threatening a lawsuit if Part 3 was not taken down or “at the very least” she was not removed from the stories. UPDATE: Since this story ran, Charlotte Lawrence attempted to do the same thing Bernstein did–she tried to get 3WM shut down. Those are the facts.
Lastly, 3WM would like to state the obvious: five weeks after Part 1 was published, ATEK announced a series of changes which they’d supposedly had long in the works. Is it a coincidence that many of those changes deal with exactly what the series criticized? The Web site has been simplified. The bloated bureaucracy is being trimmed down. The “student government association model” is reportedly going to be scrapped. Even Greg said something about this in his aloof Seoul Podcast interview when he acknowledged that the series had “put a little fire on the grill” and helped “hurry along” the overhaul process. That recognition brings with it some sense of satisfaction that, by chance, ATEK may right its wrongs and get about setting up a simple way for teachers to get answers.Print This Post