Professor Norman Finkelstein, and his professorial colleague Mehrene Larudee, have been denied tenure at DePaul University despite the recommendations of the departmental and college level tenure committees.
The scholarship and teaching by these professors is reputedly of a very high level. I am not familiar with Larudee, but the publication record of Finkelstein is enviable.
So let’s get to the crux of the tenure denial. The letter from the DePaul U president Dennis H. Holtschneider stating the reasons behind the denial of tenure to Finkelstein and its citations of the University Board of Promotion and Tenure is risible.1 Finkelstein has dared to speak his conscience against the great crimes of a powerful group. The crimes of Zionism against humanity are undeniable. They are backed up by UN Security Council resolutions and by condemnations from human rights groups like B’tselem and Amnesty International.
No honest person denies that the land of Palestinians has been stolen, that over 500 Palestinian villages were destroyed, that massacres were carried out against Palestinians, and that 800,000 Palestinians were forcibly expelled from their territory. No honest person denies that the Palestinians are discriminated against, killed, beaten, and humiliated in the West Bank and Gaza today. Deny some people can, but the fact remains that Israel is an apartheid state erected by genocidal means.
Many people will deny that there is a lobby that holds preponderant sway over the government of the United States. But anyone who has read articles by California radio host Jeff Blankfort or follows his excellent reading list recognizes the untenable position of denying the massive influence of the pro-Israel Jewish lobby in the US.
Finkelstein has maintained a middle ground on the influence of the lobby and probably out of conviction. But he has otherwise been unwavering on how Zionists manipulate the Holocaust to extort money and inflict suffering on Palestinians.
So the Zionists and the pro-Israel Jewish lobby have moved against Finkelstein. DePaul U was pressured, caved in, and refused to grant tenure to Finkelstein and the colleague who supported him.
For the faculty of DePaul U professors, there are three possible positions to take. One can only assume that the body of DePaul U professors agree with the decision to not grant tenure (which equals termination), are uninformed of the matter, or that they disagree with the university decision. If professors disagree with the decision, then to the extent that they believe a great injustice has been done, it is incumbent upon them to speak out and act on their conviction.
The DePaul U professors have spoken out. The University’s Faculty Council on June 13 voted 27-3 calling for an appeal to be made on behalf of both professors citing “violations of academic freedom” and procedural problems in the tenure process.
Holtschneider claims the faculty has no right to appeal and has no “structural authority” to change the president’s decisions on tenure.2
What is being done to Finkelstein and Larudee (who is apparently being targeted for her support of Finkelstein) could be done against any untenured professor. It can also be done to any professor tenured or not. Currently Ward Churchill, a tenured professor at the University of Colorado Boulder and an activist for the rights of indigenous peoples, finds himself under attack for his critical speech, which led to further digging into his background and a move to dismiss him.
Churchill, however, does have some colleagues in his corner.3
A group of students have been at the forefront of the battle to grant tenure to the DePaul U professors. These students have stood up for the integrity of the university education system. To defend academic freedom, these students collected a 700-name petition to grant tenure to professors; they are doing overnight sit-ins throughout the week at the president’s office and there are, reportedly, plans to escalate action among the student body. The DePaul U students are heatedly debating the legitimacy of the university’s decision, citing flaws in the tenure process. Yet, so far the administration has resisted entreaties from the students.4
The University Board on Tenure and Promotion (UBTP) voted to deny both professors tenure, which the university president upheld. At that point, the professors had received a one-year termination of employment notice.
Both Finkelstein and Larudee were not given a copy of the UBTP vote, which is, reputedly, a violation of the tenure procedure. Moreover, the dean, the provost, and the president all refused to include a departmental document in their deliberations or distribute to the College or University levels a document submitted at the departmental level.2
In June 2006, a Summary Report of the Promotion and Tenure (P & T) Policy Committee reported on the School of Computer Science, Telecommunications and Information Systems (CTI) complaint after two CTI recommendations against tenure were overturned. CTI complained that it did not receive any notice or reasons for the reversals of their decisions from the University Board. CTI contended “the lack of communication about the reversals of the CTI decisions was in violation of the DePaul Faculty Handbook policies on promotion and tenure.”5
Given that the departmental levels are more fully apprised of the situation and given that the departmental colleagues are logically better able to assess the value of scholarship in their field, it is a rationally confounding and astounding decision to overturn a departmental recommendation for tenure by lesser apprised and lesser qualified individuals. In essence, it is a UBTP and presidential vote of non-confidence in the departmental and university level tenure committees.
CTI also cited the need for “more clarity and consistency” in P & T policies. It also reminded the University community that the P & T Board decisions are simply recommendations. This would seem to give Holtschneider much discretion on whether to follow through on the tenure board recommendations.
It is this system, deficient in clarity and consistency, that the opinions of a detached committee and one man have overruled those closest to and most affected by the scholarship and pedagogic abilities of the professors. In essence, the decision of the UBPT and the president amounts to a vote of non-confidence in the departmental and college level committees. Given all this, just what kind of lesson should students, the faculty, and the wider public glean from the institution of the university in this current debacle?
For fellow professors to come to the aid of Finkelstein and Larudee is a daunting prospect. They face the displeasure of the administration, potential loss of employment, and possible blacklisting. Larudee stands as a stark example of what faces dissident professors. The integrity of academia and freedom of speech are imperiled. This is untenable, but the faculty has not given up. The faculty is considering invoking no-confidence measures against the school president and “other officials” based on the tenure denials to Finkelstein and Larudee.6
As Big Brother organizations like Campus Watch and UCLAProfs.com cast a McCarthyite shadow over the academic world, the neoconservatives and neoliberals wreak mayhem through their corporatization of academia.7 Professors through silence would enfeeble themselves and weaken their role in academia. The DePaul U faculty are showing mettle.
The students are leading. They are in the midst of final examinations, upcoming graduation, and summer job season. Nevertheless, these students know the value of academic freedom and integrity. Selflessly, they are giving their precious time to occupy the offices of DePaul University indefinitely to secure the granting of tenure for professors Finkelstein and Larudee. For this the students have been threatened with expulsion.”2
There is no need, however, to limit this to a confrontation between students and professors against the institution. All of us are ultimately affected.
Read Part 1.
- Kim Petersen, “Bathos at DePaul University,” Dissident Voice, 18 June 2007. [↩]
- Students Threatened with Expulsion for Sit-In at DePaul University,” Finkelgate.com, 14 June 2007. An updated site. [↩] [↩] [↩]
- See “Ward Churchill Solidarity Network.” Matthew Abraham, “A Battle for Academic Freedom at DePaul, Dissident Voice, 18 June 2007; Matthew Abraham, “Emergency Forum in Support of Ward Churchill,” 28 April 2007. DePaul U English professor Abraham has been intrepid in speaking out against the attacks on the speech of colleague Finkelstein and also Churchill.” [↩]
- “DePaul Students Protest for Academic Freedom,” Finkelgate.com, 12 June 2007. [↩]
- “Summary Report of the Promotion and Tenure (P & T) Policy Committee,” June 2006. [↩]
- Dave Newbart, “DePaul chief may face vote of no confidence: Tenure denials of two profs upset many,” Chicago Sun Times, 13 June 2007. [↩]
- See Anthony Hall, “Academic Integrity under Attack in Western Canada,” Dissident Voice, 5 June 2007. [↩]