Bathos at DePaul University (Part 2)

Dissident Voices at DePaul University

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.

  1. Kim Petersen, “Bathos at DePaul University,” Dissident Voice, 18 June 2007. []
  2. Students Threatened with Expulsion for Sit-In at DePaul University,” Finkelgate.com, 14 June 2007. An updated site. [] [] []
  3. 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.” []
  4. “DePaul Students Protest for Academic Freedom,” Finkelgate.com, 12 June 2007. []
  5. Summary Report of the Promotion and Tenure (P & T) Policy Committee,” June 2006. []
  6. Dave Newbart, “DePaul chief may face vote of no confidence: Tenure denials of two profs upset many,” Chicago Sun Times, 13 June 2007. []
  7. See Anthony Hall, “Academic Integrity under Attack in Western Canada,” Dissident Voice, 5 June 2007. []

Kim Petersen is co-editor of Dissident Voice. He can be reached at: kim@dissidentvoice.org. Read other articles by Kim.

10 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. D. Beaudoin-Zaki said on June 19th, 2007 at 8:32am #

    Thank you for this well stated article.
    I am very concerned, as a parent, about the lack of academic freedom at DePaul and other institutions in this nation.
    Please keep us informed about this topic.
    Not being allowed to appeal this decision, when both faculty have their
    department’s support, in itself speaks volumes!
    It is a trying time for our nation when it appears that the education of our students rest with the best interest of another persons’ ethnic and country identification.
    (Jewish people in the USA have duel citizenship in Israel, if they choose).
    Thus many appear to place loyalty to Israel above peace in the world and the USA’s freedom of speech. Some even condone torture and lack of respect for other people’s human rights.
    One in particular is apparently active at Harvard AND DePaul!
    Did the wrong school get rid of the wrong pofessor?
    What do we want to teach students and what message is this sending? Sounds like a few months back when President Carter was also attacked by the same group!

  2. Fianna Fail said on June 19th, 2007 at 8:53am #

    You might also point out that the current DePaul Provost was the Dean of CTI during the disputed cases alluded to above. It is curious that when he was Dean he had issues with the University board overturing a college recommendation, but as Provost he doesn’t seem to care!

  3. Lila Rajiva said on June 19th, 2007 at 10:15am #

    Hey Kim -

    Just fyi, and in hopes that somone here is in need of a laugh, here’s Uncle Alan, foam flying from the lips as usual, in the Guardian.

    Seriously, why is he a lawyer? Writing scripts for the daytime soaps is obviously his forte…

    L

    Psychotic Psychosis

    Norman Finkelstein: the case against

    The denial of tenure to Norman Finkelstein is not about academic freedom. It’s about unscholarly propaganda.

    06.14.2007 | The Guardian
    By Alan Dershowitz

    Matthew Abraham’s account of the denial of tenure to Norman Finkelstein is filled with errors. Finkelstein’s tactic was to try to create a feud with me so that he could blame his tenure denial on me rather than on his lack of scholarship.

    In her 1951 bestseller, The Groves of Academe, Mary McCarthy fictionalised a failed academic who, realising he wouldn’t get tenure, became a communist so that he could claim that he was being denied tenure because he was a Red rather than a lousy scholar.

    A version of that ploy was used by Finkelstein who brags that “never has one of [his] articles been published in a scientific magazine”. By his own account he has been fired by “every school in New York”, including Brooklyn College, Hunter and NYU. His chairman at one of these colleges said that Mr Finkelstein was fired for “incompetence”, “mental instability” and “abuse” of students with politics different from his own. His prospects seemed bleak, so when radical Islamist Aminah McCloud – a follower of Louis Farrakhan – helped him land a job at DePaul, a school that Mr Finkelstein describes as “a third-rate Catholic university”, he accepted “exile.”

    His prospects did not improve when he wrote a screed against Holocaust survivors called The Holocaust Industry. The scholar whose work on the Holocaust was the “stimulus” for this volume, University of Chicago professor Peter Novick, warned: “No facts alleged by Finkelstein should be assumed to be really facts, no quotation in his book should be assumed to be accurate, without taking the time to carefully compare his claims with the sources he cites … Such an examination reveals that many of those assertions are pure invention.”

    Nor was he helped when New York Times reviewer Prof Omer Bartov, an authority on genocide, characterised his book as “a novel variation on the anti-Semitic forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion … brimming with indifference to historical facts, inner contradictions, strident politics … indecent … juvenile, self-righteous, arrogant and stupid.”

    On the other hand, Mr Finkelstein is supported by hard-leftists like Noam Chomsky and Alexander Cockburn. They regard him as a scholar in a class with Ward Churchill (the Colorado professor who called the 9/11 victims “little Eichmanns”) – a characterisation with which I would not quarrel.

    Facing tenure denial, Mr Finkelstein opted for a tactic that fitted the times. He expressed views so ad hominem, unscholarly and extreme that he could claim the decision was being made not on the basis of his scholarship, but rather on his politics.

    Mr Finkelstein does not do “scholarship” in any meaningful sense. Although his writings centre on Israel (which he compares to Nazi Germany) and the Holocaust, he has never visited Israel and cannot read or speak German – precluding the possibility of original scholarship.

    Prof Bartov characterised his work as an irrational Jewish “conspiracy theory”. The conspirators include Steven Spielberg, NBC and Leon Uris. The film Schindler’s List, Mr Finkelstein argues, was designed to divert attention from our Mideast policy. “Give me a better reason! … Who profits? Basically, there are two beneficiaries from the dogmas [of Schindler's List]: American Jews and American administration.”

    NBC, he says, broadcast Holocaust to strengthen Israel’s position: “In 1978, NBC produced the series Holocaust. Do you believe, it was a coincidence, 1978? Just at this time, when peace negotiations between Israel and Egypt took place in Camp David?”

    He argues that Leon Uris, the author of Exodus, named his character “Ari” in order to promote Israel’s “Nazi” ideology: “Because Ari is the diminutive for Aryan. It is the whole admiration for this blond haired, blue eyed type.” (Ari is a traditional name dating back to the Bible.)

    He has blamed September 11 on the US, claiming that we “deserve the problem on our hands because some things Bin Laden says are true.”) He says that most alleged Holocaust survivors -including Elie Wiesel – have fabricated their past.

    Like other anti-semites, Mr Finkelstein generalises about “the Jews”; for example: “Just as Israelis … courageously put unruly Palestinians in their place, so American Jews courageously put unruly blacks in their place.” He says “the main fomenters of anti-semitism “are ‘American Jewish elites’ who need to be stopped.” Normally, no one would take such claims seriously, but he boasts that he “can get away with things which nobody else can” because his parents were Holocaust survivors.

    And then, of course, there is me. In a recent article, Should Alan Dershowitz Target Himself for Assassination? Mr Finkelstein commissioned a cartoon by a man who was placed second in the Iranian Holocaust-denial cartoon contest. The Hustler-type cartoon portrayed me as masturbating in joy while viewing images of dead Lebanese on a TV set labelled “Israel peep show”, with a Star of David prominently featured.

    Mr Finkelstein has accused me of not having written “The Case For Israel” but when I sent his publisher my handwritten draft, they made him remove that claim. He has accused virtually every pro-Israel writer, including me, of “plagiarism”. I asked Harvard to conduct an investigation of this absurd charge. Harvard rejected it, yet he persists.

    The final part of Mr Finkelstein’s quest for tenure is to blame his tenure problems on “outsiders”. His surrogate, Mathew Abraham, claims that I intruded myself into the DePaul review process, neglecting to mention that I was specifically asked by the former chairman of DePaul’s political science department to “point [him] to the clearest and most egregious instances of dishonesty on Finkelstein’s part”. I responded by providing hard evidence of made-up quotes and facts – a pattern that should alone disqualify him from tenure.

    Nevertheless, Mr Finkelstein’s radical colleagues voted for tenure, having cooked the books by seeking outside evaluations from two of his ideological soulmates. The dean, however, recommended against tenure, as did the university-wide tenure committee and the President.

    Like the character in The Groves of Academe, Mr Finkelstein generated protests by students and outsiders. He has encouraged radical goons to email threatening messages; “Look forward to a visit from me,” reads one. “Nazis like [you] need to be confronted directly.” He has threatened to sue if he loses – while complaining about outside interference. No university should be afraid of truth – regardless of its source – especially when truth consists of Mr Finkelstein’s own words.

    Even without tenure, Mr Finkelstein will persist in his unscholarly, ad hominems against supporters of Israel, Holocaust survivors and the US. But his bigotry will no longer receive the imprimatur of the largest Catholic university in the America.

    This is not a denial of academic freedom. It is a denial of tenure for unscholarly, ad hominem propaganda.

  4. don adams said on June 19th, 2007 at 2:55pm #

    Anything Alan Dershowitz says about others is nothing short of filthy lies. The first time I even knew who Dershowitz was, was in the 1970s when I visited Boston with my wife and then very yourg daughters. On our way to a concert, we passed a theatre where one of the Redgrave women was starring. She had written somethin sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians just prior to that day. And, here was Dershowitz, foaming at the mouth, his then red hair flying atop his red face, in the wind as he ran up and down the line of theatre patrons forcing on all of them a copy of a mimeographed sheet of filth and slander about Ms Redgrave because of her terrible sin of saying something caring about the plight of the Palestinians.

    Since then, every time I see the sneering countenance of Dershowitz on a talk show, I turn it off to keep from hearing something that would cause me either to throw up or to want to throw a brick through the TV screen.

    He is an awful, hateful, vengeful man who will sling all types of slander at anyone either criticizing anything Israeli or anyone saying something positive about Palestinians. Like McCarthy saw a Communist under ever bed, Dewrshowitz sees an anti-Semite under every bed. He deserves indifference from us all. Too bad Harvard cannot apparently rid themselves of this nasty, mean little man.

    Anyone criticezed by Dershowitz deserves the support of all who put American interests first, and who question the justification for the arrogant and exalted position accorded Israel in this country.

    Regards,

    Don

  5. Mulga Mumblebrain said on June 20th, 2007 at 4:30am #

    The gravest moral cowardice is that of non-fascist Jews in not standing up to those belligerently arrogant, or is it arrogantly belligerent, psychopaths, the Judeofascists. Here in Australia, the media bias is almost comical, but the explosions of fraudulent moral outrage whenever any narrative but the faery story of infinite Jewish/Israeli goodness, and bottomless Arab/Palestinian evil, is aired, have long since entered the realm of the unhinged. The total absence of any sense that the Judeofascists consider Arabs or Moslems generally as human beings, is deeply chilling, and coming from a people who through their own suffering, ought to know better, a bitter indictment of humanity. One is often forced to contemplate the possibility that, consciously or unconsciously, the Judeofascists crave the world’s antipathy, long for the hatred of those they hate for their role in the Jewish tragedy. The proposition that one can say anything positive about the Palestinians is virulently condemned as ‘appeasement’, unless the Palestinian is a Quisling who knows his place, like Abbas or Dahlan. The real ‘existential threat’ in the Middle East is not to Israel, but from that theocratic, racist and increasingly irrational state, dominated, as is most of the world, by its worst individuals. That such a state has hundreds of thermo-nuclear weapons worries me far more than the prospect that Iran, sometime in the future, might introduce a stabilizing element of mutuality in weapons of mass murder.

  6. Deborah said on June 21st, 2007 at 2:46pm #

    The responses to this article explain why Finkelstein’s tenure denial has nothing to do with academics and everything to do with the content of speech. The hysteria and overinvolvement of Dershowitz in the case to say nothing of Dershowitz’s overreach with the University of California Press is telling of how much of an embarrassment that man is to the legal profession. He really gives Harvard a bad name.

  7. Michael Kenny said on June 28th, 2007 at 3:49pm #

    The point that everybody seems to forget is that DePaul is a Catholic university, whose mission is to provide Catholic education. The dispute between Finkelstein and Dershowitz is a dispute between Jews as to their respective visions of Israel. That is not a Catholic problem and a Catholic university really has no business taking sides in it. Doing so merely bogs the university down in a diversion from its mission. If the university authorities are to be criticized for anything, it is for fudging that point.

  8. Kim Petersen said on June 28th, 2007 at 4:40pm #

    Sorry Michael, but DePaul U’s mission is not “to provide a Catholic education.” One can read DP’s mission statement in which the central purpose is made clear:

    “DePaul, in common with all universities, is dedicated to teaching, research, and public service. However, in pursuing its own distinctive purposes, among these three fundamental responsibilities this university places highest priority on programs of instruction and learning. All curricula emphasize skills and attitudes that educate students to be lifelong, independent learners.”

  9. Irene Decker said on July 3rd, 2007 at 7:36am #

    The fact that in US the “left” or, nowadays broader, “liberal” views and teaching traditions are left to the Catholic church has shocked me.
    The state universities seem totally in the pocket of neocons.
    I had a little hope that Professor Finkelstein is of so much value to an university which has to attract students now – at the beginning of a new anti-war and social movement – that they grant him tenure.
    But the hierarchy of the “infallible” is submissive to the powers that be. They even tore this sober, nice woman, Professor Larudee, into the melee! Good luck to you all! If you cannot stop this this little planet will end up in a technical form of inquisition. Have you ever expressed doubt that Dershowitz is infallible? will be the question to bring somebody into the gas chamber.

  10. epppie said on July 3rd, 2007 at 5:24pm #

    “In essence, it is a UBTP and presidential vote of non-confidence in the departmental and university level tenure committees.”

    This really gets to the essence, doesn’t it? This double tenure denial is a doublebarrelled repudiation of its own faculty by the administration.

    Re. Dershowitz’ Guardian letter: if what he alleges there is true, it’s pretty unsettling, but he has little to no credibility with me. His description of his own role in this tenure debacle seems far too untruthful to call disengenuous.