Shall We Toady? DePaul’s Junior Faculty and the Dershowitz Factor

Shall We Toady? DePaul’s Junior Faculty and the Dershowitz Factor

One can’t help but think that DePaul’s untenured faculty are freaking out these days. After all, what is a poor assistant professor to think after seeing an internationally acclaimed scholar like Norman Finkelstein, who has five books to his credit, taken out by DePaul’s administration after — and one must really chortle when reading this sentence — “The U[niversity] B[oard] [on] P[romotion] [and] T[enure] [has] determined that [Finkelstein’s] scholarship does not meet DePaul’s tenure standards”—a clear indication that AIPAC’s main academic howler, Alan Dershowitz, made sufficient noise about “Finkelstein’s one-sided agitprop” to scare the living daylights out of every Vincentian in Chicago.

Most assistant professors are lucky to have one book accompanying their dossiers when they go up for tenure. Finkelstein put five books, which have been translated into forty-six different languages, more than the entire faculty of the College of Arts & Sciences at DePaul combined, on the table last year when he began the tenure and promotion process. It would be interesting to check up on how many of DePaul’s St. Vincent DePaul Professors can brag of such an enviable publication record. Let’s not forget that Finkelstein publishes serious books, which have provoked international discussions about the Israel-Palestine conflict and the misuse of the Holocaust, not the usual academic snoozers — written to help make a tenure case for some third-rate intellectual who needs an academic sinecure — that go out of a print a year or two after they are published.

As Robert Jensen argued in his “Exposing the Commonplace Cowardice of ‘Responsible’ Professors”, Finkelstein may have taken his intellectual responsibility too seriously, or at least too seriously for most middle-brow intellectuals working at universities such as Depaul, where staying out of the way and towing the line of the powerful is considered to be indicative of “prudent judgment” and “responsible behavior.”

So, as junior faculty at DePaul contemplate their future at the largest Catholic University in the United States, and wonder if they are making sufficient progress toward tenure at this institution where “Vincentian personalism” is taken so seriously, they should consider giving good old Al Dershowitz a call or dropping the Felix Frankfurter of Law at Harvard an email, asking “Am I doing a sufficient job worshipping the Holy State and its patron? Is there more I can do to silence all discussion of U.S. and Israeli war crimes against Palestinians on this campus?”

I’m sure Al would be delighted to hear/see that he can give any junior faculty member at DePaul, who asks for a quick run down on his or her tenure prospects, an honest and full assessment. I can hear the conversations now — “You’re doing a great job. Keep it up. Just keep arguing that Palestinians have never existed and that Israel does not violate the rights of any human being,” or “You need to demonstrate more taste in your selection of topics for scholarly publication. No one really cares if the World Jewish Congress and the World Restitution Organization conducted a ‘double shakedown’ against the Swiss, the Germans, and the Poles in the late nineties in the name of needy Holocaust survivors. That’s in the past, along with everything the IDF had done in Jenin, Ramallah, and Hebron for the last five years.”

As these wannabe tenured professors will soon learn, it’s not solid teaching, scholarship, or service that will secure them a permanent place at the university founded by the Vincentian order in the USA in 1898, but a commitment to playing the game of the perpetual academic toady. Soon DePaul’s untenured faculty will learn that “huckster” is spelled “huxter”.

Shall we toady? Really.

Bill Williams is an independent writer who lives in Toledo, Ohio. He can be reached at Read other articles by Bill, or visit Bill's website.

4 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Billy Buntin said on July 4th, 2007 at 7:27am #

    I like this piece…
    The Finkelstein tenure situation is a travesty. Alan Dershowitz is a major apologist for crimes against humanity, and it should be HIS elevated reputation that’s up for scrutiny. I’m sure he’s smiling, satisified with his unprecedented ability to interfere with the internal affairs of another school and trample on justice.

  2. Michael Kenny said on July 4th, 2007 at 8:06am #

    This article simply reinforces the essential point: Norman Finkelstein was dragging DePaul into a Jewish fight which was of no concern to Catholics. Taking sides in such a fight is not the role of a Catholic institution. By the way, St. Vincent de Paul died in 1660. My best guess is that it wasn’t him who founded the university!

  3. Johnnie Quezada said on July 4th, 2007 at 11:42am #

    Gee Michael Kenny, your neutrality is disgustingly biased. First off, Finkelstein did his job as an academic and published works of high quality that spurred debate. I do not agree with everything Finkelstein has said or written but you cannot deny the man’s scholarship. By denying him his hard earned and deserved tenure this is exactly what the university administration has done. Moreover, it has also deprived its students of a quality individual who is respected both within and outside of the university’s walls.

    Second, Norman Finkelstein did not drag anybody into anything. It is the President, the Dean, a minority on the tenure committee, who are not even experts in the field, as well as someone who does not even work at DePaul, Alan Dershowitz who went “dragging DePaul into a Jewish fight.” Like if judging someone on their on merits, which is what has not been done in this case, is the province of Jewish folks alone or that the seriousness and quality of your work is germane to your ethnicity. Fairness and equity IS everyone’s concern. Read your bible Kenny, fighting injustice and inequity wherever it might arise was what Jesus’s life was about. Why don’t you write Alan Dershowitz and ask why he stuck his nose where it doesn’t belong? Yes, he has a right to try to refute Finklestein’s positions but not to mess with the man’s livelihood. Of course, he knows that he cannot best Finklestein on an even academic terrain so he resorted to underhanded, unscrupulous and cowardly methods.

    Finally Kenny, don’t be such a smug fucking asshole! You know full well Bill Williams did not mean that St. Vincent himself founded the University bearing his name. Only that it was founded by whomever at some particular time. You don’t endear yourself to anyone by engaging in misdirection plays and sowing confusion.

  4. Lila Rajiva said on July 6th, 2007 at 11:05am #

    Arguments about the use of the Holocaust in public debate don’t constitute an “intra-Jewish fight.” It would be much more accurate to say that they involve questions of state policy in this country (and in Israel) and of propaganda in the west at large — an issue which affects ALL writers, journalists, thinkers, intellectuals, scholars and even citizens who just want to be informed accurately — not simply Jews.

    It amazes me how so many Anglophone intellectuals (even well-meaning ones) feel completely qualified to analyze atrocities and abuses anywhere in the world, loudly and superfically (if not downright incorrectly), often with the sketchiest and most second-hand knowledge (gleaned from the English language writings of their own DC-N. York journalist buddies or from scholars at various “prestigious” universities, all sharing exactly the same myopic viewpoint ).

    A notable recent example is Martha Nussbaum, whose latest book on India (preparatory, I imagine, to humanitarian bombing, somewhere down the line) can only annoy anyone who knows anything about the subject. When it comes to their own backyard, however, these soi-disant arbiters of universal values frigidly ignore views that aren’t self-selected, insular and distinctly obsequious to their pet theories about life outside hard cover. Prizes, tenures, sinecures, reviews, cocktail parties and the rest of the glitz of intellectual life follow in lock step. A nice system….

    Now, good for those who make their living from it – I don’t knock them.
    As long as they remember, that’s all it is – a living. A way of paying their bills that has little do with the real life of the mind — which might sooner take place in some scorching megapolis abroad or ghetto stink-hole here than at one of their blow-dried soirees. And might take place silently as much as it does vocally.

    On the outside, we know this. On the outside, we know it is their arrogant and utterly self-regarding attitude that makes mainstream western idealogues less than credible, less than admirable in the eyes of the day-to-day world of millions of human beings. The criticism of these smatterers is always within a select framework, in which they and they alone are true subjects.

    The correct response is to hold their opnions in equal disdain. A favorable review from one of them should be treated much as one treats an alarming bug of some kind….you hope you’ll get through, but it might be the beginning of a fatal contamination…

    Is this a viable position for a struggling writer? Yes, indeed.

    Blogging makes it possible for books to sell and sell, well even without reviews from the establishment. Fellow bloggers and dissidents are willing to say a good word here and there. A reader. An unknown collegaue. The pleasure of having the good will and encouragement of those who share your sympathies and your aloneness is something surely far more satisfying than the brittle praise of people whose main concern is pleasing the right people and stepping on the obscure in their frantic rush to the limelight.

    In fact, a new ambition — I hope to forego a publisher altogether and publish directly. Perhaps those two lengthy chapter on media ownership in this country that were cut out summarily (would offend too may people, they said), will see the light that way.

    So, what has this to do with Finkelstein?


    The central issue in this country and in many western countries is not globalization or imperialism; it is not torture or the CIA; it is not humanitarian intervention…or realpolitik…or peacekeeping.. or even war.

    The central issue is brainwashing. Whether it is at universities or in the press or in think-tanks; whether in war or in peace-time. Whether the subject is Israel or imperialism or the family or women or money or IQ tests or immigration or race.

    The issue now is how we think. Or don’t. And what we get to think about. Who does it for us. Why. And where it is leading us.