Reflections on Columbia College Chicago, Student Complaints in General and Academic Freedom

This is not primarily a critique of Columbia College Chicago which has merited high praise throughout academia for those who value academic freedom, a post-secondary institution’s capacity to listen to independent judgments and analysis and administrators who exhibit a flexibility that is rare across the increasingly corporatised, consumer-oriented academy. Their reputation as an institution of high standards and positive outcomes has been enhanced in their handling of the Iymen Chehade case. I thought, however, I would at least discuss generally the issue of student complaints that needs greater scrutiny on many campuses, including my own.

I have witnessed on many other campuses a failure to construct a clear policy in handling student complaints of an instructor. The lack of such a policy, or the failure to adhere to legitimate established guidelines that may already exist in an academic catalogue, student handbook, and faculty bylaws (handbook), is a prima facie threat to academic freedom, academic excellence and to critical thinking in the classroom.

If a student complaint focuses on pedagogy: the faculty member’s style of teaching, her use of materials from reading lists to in-class visuals or audios, the articulation of ideas from a certain perspective and the overall presentation of the course, the complaint should not be adjudicated or considered above the instructor level. The student should be advised to discuss the complaint with the instructor. Professors must be secure in their teaching and immune to student sabotage to undermine them and compel them to satisfy a student’s preference for how a class should be taught. Student course evaluations are usually the preferred venue for students to express their judgments on the pedagogical style and substance of an instructor. Many allow open commentary in addition to the stupid multiple choice ranges from strongly disagree to strongly agree. While students always have the right to complain, after all they are paying for their education, pedagogical complaints have no business being elevated to a discussion between the instructor and a higher-unit level on ANY campus.

Conservative students may resent a progressive professor and vice versa. If a student feels constrained or uncomfortable in a professor’s class, they usually can choose not to take another course with the same instructor! If they are required to matriculate in another course with an instructor due to programmatic requirements, which is usually not the case, they can of course transfer to another institution if they choose to avoid additional exposure to a professor. Even an independent study might be contemplated as a substitute but that should be the exception in allowing a student bypass from critical thinking or a different ideological approach than the one they prefer. Education has value and exposure to different viewpoints has value. Students on ANY campus, however, should not have the right to secretly and without accountability complain about the putative ideological predilections of a professor. They should be directed, once again, to speak directly to the instructor.

When there is a grade grievance, a student should be ordered to first take up the grievance with the instructor. There is no justification initially for an administrator or department chair to intervene in such matters. Academic freedom includes the right of an instructor to evaluate her or his students. It is not the purview of others to do so. If the instructor and the student cannot reach an agreement on the disputed grade, then of course the student can pursue the grievance at the next available unit level above the instructor.

The American Association of University Professors Redbook contains The Assignment of Course Grades and Student Appeals. Many universities have adopted this policy or have established variants that are consistent with the institutional culture of a college or university:

1. A student who wishes to complain about a grade would be expected to discuss the matter first with the course instructor, doing so as soon as possible after receiving the grade. [Emphasis added]

2. The instructor should be willing to listen, to provide explanation, and to be receptive to changing the grade if the student provides convincing argument for doing so.

3. If after the discussion with the instructor, the student’s concerns remain unresolved, the student might then approach the instructor’s chair…That person, if he or she believes that the complaint may have merit, would be expected to discuss it with the instructor. If the matter still remains unresolved, it should be referred to an ad hoc faculty committee.

If a student complaint concerns misconduct, that is a different matter. Obviously, a student has the right to protection and perhaps anonymity but all considerations to due process must be afforded the instructor. The vast majority of student complaints in the United States are usually over grades. A lesser but disturbing amount deal with pedagogy. This post of course focuses on pedagogical and grade-grievance complaints and not on issues of harassment, discrimination, or other alleged forms of possible abuse.

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Columbia College Defends Academic Freedom: Restores Iymen Chehade Israeli/Palestinian Course

I learned yesterday that Columbia College in Chicago is offering two sections of the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict course in their fall 2014 semester offerings. Instructor Iymen Chehade has been in the middle of a major academic freedom case concerning a prior reduction of sections of this class. It is to the credit of Columbia College that they have shown the flexibility and the commitment to academic freedom to restore the offering of two and not merely one section of this heavily enrolled course.

On March 20, 2014, Academic Vice President/Interim Provost Louise Love sent me an e-mail affirming her college’s commitment to academic freedom. I sent her a response today that expresses gratitude for her words and deeds. I am reproducing it below.

Columbia College Chicago Academic Vice President and Interim Provost Love

Acknowledgment of Resolution of Chehade Course Offerings                                                       Tue 4/1/2014 10:37 AM

From: Kirstein, Peter                                                                                                                       To: Love, Louise                                                                                                                                   Cc:;                                                                                                                       Michael Harkins                                                                                                                            Iymen chehade <>;                                                                                     Rima Kapitan <>;

Louise Love, Ph.D.                                                                                                                              Vice President for Academic Affairs/Interim Provost                                                               Columbia College Chicago                                                                                                               600 South Michigan Avenue                                                                                                   Chicago, IL 60605

Dear Dr. Love:

Illinois AAUP Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure welcomes the decision to offer Instructor Iymen Chehade the opportunity to teach two sections of the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict course for fall, 2014. We appreciate your cooperation in this matter and are pleased that your commitment to academic freedom that you so strongly affirmed in your e-mail of March 20 is so evident in these very recent curricular decisions.​

Best wishes,


Peter N. Kirstein                                                                                                                                Vice President A.A.U.P. Ill.                                                                                                              Chair: Illinois Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure                                          Professor of History                                                                                                                       Saint Xavier University

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Columbia College Part-Time Faculty Union (P-fac) Statement on A.A.U.P. ILL Conference Report on Chehade Case

Dear Members,
P-fac filed a grievance alleging the violation of Columbia’s academic freedom policy and violation of the collective bargaining agreement.  We are pleased to announce that the Illinois American Association of University Professors (AAUP) Committee A has issued a report that suggests there was a violation of academic freedom in support of P-fac member, Iymen Chehade. The report sent to the college by AAUP committee A urges Columbia to comply with its own academic freedom policies and the policies of AAUP.
This committee A report is significant because the complainant is a part-time faculty member.  Diana Vallera, P-fac president notes, “The AAUP report is a recognition that the diminishment of academic freedom of a part-time faculty member is a diminishment of academic freedom for all. The fundamental principals of higher education must be protected for all faculty regardless of status if these principals are to persevere.”

P-fac is disturbed by comments that the college gave to the Chronicle of Higher Ed  alleging that the AAUP’s investigation was one-sided and that “the AAUP relied solely on information from one party” when, in fact, Louise Love sent an email to the AAUP in response to its investigation.  The AAUP did consider and cite this statement in its report.

The new P-fac Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) contains strong academic freedom protections for P-fac members (Article V, pp. 9-10). The AAUP report reaffirmed the union’s position that the instructor’s academic freedom had been violated and that the college failed to follow standard practices and procedures in response to a student complaint.

P-fac Steering Committee

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Ray Hanania Prominent Arab American Podcast Interview of Ill AAUP on Chehade Case


Ray Hanania, Arab Daily News

This is a link to a podcast and article that encompassed my presentation and defence of the Illinois AAUP Conference report on the Iymen Chehade case.

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Illinois AAUP Committee A Report on Iymen Chehade Columbia College Case

March 25, 2014

Louise Love, Ph.D.                                                                                                                          Academic Vice President and Provost                                                                                         Columbia College, Room 500                                                                                                              Office of the Provost                                                                                                                                 600 S. Michigan Avenue
Chicago, Il. 60605

Dear Dr. Love:

Iymen Chehade is a part-time faculty member at Columbia College in Chicago. He has earned an M.A. in History and Education and a B.A. in history from the University of Illinois at Chicago. He has taught in the Department of Humanities, History and Social Science since 2007. He initially taught Middle Eastern History: From Muhammad to 1800 through spring semester 2011. Professor Chehade also teaches a course titled, The Israeli/Palestinian Conflict. He has taught nine sections of this course since Fall 2010 and is currently teaching one section of the class in spring semester 2014. Following a single-student complaint about purported “bias” in one of the two sections during fall semester of 2013, Columbia College removed one of his scheduled sections for the 2014 spring semester. Rima Kapitan, who is serving as his counsel, requested through an e-mail on March 19, 2014 that the Illinois Conference of the American Association of University Professors (A.A.U.P.) Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure investigate this case for possible academic freedom violations.

We are pleased with your e-mail to the Committee that reaffirms the commitment of Columbia College to academic freedom and your affirmation of the pedagogical approach that Professor Chehade utilizes in the Israeli/Palestinian course. The Columbia College collective bargaining agreement between the college and the union contains a strong affirmation of academic freedom. It proscribes “institutional discipline or restraint in their discussion of relevant matters in the classroom…[The CBA prohibits] “explicit or implicit threat of termination or discipline for the purpose of constraining a faculty member in the exercise of his or her rights under such principles of Academic Freedom. [CBA Art. V(1), (2).”

The American Association of University Professors 1915 Declaration of Principles on Academic Freedom and Academic Tenure initiated guidelines on academic freedom almost a century ago. A.A.U.P. principles and definitions of academic freedom are generally accepted as part of the common law of the academy. Yet violations still occur and colleges and universities must be held accountable when violations do occur and should remedy a failure in honoring academic freedom. The American Association of University Professors most celebrated statement on the topic of academic freedom is its 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure:

Teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject, but they should be careful not to introduce into their teaching controversial matter which has no relation to their subject.

The 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure was updated with the “1970 Interpretive Comments.” In the second Interpretive Comment A.A.U.P. celebrates controversy because it fosters debate, discussion and challenges the received orthodoxy:

2. The intent of this (1940) statement is not to discourage what is “controversial.” Controversy is at the heart of the free academic inquiry which the entire statement is designed to foster. The passage serves to underscore the need for teachers to avoid persistently intruding material which has no relation to their subject.

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is controversial. It is not easy pedagogy because of the passions it arouses among disparate groups in the United States. A professor may indeed teach this topic in a controversial manner as long as the material is related to the subject matter. It is beyond dispute that the film 5 Broken Cameras was directly related to the course topic.

It is standard practice that in most cases a student complaint or grievance is first communicated to the instructor. Department chairs in particular should refer a student with a complaint back to the instructor in order to facilitate the resolution of the conflict. Obviously in cases of alleged harassment or other charges of misconduct, a student may indeed bypass the instructor. This complaint, however, trespassed on the academic freedom of a professor and should have been referred back to the instructor for resolution. If a complaint is not resolved at the instructor-student level, then it is customary for the chair to engage herself or himself as an active participant and finder of fact. Neither Dr. Steven Corey, the chairperson of the Department of Humanities, History and Social Science nor School of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean Deborah Holdstein directed the student to take the complaint to the instructor. This is most troubling to us and a violation of widely accepted norms of academic due process.

On October 28, 2013 Professor Chehade was made aware of the undated student complaint in a meeting with Chairperson Corey. According to Professor Chehade, Chairperson Corey refused to reveal the identity of the student but at one point described the student as a “she.” There are actions of the meeting that are not in dispute. In your March 13, 2014 letter to Susan Tyma, Part-time Faculty Association (P-Fac) Representative, you affirm that Dr. Corey told Professor Chehade that it is important to be balanced in one’s teaching. You also raised the issue of “balance” when you met with Professor Chehade: “I also asked Mr. Chehade if he presents the material in the class from a balanced perspective.” These interrogatories between yourself as the senior academic officer of Columbia College, Chairperson Corey and a contingent part-time adjunct have a chilling effect on academic freedom. The issue of “balance” is frequently used to rein in a professor from critical thinking and new pathways of knowledge toward a consensus approach that is more acceptable to elite or mainstream opinion. Both you and Dr. Corey appeared to be taking sides in raising this issue and were unnecessarily questioning the pedagogical manner of Professor Chehade. This we respectfully suggest is at variance with your e-mail to me on March 20, 2014.

Professor Tyma in her February 19, 2014 memorandum to Liason (sic) to the Association, affirmed “the union’s contention that the cancelation of the course was a denial of academic freedom… the fact that the college canceled only one and not both sections of the course establishes merely that there was a partial, rather than complete, denial of Mr. Chehade’s academic freedom.” Any denial of academic freedom is of great concern to the A.A.U.P. Furthermore, Dr. Corey “told the student to come back to see him at the end of the semester…to ensure that such ‘“balanced delivery”’ had occurred.” Professor Chehade confirmed to Illinois Committee A in a telephone conversation on March 22 that during his meeting with Chairperson Corey, he was told that the student would report back to the chair at the end of the semester. Illinois A.A.U.P. finds such a request as an unacceptable violation of Professor Chehade’s academic freedom. Department chairs should not use students as scouts or monitors of a professor’s performance. The student’s mission is to learn not to serve as an agent of a department chair who is delegated the power to assess and report on the pedagogy of an instructor. Students do not possess the training and the expertise to serve in this capacity that challenges the authority of an instructor. Chairs may visit a class and observe an instructor if there are concerns. A.A.U.P. Illinois e-mailed Professor Corey on March 19 with a series of questions and a request to communicate his version of the meeting with Professor Chehade. There was no response. Since, the student complainant did not accuse the professor of suppressing student dialogue, censoring disparate views or displaying bias toward those students who rejected the putative ideological preferences of the instructor, it should have been dismissed.

The student complaint alleged there was bias in Professor Chehade’s class and a lack of “balance” in the introduction of course materials. The complaint followed the screening of 5 Broken Cameras, a 2012 ninety-four minute film that received an Academy Award nomination for best documentary. It chronicles non-violent Palestinian resistance as Israeli Defence Forces construct a separation wall in the village of Bil’in on the West Bank that has been under Israel’s control since the 1967 Six-Day War. Documentaries convey a message: they are not a “book of facts.” To suggest that a film on the Middle East should contain no viewpoint or normative approach is unrealistic and risible. For a student or anyone else to suggest that a professor give equal time by showing another film places an undue intrusive burden on a faculty member. It is striking that a post-secondary institution of higher learning would seemingly rely so heavily on a student’s complaint about “bias” and cancel an entire section after registration had begun. While the student voice must be heard, it cannot be given authoritative weight in determining how many class sections are offered. It censors and denies other students the opportunity to matriculate in a second section of the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict.

Course evaluations are a more thorough and comprehensive means of assessing a professor’s pedagogy than a student complaint. Indeed, A.A.U.P. Illinois Committee A finds striking your conclusion that Professor Chehade’s course evaluations confirm a balanced pedagogy. In your letter to Professor Tyma you state:

I reviewed several semesters of student evaluations as well as the syllabi through the lens of “balance.” All of these documents support Mr. Chehade’s statement that multiple views are discussed in the class.

Such affirmation in our opinion renders the student complaint as not credible. Majority-student opinion contravenes the student complaint of bias. This raises questions why the student complaint apparently led to a course cancelation within six days of Dr. Corey’s meeting with Professor Chehade. Yet your finding that Professor Chehade teaches with a balanced approach to pedagogy came after his section was canceled. We find no evidence, however, that you articulated that position prior to his learning of the section cancelation on November 4, 2013..

In your e-mail to me on March 20, 2014 you state, “The College reaffirms the right of all faculty members and students to exercise academic freedom in a manner that Mr. Chehade has enjoyed since he became a member of HHSS.” You claimed “that no course on campus is immune from being offered at a reduced frequency from past semesters” and that Professor Chehade’s “political perspectives” did not impact the decision to remove his second section six-days after Chairperson Corey inquired about balance and serve as de facto advocate for the student. We are aware that you claim that the dropping of a section resulted from a normal review of enrollment and scheduling patterns afforded all sections within the Department of Humanities, History and Social Science and LAS.

However, Professor Chehade had been offered a contract to teach both sections that he accepted on October 28, 2013. The course already appeared on Oasis (On-line Access to the Student Information System), a registration software platform. It was scheduled for spring semester and students were registering. While it is true that another section of the course was allowed to proceed for spring 2014, the second-section cancelation strongly suggests that Columbia College was trying to limit additional student exposure to Professor Chehade’s teaching of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Professor Chehade informed us that another course–49-1501, Middle East History: To Muhammad–he was offered to teach as a substitute for the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict section was 1,400 years removed from the Palestine conflict and the course was not within his area of expertise. He honorably declined the course and surrendered approximately $4,600 that he would have received for teaching a second course. The evidence is suggestive of an inappropriate cancelation of a second section some six days after his adversarial meeting with Chairperson Corey in which the issue of balance, bias and a student complaint dominate the agenda.

Given favorable student evaluations that you confirm demonstrate a balanced pedagogy, it is simply egregious that a student complaint in fall semester 2013 would nullify broader student assessment. Indeed the ideological biases of a chair or any administrator, much less a student, should not govern what an instructor is allowed to teach. Not if the institution respects basic principles of academic freedom. Academic freedom is essential for the advancement of the common good through the pursuit of knowledge and the truth. The purpose of academic freedom is to foster an environment in post-secondary education that validates many approaches, some of which maybe unorthodox or controversial. Truth is frequently elusive but unless academicians are free to teach and challenge the perceived orthodoxy, then a society cannot progress and liberate itself from the past. The pursuit of knowledge and the determination to resist the canon can be fraught with peril and controversy but it frequently advances the common good.

Professor Chehade has the academic freedom protection to present material in his own name in a course and articulate opinions in class. Professors are not bean counters and need not pursue an ephemeral, sterile “balance” at the expense of “professing” and pursuing the art of teaching as a moral act. Specifically, Professor Chehade has the right to show the film, 5 Broken Cameras. His academic freedom gives him the right to introduce controversial course-related topics, and materials into his classroom. He need not insure that equal time in the name of balance is given on every topic brought into class. A course on slavery need not proffer arguments for and against the racist, dreaded institution. A course on gay rights or the history of genocide need not “balance” the number of arguments in favor of gay rights and in opposition to genocide with those that support discrimination against homosexuals and mass murder.

Academic freedom has its limits: no freedom is an absolute. Professors cannot proselytize their students. They cannot falsify information to obscure the truth in order to advance a personal agenda. They cannot suppress student debate, disagreement and dissent. Professors cannot assess students on the basis of their political beliefs or discriminate because of their association with any entity. A.A.U.P. expressly prohibits this in its Joint Statement on Rights and Freedoms of Students. To your credit, you clearly affirm that none of these transgressions occur in Professor Chehade’s course on the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict. Yet because a student objected to a film, Columbia College acted in a manner that strongly suggests a desire to suppress a narrative that deviates from the predominant accepted discourse on matters pertaining to the long-standing conflict between the State of Israel and the Palestinian population living in the West Bank and Gaza.

Contingent faculty are particularly vulnerable to violations of academic freedom as has been well documented in such seminal statements as the A.A.U.P. Inclusion in Governance of Faculty Members Holding Contingent Appointments (Revised 2012). Professor Chehade’s status as a contingent part-time faculty member in all likelihood made him more vulnerable to this violation of his academic freedom.

The American Association of University Professors Illinois Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure agrees with the P-Fac, Columbia College’s faculty union, that Professor Chehade’s academic freedom was violated. We construe the six-days between Chehade’s adversarial meeting with Dr. Corey and the removal of the second section as linked events. We consider the handling of the student complaint as inappropriate, arbitrary and a violation of Instructor Chehade’s academic freedom. Both the Association and the Columbia College collective-bargaining agreement’s definition of academic freedom were violated in this case that begins with the reported statements and requests of Chairperson Corey during the October 28 meeting.

In your March 19, 2014 e-mail you supported the continued use of the film 5 Broken Cameras and described Professor Chehade’s course as “thought provoking and exciting.” Yet we believe your laudable support of Professor Chehade’s academic freedom did not reflect prior actions dating back to October 2013. We take you at your word that this is presently your position on this unfortunate matter and, therefore, ask you to consider implementing the following two recommendations.

First: Columbia College should offer, if sustained by adequate enrollment, Instructor Chehade two sections of the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict in fall semester 2014. Student interest has been robust and given the public scrutiny surrounding this case will likely increase looking forward.

Second: We urge that the policy of handling student complaints undergo a strategic reassessment. The current system as revealed in this case is clearly broken and conducive to academic freedom violations. The lack of transparency in which a professor cannot challenge his accuser, much less know the identity is an affront to due process and a shocking display of arbitrary treatment of a faculty member. We made suggestions to improve the process including an initial conference between a student complainant and the instructor.

Any reassurances that you will implement these recommendations would be greatly appreciated. I would be happy to speak to you or meet with you at your convenience or engage in any additional communication that you prefer.

The other members of the A.A.U.P. Illinois Committee A are Matthew Abraham, DePaul University, Loretta Capeheart, Northeastern Illinois University, Walter J. Kendall III, John Marshall Law School and John K. Wilson, Illinois State University.


Peter N. Kirstein, Ph.D.                                                                                                                       Chair: Illinois Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure/Vice President of the Illinois Conference of the A.A.U.P.                                                                                                                                      Professor of History                                                                                                                                Saint Xavier University

Kwang-Wu Kim, president and chief executive officer, Columbia College                          Steven Corey, Chair HHS
Deborah Holdstein, Dean School of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Jordan Kurland, A.A.U.P. Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure and
Rima Kapitan, Attorney at Law
Greg Scholtz, A.A.U.P Director of Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure and
Governance                                                                                                                                             Susan Tyma, P-Fac Representative                                                                                                  Diana Valera, president P-Fac union
Iymen Chehade

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Comments on Kirstein Ukraine-Crimea Op-Ed

Here are a couple of comments that responded to my article on Ukraine and its Crimean struggle with the Russian Federation. The op-ed appeared in the Sunday, March 16, SouthtownStar
Peter Kirstein
The US also used the excuse of protection of Americans to invade tiny Grenada. So if you wish to compare Putin with Hitler, also include Ronald Reagan in that trio. I think some here are not accustomed to reading articles that dare challenge American exceptionalism and take personal offense that a professor dares to do so. Well they better accept the fact that their world of American flags, July 4 celebrations and National Anthem singing do not control my voice or my thinking! If we claim to be the freest country in the world–forget Ed Snowden already?–then calling for someone to lose their job because you don’t agree with their viewpoints shows what kind of country we are indeed becoming.
OakLawn Bill 2 days ago
Comrade Kirstein forgets that Hitler used the excuse of protection of Germans to invade other countries not unlike what Putin is claiming now.
Robert2 days ago
Wow. This guy’s a professor at Xavier? Thank god my kids didn’t go there and get his stilted “revisionist” view of history. First, while NATO was formed to provide a unified front against the Soviet Union, it was designed to confront ALL threats to the West, not just the Soviets. In 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait and this organization was invaluable in cooperating to defeat Hussein’s attempt at creating a new Islamic Caliphate. Recent events also show how foolhardy it would have been for NATO to disband just because the Soviets let their desperate attempt to salvage a failing empire by ending the cause of its failure, the failure of a tyrannical, freedom stifling government. China realized the same thing and moved towards the only economic system that could save THEIR empire, capitalism without letting the KGB gangsters run the system. That Mr Kerstein (sic) thought NATO should have disbanded while the Soviets still had the largest nuclear arsenal and standing army pretty much shows he doesn’t understand Russian expansionist history since Peter the Great nor even recent history in Georgia. NATO’s function changed from Soviet containment to protection from Middle Eastern threats and guaranteeing that freedoms hard won by now nations of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and the Ukraine (in addition to the Eastern Bloc) would have their sovereignty militarily stolen from them again as it once was in the time of the Tsars. Historic Russian expansionist ambitions were never changed by communism, there were just new tyrants initiating this. I hope this lack of historical understanding by Mr Kirstein is not wasted on the Xavier tenure committee. There are far better history professors out there based on what Mr Kirstein shows in this column.
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Kirstein Op-Ed: Crimea Self-Determination and N.A.T.O. Enlargement

This appeared in the SouthtownStar newspapers: owned by the Chicago Sun-Times.


OpEd Alert! – Prof. Peter N. Kirstein on Ukraine Crisis (from SXU webnews page)

Saint Xavier University Department of History and Political Science Professor Peter N. Kirstein recently wrote an OpEd on the crisis in Ukraine that was published in the Southtown Star on Sunday, March 16 titled: “Russia Protects Strategic Interest in Crimea.”


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Defending Academic Freedom at Columbia College


March 10, 2014
Contact: Eric Ruder

Stand up for academic freedom:
Why is Palestine taboo at Columbia College?

Columbia College students, faculty and community members are organizing a campaign to defend academic freedom after Columbia administrators retaliated against an instructor for the content of his course about the Israel/Palestine conflict. The campaign includes a petition (; March 11 and 12 call-in days to the Columbia College administration; and a public forum featuring Ali Abunimah, a leading proponent of Palestinian rights (

As part of his course, Prof. Iymen Chehade screens the Oscar-nominated documentary 5 Broken Cameras, which depicts popular resistance to Israeli military occupation. After a student alleged that the film showed that Chehade’s course is “biased,” Chehade was summoned for a meeting with Dr. Steven Corey, who is the chair of the Department of Humanities, History, and Social Sciences. Corey told Chehade to teach his course in a more “balanced” manner, and then Columbia College withdrew one section of his course just hours after it had been made available to students registering for classes.

“Academic freedom entails not only the right to speak from a particular perspective, but the freedom from being compelled to engage in a particular type of speech,” said Chehade. “The frequent demand from apologists for Israeli colonialism that any discussion of the conflict be ‘balanced’ would be considered absurd in most other contexts. For example, must every presentation about the African-American civil rights movement include a speaker who will attempt to justify the denial of these rights?”

Student and faculty supporters of Chehade and all those interested in the principle of academic freedom are circulating a petition (, holding March 11 and 12 call-in days to Columbia College administrators, and hosting a March 20 public forum entitled “Why is Palestine taboo at Columbia College?” (

The March 20 forum features Prof. Iymen Chehade; Ali Abunimah, America’s best known advocate for Palestinian rights and author most recently of The Battle for Justice in Palestine; John Wilson of the American Association of University Professors-Illinois; and Columbia college students Ava Ginsburg and Ahmed Hamad, who are both members of Students for Justice in Palestine/Jewish Voice for Peace at Columbia College. After the speaker presentations, there will be ample time for audience discussion and debate.

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Putin’s Crimea is Not Hungary 1956 or Czechoslovakia in 1968

Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin’s expanded presence in the Crimean Peninsula is a far cry from the Soviet invasions during the Cold War that prohibited Hungary and Czechoslovakia from replacing pro-Soviet governments with more independent-minded entities such as the repression of the Prague Spring. Even those invasions with the Red Army were understandable given the aggressive Kennanesque containment policy that the west had orchestrated to destabilise the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. George Frost Kennan wanted to contain Soviet power with American and allied power and to establish a military encirclement of Russia or at least key geostrategic areas. While Kennan would later disavow any such prescription of geopolitics, his Long Telegram and X Article in Foreign Affairs clearly contravene the author’s attempt at deceitful revisionism. They were a call for aggressive containment of a nation that had just recently suffered a loss of some twenty-six million dead during the Great Patriotic War (World War II).

In Ukraine, a US-European Union supported revolution overthrew the democratically elected government of Viktor Yanukovych. This is a far cry from the circumstances in Eastern Europe in Hungary and the former Czechoslovakia. The Crimea has a majority of Russian speaking, Russian-ethnic Ukrainians: this majority welcomed the Russian expansion of influence and is on the verge of a possible vote for independence and subsequent incorporation within the Russian Federation. Their right to assert the principle of self-determination is nuanced enough to challenge President Obama’s dismissal of self-determination in this instance as illegal and a violation of international law.

Russia has severed Crimea from Ukraine; it is unlikely that it will be incorporated into a post-revolutionary Ukraine. That is much different, however, from the Hungary and Prague Spring uprisings that was suppressed by the Red Army with a general occupation of significant areas of those nation-states. Vladimir Putin’s penetration is a measured response in terms of tactics used and territory acquired. It has not  spread into other areas of the Eastern portion of Ukraine and I suspect they will not unless violent actions against Russian ethnic occurs.

Putin’s assertion is dubious at best that Russian soldiers are not in Crimea but instead paramilitary forces without insignias are establishing order. Nevertheless, it is an indication of an effort to minimise the perception of an invasion and to indicate that Russia does not desire the annexation or domination of all of Ukraine. Putin is cutting his losses. The United States is the responsible party for these developments. The unrelenting expansion of N.A.T.O. has taken us to this point, in which Ukraine assumes an importance far beyond what would otherwise be necessary. It is the most significant nation on Russia’s western frontier that is not incorporated into N.A.T.O. Had N.A.T.O. enlargement not been pursued by Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton, Putin would not have felt the urgency of avoiding the loss of his last major non-N.A.T.O. member in the near abroad.

It is true that many nations that border the Russian Federation are non-N.A.T.O. members. Finland does not belong to N.A.T.O. Belarus does not belong to N.A.T.O. Yet Ukraine is surrounded by many N.A.T.O. member states: Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania were added to N.A.T.O. despite the demise of communism without bloodshed. The only neighboring nation of Ukraine, that does not share a common border with Russia and is not part of the anti-Russian alliance, is Moldova. Therefore, Vladimir Putin not unreasonably construed the loss of Ukraine as a strategic disaster as the Cold War never really ended for the US and N.A.T.O. It sought more containment and penetration of Russian spheres of influence. A Russian red line appears to have been drawn and has led to its determination to maintain its centuries old fleet in the Baltic and its historic ties to Crimea.

N.A.T.O. could end this crisis by declaring that Ukraine will not be invited into the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Ukraine could establish a unity government with Russian and Ukrainian components. Russia could be given guarantees that, until there is new thinking in the world that challenges militaries and the use of force as a legitimate option, it would retain its Black Sea Fleet and its military presence on bases in Crimea. Russia would continue to pump natural gas and oil through the pipelines and maintain discounts for Ukraine. The west would stop its babbling about visas and other sanctions.

Ukraine is now a divided nation, and will remain so. Whether it will function as a single entity or lose portions of it to Russia or to independence minded Russian Ukrainians will be determined in part whether the capitalist west is willing to abandon its Cold War mentality. Putin’s willingness to accept some sovereignty for Crimea within the context of significant security guarantees is also a key component for a deal that can be struck.

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Defeat Reactionary Illinois Legislation to Censor Human Rights Advocacy

The A.A.U.P. opposes ethnocentric, anti-boycott. McCarthyism legislation targeted at institutions or persons who may associate with, may have participated in or dared to support a boycott of Israel’s policies in the West Bank and Gaza. This is type of rule through xenophobic racism and bias should be resisted as illegitimate authority. We need our own uprising, our own coup to overthrow the notion of American exceptionalism!
From:  <>
Sent: Tuesday, March 04, 2014 9:35 AM
To: ASA Staff
Subject: ACTION ALERT– Immediate Action Needed: Stop Passage of Bill in IL State Legislature to Defund Public Universities because of Faculty Political Speech


Immediate Action Needed: Stop Passage of Bill in IL State Legislature to Defund Public Universities because of Faculty Political Speech

IL State Senator Ira Silverstein has introduced a bill - [/owa/]SB 3017 -( that would prohibit public universities and colleges from using any state funds on groups that have made statements in support of, or that participate in boycotts of Israeli academic institutions.  Universities that do so would lose all of their state funding for that year. For instance, state aid could not be used for travel, lodging or membership dues for a faculty member attending the conference of an academic association that made a statement in support of a boycott of Israel. This law will lay the groundwork for other attempts to silence debate and opposition on other controversial issues.
Legislation similar to this has been introduced in New York and Maryland and in the U.S. Congress, and in some states non-binding resolutions have also been brought to the legislative bodies. These are all part of an effort to target and punish the American Studies Association (ASA) because it recently passed a resolution endorsing an academic boycott of Israeli academic institutions. Wherever these bills are being introduced, they are being met with active campaigns challenging the constitutionality of the legislation. 
Things in the IL legislature are moving quickly. The Higher Education Committee of the State Senate will hold a hearing on this bill as early as TODAY, Tuesday March 4, 2014Even though time is short, we need to make sure the members of that committee hear from as many people as possible. 
Now is the time for action! This assault on free speech and academic freedom must be stopped today! 

1) Contact your State Senators that are members of the Higher Education Committee. 
See a list of Committee members’ contact information and Talking Points below.
2)  If your State Senator is not in the Higher Education Committee, contact, in this order:
·         FIRST:  State Senate President, John Cullerton (D). CALL (217) 782-2728.
·         SECOND: Chairman of the Higher Education Committee, Senator Michael W. Frerichs (D). CALL (217) 782-2507.
3) Help spread the word.
·  Share this message as widely and as quickly as you can!
·  Try to get this information to people throughout the state…it important that this be a state-wide effort.
·  Send a letter to the editor in your local paper to express your opposition to this legislation.
I am calling to oppose the Higher Education Committee Amendment 1 to Senate Bill 3017.
This amendment proposes that the legislature defund an Illinois state university which provides funds for membership, travel or lodging for any employee to attend activities of an academic entity which has issued a public resolution or statement supporting boycotting a country which is a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) or higher education institutions in that country.
  • This bill is unconstitutional because the Supreme Court has ruled that boycotts are protected First Amendment activities.
  • The State cannot deny funding to universities because certain legislators don’t like the views that faculty and staff are expressing through protected First Amendment activities like boycotts.
  • Legislative intrusion in academic decision-making undermines academics’ abilities to associate and exchange views with their colleagues.
  • It is fiscally irresponsible and unconstitutional to condition funding for the Illinois university system on the university’s censorship of academic associations’ political viewpoints.
Illinois Senate Higher Education Committee:
Chair: Senator Michael W. Frerichs (D) 52nd District  (note: former teacher)
CALL Springfield Office (217) 782-2507
District Office: 45 E. University Avenue, Suite 206 Champaign, IL  61820
Vice Chair: Senator Pat McGuire (D) 43rd District (note: former teacher and school board member)
CALL Springfield Office (217) 782-8800
District Office: 2200 Weber Road Crest Hill, IL  60403
Senator Daniel Biss (D) 9th District  (note: lives in Evanston – former U of C math professor)
CALL Springfield Office (217) 782-2119
District Office: 3706 Dempster Street Skokie, IL  60076
Senator Melinda Bush (D) 31st District
CALL Springfield Office (217) 782-7353
District Office: 10 North Lake Street, Suite 112, Grayslake, IL  60030
Senator Dan Kotowski (D) 28th District
CALL Springfield Office:  (217) 782-3875
District Office: 350 S. Northwest Highway, Suite 300 Park Ridge, IL  60068
Senator Kimberly A. Lightford (D) 4th District
CALL Springfield Office:  (217) 782-8505
District Office:  10001 West Roosevelt Rd Suite 202 Westchester, IL  60154
Senator Andy Manar (D) 48th District
CALL Springfield Office:  (217) 782-0228
District Office 103 West Main Street P.O. Box 33 Staunton, IL  62088
Senator John M. Sullivan (D) 47th District
CALL Springfield Office:  (217) 782-2479
District Office 926 Broadway, Suite 6 Quincy, IL  62301
Senator Chapin Rose (R) 51st District
CALL Springfield Office: (217) 558-1006
District Office 510 S. Staley Road, Suite D Champaign, IL  61822
Senator David S. Luechtefeld (R) 58th District (note: former teacher)
CALL Springfield Office:  (217) 782-8137
District Office 700 North Front Street Okawville, IL  62271
Senator Wm. Sam McCann (R) 50th District
CALL Springfield Office:  (217) 782-8206
District Office: 221 Dunlap Court Jacksonville, IL  62650
Senator Kyle McCarter (R) 54th District
CALL Springfield Office:  (217) 782-5755
District Office: 310 W. Gallatin Vandalia, IL  62471
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Secretary Kerry, Memory and Russia in Ukraine

Secretary of State John Kerry has accused the Russian Federation of behaving in a nineteenth-century manner as a result of its military movements in Crimea. Note: it could hardly be called an invasion in a nineteenth-century sense since Russian troops were already deployed there on base. True they fanned out into areas of the Crimean Peninsula so perhaps this is a mini-invasion. In any event, Kerry’s effort to characterise Russian actions as reminiscent of large land-based armies invading its neighbors two centuries ago is exaggerated, fulmination rhetoric with a faulty memory of history.

Then Senator Kerry in 2003 voted for exactly the type of invasion he now purportedly loathes when he supported the authorisation to use force by war criminal President George Herbert Walker Bush. This was followed by criminal invasion of Iraq in a nazi style attack. Secretary Kerry coveting the Democratic Party nomination in 2004 supported the blatant lies of the Bush Administration that Iraq possessed biological and chemical weapons and was on the verge breakout in nuclear weapons’s deployment. I was not astonished by such hypocrisy but noted that his thrice repeated comment on Sunday talk shows was not challenged or compared to post-nineteenth century US acts of aggressive and unjust war.

Crimea is not Iraq. Crimea was historically Russian. Iraq was not part of the American empire. Crimea has a majority Russian-ethnic population with many born in the Russian Federation. Iraq was Muslim nation without an American-historic presence. President Vladimir Putin has claimed the majority population in Crimea require Russian protection. Well that may or may not have been a figleaf for geopolitical penetration but 1983 according to my calendar is in the twentieth century–the LATE twentieth century. That is when the United States President Ronald Reagan invaded Grenada, a tiny island in the Caribbean to protect supposedly upper-class privileged American medical students studying at St. George’s Medical School. They needed no protection; it was a lie in order to direct the political future of Grenada following  a coup that deposed Prime Minister Maurice Bishop. Russian actions in Crimea followed a coup that removed a democratically elected president: Victor Yanukovych.

Look carefully, and you may find the tiny nation of Grenada that the US invaded in 1983.

Crimea is 10,077 sq miles. Chicago is 234 sq miles. Grenada is 132.8 sq miles. Get the picture? Americans killed Grenadians; thus far the Russian troops have harmed no one. Secretary of State Kerry’s expressed horror at Russian actions is propaganda and a blatant revisionist history–revisionist history is wondrous when accurate–that ignores much worse twentieth and twenty-first century transgressions on the part of the United States. Mr Kerry’s rightward path from Vietnam Veteran Against the War, the Winter Soldier Investigation to ignoring subsequent American war crimes as he rose to power is despicable and a clear path in examining his cynicism and venality as an individual.

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Putin’s Restraint in Ukraine


Russian Federation Black Sea Fleet in Crimea, Ukraine. Its only other military base outside its homeland is at Tartus, Syria in the eastern Mediterranean. We need to abolish bases and militaries but in the meantime, Russia feels overly “contained” by the west.

I have been watching RT cable: the Russian cable network that is clearly representative of Kremlin views but very professionally managed with excellent on-air talent. Even C-SPAN has been rebroadcasting some of its programming such as exiled President Viktor Yanukovych’s press conference in a mall in Rostov-on-Don. It is quite informative but nevertheless is uncritically accepting of the Russian Federation’s expansion of its pre-existing military presence to Crimea. A peninsula in the southern part of Ukraine that the czars possessed centuries ago. In 1954 First Secretary of the Communist Party Nikita Khrushchev, shortly after he came to power, gave it to Ukraine without anticipating that Ukraine would achieve independence in a post-Soviet world.

I also watched Face the Nation, Meet the Press with the ever-smiling militarist David Gregory and ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos. While the ever-present voluble Secretary of State John Kerry appeared on all three shows but not on FOX, I noticed none had a Russian official or Russian-ethnic expert from Ukraine. All the guests and panelists were American and none analysed the Russian perspective on a coup that voided  the election of a democratically elected president. The commentary was shallow, elementary and a failure in educating the public on the rather complex nuances of Russia geopolitics and their restraint in its application.

Vladimir Putin’s army has not fired a shot. There has been no bloodshed. Russian army units have not dispersed outside of Crimea with a 58% Russian-ethnic population that adores Russia and seeks its support. Russian troops have not stormed into the eastern part of Ukraine that also contains significant populations of Russian-speaking ethnics. While the entire focus of the US media has been on the chess-match between President Obama and Putin and what the former can do to roll back Russian penetration of the peninsula, none has engaged in an objective analysis of the problem or Russian restraint. The Cold War cometh again in the eyes of those who seek confrontation with Russia. Putin does not desire a return to such a position of tension but he is determined to maintain the territorial integrity of Russia and to pick his areas of forward defence. N.A.T.O. enlargement to twenty-eight nations I have argued is the source of Russian unease and this action is an attempt to forestall further western penetration of traditional spheres of Russian influence.

Under the circumstances, Russia has acted with restraint and so should the imperial west. President Putin is supporting legitimate self-determination efforts in the Crimea. He has received permission to protect Russian-ethnics in the eastern part of Ukraine from the Federation Council–the upper house–should that decision unlikely be made. Such permission may indeed temper the furor of the revolution that drove President Yanukovych into Russian exile for the”mass murder” of less than a 100 partisans. All deaths are to be mourned but mass murder charges suggests an irrational response on the part of the coup that drove him from power. Governments have traditionally spilled more blood than that to protect its legitimacy and right to govern. Russia’s expansion of influence in Crimea may have a salutary effect in calming down the coup, establishing a clear message that Russian-ethnics are not to be persecuted in the east and creating a status quo of reasonable stability.

It is hoped that Russian restraint so far will remain that way: That a ruling coalition of Ukraine and Russian partisans can govern. That the Crimea referendum of inevitable self-determination and autonomy will be respected by Kiev and the American government that hypocritically supported Kosovo independence from Serbia.

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Understanding Russia’s Interests in Ukraine

It would be better if nations acted in the global interest and not in the national interest. Realism, neorealism are immoral in theory and in practice. Understanding President Putin’s desires to prevent the loss of Crimea within his sphere of influence and the Black Sea fleet is essential in avoiding untoward escalation of this crisis between two nuclear powers with the capacity to obliterate human life on this planet.

Yalta Crimea Conference in February 4-11, 1945, Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin. F.D.R. would die within two months. The Crimea was part of the U.S.S.R. Ceded to Ukraine in 1954.

I blame the N.A.T.O. enlargement policies of the post-Cold War presidents from Bush I to Clinton to war criminal Bush II. The end of history as some predicted with the demise of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1991 and the breach of the Berlin Wall in Germany were used by the United States to continue its strategic madness of containment of Russia. In pursuit of gratuitous hegemonic empire, new nations in the former near abroad joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation such as Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia. N.A.T.O., a terrorist organisation established in 1949 to feed the nuclear arms race and protect the so-called inner-German border should have disbanded: true peace should have come to Europe. Not merely the absence of war, but a true peace based upon not enlargement but extending the “Common Market,” “European Community” concept all the way to Vladivostok should have materialised. Russia appropriately construed that its imperial demise was used by the imperialistic forces in Washington to increase its eastward penetration of the continent. The Cold War ended only in Russia thanks to President Gorbachev; it continued unabated in Washington and its acolyte capitals from London to Berlin.

Ukraine represents, therefore, one of the few areas of influence that the Russian Federation still possessed in the near abroad or its former republics. The continued containment of Russia was used by the west through N.A.T.O. as a post-cold war hegemonic battering ram bringing western forces closer to the Russian border with accompanying insane ballistic missile defence systems. These events are the precursors to Russian penetration of Crimea and possibly areas of eastern Ukraine as well. The sixty-one year old Vladimir Putin is no angel to be sure; he is a homophobe, suppresses groups such as Pussy Riot and I am sure, as does the sinister N.S.A. spies on his citizens. Leaders of great powers rarely are interested in freedom except as a ruse to deny it for aggressive purposes. Yet President Putin has determined that a line has to be drawn in Crimea where western penetration in the post-Cold War period will be resisted.

Yet aside from geostrategic analysis, there is the legitimate competing principal of self-determination. If a majority of Ukrainians (Russians) in the autonomous region of Crimea and in eastern parts of Ukraine desire independence and an alignment with Russia, that needs to be respected. Many sections or regions of nations chafe at a lack of sovereignty: Scotland will have its vote; Quebec has had theirs. While the United States during its civil war did not permit secession, an argument can still be made that sectionalism should trump nationalism and that regional self-determination that varies with the central authority of a nation should be respected. I doubt if the planned referendum in Crimea will result with a popular sentiment to support the Ukraine Maidan movement with  closer ties with the European Union. Given that fact, Russian efforts to insure that the vox populi in Crimea will be respected could cast a far different light on the outcome of Russia’s intervention into Ukraine. Will western media present the Russian viewpoint or merely cast this as a puerile test of wills between Putin and President Barack Hussein Obama.

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University of Illinois at Chicago Strike Details for Tomorrow

This email was from Howard Bunsis, AAUP-Collective Bargaining Congress Chair,
Eastern Michigan University

As you likely know, the UIC faculty are going on strike
tomorrow, Tuesday, February 18th and Wednesday, February 19th.
I am here at UIC now, along with Kira Schuman of our organizing department.

Picketing starts at 9am tomorrow, and there are
some rallies during the day.

Strike headquarters during the day is at the Hull House:
800 S Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 413-5353

Strike headquarters at night is at the AFT office i
850 West Jackson, suite 220

All of the logistics are at:

If you could post this to the Illinois AAUP conference website or pass this around, it would
be greatly appreciated

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A.A.U.P. Illinois Conference Supports University of Illinois Chicago Faculty Strike

One-hundred twenty years ago, Eugene Victor Debs, socialist leader and presidential candidate, led the great Pullman Strike in Chicago in 1894. Image added by blog.

February 14, 2014

The Illinois conference of the American Association of University Professors expresses our strong support for the faculty at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and their right to form the U.I.C. United Faculty. We regret that the failure of the administration to negotiate in good faith with the faculty union makes a faculty strike necessary.

As the A.A.U.P. notes in its statement on collective bargaining, “As a national organization that has historically played a major role in formulating and implementing the principles that govern relationships in academic life, the Association promotes collective bargaining to reinforce the best features of higher education. The principles of academic freedom and tenure, fair procedures, faculty participation in governance, and the primary responsibility of the faculty for determining academic policy will thereby be secured. Moreover, collective bargaining gives the faculty an effective voice in decisions that vitally affect its members’ professional well-being, such as the allocation of financial resources and determination of faculty salaries and benefits. For these reasons, the Association supports efforts of local chapters to pursue collective bargaining.” Furthermore, the statement specifically notes that “Where a faculty chooses collective bargaining, the trustees and administration have a corresponding obligation to bargain in good faith with the faculty-selected representative and should not resort to litigation or any other means intended to avoid this obligation.”

Another core principle of a university is shared governance, where the faculty has a voice in the running of the institution. One key aspect of shared governance is that faculty chooses its own representatives, and the administration cooperates with those representatives. That aspect of shared governance includes the right of the faculty to form a union, and the administration is obligated to work with any faculty-chosen union.

The U.I.C. administration needs to respect academic freedom and shared governance, and negotiate in earnest with the faculty’s chosen union representation.​

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