Controversy: Did Roosevelt University Chair Fire Professor For Allowing Discussion of Religion in Religion Course?

Press Release: Roosevelt University of Chicago, IL has fired a philosophy and religion professor for allowing students in his class to ask questions about Judaism and Islam. The chair of the department, Susan Weininger, fired the professor, Douglas Giles, saying that students should not be allowed to ask whatever questions they want in class. Weininger ordered Giles to censor his curriculum, restrict his students’ questions, and to not respond to controversial questions or comments from students.

Weininger said that free discussion in a world religions could “open up Judaism to criticism.” Any such material, she said, was not permissible to be mentioned in class discussion, textbooks, or examinations. Further, she ordered Giles to forbid any and all
discussion of the “Palestinian issue,” any mention of Palestinian rights, the Muslim belief in the holiness of Jerusalem, and Zionism. When Professor Giles refused to censor his students, Weininger fired him.

The Roosevelt Adjunct Faculty Organization (RAFO) filed a grievance on behalf of Giles citing the faculty contract forbidding the university from restricting academic freedom. Roosevelt University Associate Provost Louis Love denied the union’s claim saying that Weininger was entitled, as department chair, to set a professor’s curriculum and that this was not an academic freedom issue, but a “pedagogical issue.” RAFO has appealed the ruling to arbitration, confident that Prof. Giles’ academic freedom was violated and an impartial arbitrator would find this so.

This case is just one example of a growing trend of right-wing attempts to censor the academic freedom of professors and students. Here, a department chair who called all Palestinians “animals” and says college religion courses should teach that only Jews have a legitimate claim to the land of Israel, has fired a professor whose only “sins” were refusing to teach a biased class and allowing open discussion in hisclassroom. This can NOT be allowed to stand!

Students of Professor Giles have started a Yahoo Group to connect activists nationwide who want to help us force Roosevelt University to end censorship and reinstate Giles. More information is available at:

Kirstein comment: There might be considerable utility in requiring all department chairs to read Professor Walt and Mearsheimer’s article on the unwarranted influence of the Jewish Lobby and the lack of objectivity in dealing with issues concern Islam and Judaism. I am not suggesting that the “Lobby” was behind this auto da fe but it appears that the sounds of silence which forbid revisionism in analysing the horrors of the holocaust, David Irving in PRISON, and suppressing critical thinking that may challenge the purity of Judaism and the innocence of nuclear-armed Israel may be in play here.

I have experienced during my career a department chair who was quite critical of my teaching, my method of examination and a seminar topic I had chosen but I was able due to tenure to parry efforts to interfere with my teaching. It was before my suspension and was in the context of an ad hoc department inspired wildcat  post-tenure review. This is why adjuncts such as the one noted above are more susceptible to academic freedom violation and generally their rights as citizens. This is why tenure is dying by a thousand cuts with the explosion of non-tenure track lines in academe.

I have not indepedently explored the Weininger-Giles controversy but received via a listserve the above press release from a professor who was included, along with me, in David Horowitz, The Professors. The professor is a distinguished scholar in Islam and I am in solidarity with her. We need to dissuade those with power from arbitrarily destroying careers and derivatively abusing students who beneft from socially engaged teachers that welcome and promote student interaction in class.

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