Updated: Chicago Sun-Times Weighs in on Finkelstein Tenure Case

The Chicago-Sun Times ran a story today on the Finkelstein tenure case. I present my reaction, excerpts and a link to the story.

{Let us hope that DePaul University, as the article suggests, indeed resents external efforts to influence its internal tenure-review process as is so unprofessionally waged by Alan M. Dershowits, Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard. Denise Mattson, a university relations spokeswoman, asserts in the article the university’s recoiling against the politicisation of a tenure case. I have always said in my covering of this case and providing exclusive coverage of some of its key developments, that a university must assert sovereignty in tenure decisions. Furthermore, the professorate’s assessment should prevail over both contrary external and internal-adminsitrative positions unless there is compelling and extraordinary reasons to reverse them. The Department of Political Science and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ Personnel Committee have recommended Dr Finkelstein for promotion and tenure. The school dean, Chuck Suchar, did not in a memorandum that was primarily focusing on the tone of Dr Finkelstein’s research and utterly dismissed the recommendations of faculty bodies. DePaul I believe is sensing that the integrity of its internal due process review is at issue here as well as its need to protect the academic freedom of controversial professors who otherwise satisfy the requirements for promotion and tenure.

Yet the article, which is presented as news and NOT as an editorial, does make an egregious and unprofessional assertion. It states “anti-Israel groups and academic freedom advocates” have supported Dr Finkelstein. The use of the phrase anti-Israel suggests that those who advocate a more even-handed approach in resolving the Israel-Palestine question or who are critical of Israel’s interminable occupation of Palestine or who condemn the terror war of last July against Lebanon or who demand greater freedom in challenging Israeli foreign policy are anti-Israel. Does Mr Newbart believe that those who criticise the Bush administration are anti-American? Does he believe that no one can criticise Israel unless they desire its destruction or its elimination as a state? Criticism of a nation or any political polity does not mean that the motivation is to undermine that entity but may indeed be a challenge to act in a more progressive, humanistic manner.

I also find it bemusing that Professor Dershowitz is characterised as a “civil rights lawyer.” I do not recall this person as working for the Legal Defense Fund of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and certainly do not construe his hawkish, prowar rejection of the CIVIL and HUMAN RIGHTS of the oppressed Arab majorities in Palestine as indicative of “civil rights” advocacy.}


Norman G. Finkelstein, Ph.D.

These are excerpts:

May 14, 2007

“Tenure or trouble? DePaul professor accuses some Jews of exploiting their suffering”
BY DAVE NEWBART Staff Reporter
/dnewbart@suntimes.com

It seems unlikely the late martial artist Bruce Lee ever weighed in publicly on the crisis in the Middle East or reparations for Holocaust victims, but clips from his movies now appear prominently on a Web site that is at the center of those debates.

That Web site, run by DePaul assistant political science Professor Norman Finkelstein, features clips of Lee kicking and punching interspersed with less lively clips of a debate between Finkelstein and Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz.

Finkelstein — the son of Holocaust survivors — has accused some prominent Jews of exploiting their suffering to blunt criticism of Jews and the state of Israel. He also accuses some survivors of conducting a “shakedown” to get payments from Germany. Dershowitz, author of The Case for Israel, says Finkelstein’s writings are full of distortions about Jews in general and himself in particular, and says Finkelstein’s scholarship is full of insults but little substance…

DePaul officials say this is the most attention the school has ever received on what is normally a closed-door process. And they don’t like it: “DePaul doesn’t welcome unsolicited outside input,” said spokeswoman Denise Mattson.

Mattson assured the attention won’t affect the school’s decision, but some are not so sure.

Earlier this year, DePaul’s political science faculty voted 9 to 3 in favor of his tenure bid after a committee said it found Dershowitz’s charges unsubstantiated. In one case singled out by the civil rights lawyer, the committee said Finkelstein wasn’t guilty of academic misconduct but of merely advancing an argument that “may be more appropriately seen as weak or overstated…”

For the rest of this story:

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