I have received for months and have seen in the so-called blogosphere inquiries as to how I acquired certain information on the Finkelstein-Larudee academic freedom-tenure cases. The source that enabled me to first reveal the difficulties that Dr Norman Finkelstein was encountering in his bid for promotion and tenure, the now infamous Suchar Memorandum, was, to the best of my knowledge, not associated with DePaul University and has never had a relationship, standing or identification with the Chicago university. Also I have said repeatedly I have not had any contact with any of the principals of this case. That could change but that is the situation up to this point.
There has been some reflection on the role that a non-DePaul University academician should play in another institution’s personnel process. Ironically, that is what galvanised my interest due to the hurtful and rather bullying attempts of Professor Alan Dershowitz to silence his most formidable and talented critic. Yet there is a distinction between one who tries to destroy another academician’s career through a public media blitz, and one who reports on it to attempt, however unsuccessfully, to protect the academic freedom of another colleague. The academy is not just a name; it is an obligation to look out for one another. If one person, or in the case of DePaul, two extremely gifted and talented professors are forced to suffer grave academic setbacks due to political persecution or even defending the right of a colleague to publish and to advocate positions of national and international concern, then it is our responsibility it seems to me to not turn our backs in silence but to engage ourselves with honour, accuracy and conviction.
I know what controversy is. I am in David Horowitz, The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America, as is Professor Finkelstein, and was suspended for a strident anti-war e-mail to an Air Force Academy cadet in 2002. Professors are not perfect; we all, regardless of ideology, make mistakes but the penalty should not increase if they are construed as patriotically incorrect. Sometimes we embarrass or cause universities to reel in the limelight of controversy. Yet I am convinced that universities are best served if they censor speech or fire or otherwise sanction the non-conformist or the dissenter for only the most emergent and extraordinary circumstances. Universities can live with freedom; their administrations can live with freedom; their alumni and donors can live with freedom; their students and faculty must be seen as the principal partners in an academic environment in which only freedom, ACADEMIC FREEDOM, can sustain, nourish and protect. The DePaul University academic freedom crisis is not just one university’s battle for justice and a struggle to ensure compliance with A.A.U.P. requirements of due process and academic freedom. It is a battle to maintain the independence of the professorate in higher education and to avert a stifling and chilling conformity that would cast a lethal pall over our writings, our classrooms and our capacity to grow as teachers and scholars.