An E-Mail Exchange with Conservative David Horowitz on Professors Finkelstein, Churchill Academic Freedom Cases

David Horowitz, a leading conservative critic of higher education, debated me on the Iraq War and academic freedom in March 2006. He also included me in his book, The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America. He recently wrote its sequel, Indoctrination U., and has sent me a couple of autographed copies. I e-mailed him an acknowledgement and this induced a response from the editor of

From: Kirstein, Peter N.
To: David Horowitz
Sent: Thursday, June 21, 2007 11:38 AM

Hello David:

I have received not one but two autographed copies of your latest work on higher education, Indoctrination U. I will be using it in a paper I am giving at a rather conservative forum in October at the Palmer House. The Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces and Society was founded by Morris Janowitz at the University of Chicago and is a leading purveyor of military strategy and thinking. I am giving a paper on academic freedom and the militarisation of American life.

I saw an interview you did on the Finkelstein case with some Canadian blogger but noted a surprising absence of coverage in Frontpagemag. This will become the most important academic freedom case since the McCarthy Era and I hope you will take sides on this matter. Also if Ward [Churchill, University of Colorado] is fired in July, I hope you will defend him as well. He was after all a debating partner of yours and you claim to defend academic freedom for all regardless of ideology.

Here are two instances for you to achieve greatness and indeed adopt a non-partisan approach. FIRE did with me as well as the National Association of Scholars and saved my job.

I was disappointed to be excluded from Indoctrination U. but I am working hard to make your next narrative of the evils of the left-wing hegemony in the humanities and social sciences. If only it were so–for at least a day!!

Best wishes,


From: David Horowitz [mailto:dhorowitz@xxxxxxxx]
Sent: Thu 6/21/2007 2:03 PM
To: Kirstein, Peter N.

Hi Peter,

I guess I wanted to make sure you weren’t left off my list of complimentary copies. Please share your extra copy with a worthy leftist colleague. I always appreciate your civility in dealing with political opponents (with one military exception). Please don’t feel that you were “excluded” from the text. I had to work within constraints as to length imposed by the publisher book and had to shape its content accordingly. I think there is something to be said for shorter books and in this case it seems to have worked well.

Having not reviewed Finkelstein’s academic output, I am unable to pass judgment on the question of whether he has the academic credentials or achievements to qualify for a tenured position. However, if you look at the 1940 AAUP statement on academic freedom and academic tenure you will see the following paragraph:

College and university teachers are citizens, members of a learned profession, and officers of an educational institution. When they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but their special position in the community imposes special obligations. As scholars and educational officers, they should remember that the public may judge their profession and their institution by their utterances. Hence they should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others, and should make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution.

It is quite clear to me that Finkelstein has not deported himself publicly as a scholar. In my view, the university is probably within its rights, therefore, in denying him tenure on these grounds.

Unlike the Finkelstein case, where there are assessments of scholarship which I do not have the information to make and judgments of deportment which are bound to be subjective, the case of Ward Churchill is quite clear cut. As you know I have publicly defended Churchill’s right to make an ass of himself on the Internet — that is a First Amendment privilege of every citizen. Academically speaking, however, Churchill lacked the credentials for the faculty position he was hired for in the first place. He has now been judged by a panel of his liberal academic peers to have plagiarized material, falsified evidence, and failed to observe scholarly standards. What more needs to be said?

The evils of leftist hegemony in the humanities is a worthy subject, but it is not and has never been the agenda of my academic freedom campaign. If you read the introduction to my book The Professors carefully, you will be the first leftist to do so and will find that point of view is nowhere presented as a problem. The problem is the suppression of points of view that challenge the professor’s orthodoxy and of course academic charlantry as in the case of Churchill and many of the others I have profiled.

From: Kirstein, Peter N. Sent: Thu 6/21/2007 4:05 PM
To: David Horowitz

Dear David:

If I may respond to some of your points. Your quotation from the 1940 Statement is accurate but it was never intended to be used to suppress advocacy, emotion or even anger. If one were to proscribe such traits, I believe Alan M. Dershowitz, Frankfurter Professor of Law and Professor Steven Plaut, could be easily dismissed from their academic appointments if there were to be a universality of decorum sanctions. I think both could be charged with not “exercising appropriate restraint,” and not “showing the respect for the opinion of others.” Yet the 1940 Statement does not mandate or even call for banishment, suspension or coercive measures. Indeed, there would be few professors left in higher education if such requirements were enforced in a universal manner. [Ed: Professor Plaut teaches business, not politics, in Israel but my point remains despite his non-U.S. appointment.]

No I don’t think this is an issue of civility. It is an issue of academic freedom in which an alleged lack of civility and lack of collegiality are not to be censored. Dr Finkelstein’s scholarship was carefully vetted by his department’s personnel committee and charges of academic misconduct and dishonesty by Dershowitz, Novick and Goldhagen were not found to be accurate. His most recent work Beyond Chutzpah was published by a leading university press: University of California. There was an unprecendeted campaign led by Dr Finkelstein’s ideological opponents to deny him tenure because of his views, not because of their mode of expression.

Also Dr Finkelstein’s denial of tenure is an effort to silence critics of the State of Israel and those who oppose its occupation and continual expansion of Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank and the Golan Heights. It is essential that America remain an open society in which different views, even on Israel or reexamining the Holocaust, are presented. The current state of affairs is a drift from First Amendment protection to politicising the tenure review process in which a patriotically correct ideological litmus test is required.

In the case of Ward Churchill, several independent inquiries have raised serious questions concerning the process in which his research was vetted and the conclusions that were reached. Many have questioned the absence of Native Americans from the panel and the degree of alleged misconduct in his small-pox transmittal allegations. I admit I have not independently scrutinised or examined the debate over his use of sources, or claims of authorship. Yet given the fact that the investigation would NOT have occurred had he not been attacked for his writings about the World Trade Center casualties on September 11, I think there is more than adequate information to sustain the charge that Professor Churchill is being threatened with a likely dismissal due to his political views and not his alleged scholarly transgressions.

I appreciated your response and wanted to amplify my previous statements.



From: David Horowitz [dhorowitz@xxxxxxxx] Sent: Fri 6/22/2007 7:57 AM
To: Kirstein, Peter N.

Dear Peter,

You are correct about the 1940 AAUP statement and if it was used in the Finklestein case to suppress advocacy that would be wrong. As I said in my previous email, that is a subjective judgment which will vary from university administration to university administration. I did not follow the bitter controversy between Finkelstein and Dershowitz — but the judgment in each case will be made by different administrations and your point is irrelevant to the Finkelstein matter itself. If you break a speeding law and get fined, you cannot base an appeal on the fact that someone else did it too and got away with it. There is also the matter of the specific codes of DePaul as a Catholic institution. In any case, it is more than a little hypocritical for leftists to institute a nationwide blacklist of conservatives, make them a miniscule minority on many fields, suppress them entirely in fields like Women’s Studies and Peace Studies and African American Studies, and then complain about academic freedom when their ox is gored.

Finkelstein is a fascist and an enabler of the genocide which Muslim Arabs are openly planning against the Jews of the Middle East, so please spare me the victim pleading in his behalf. The Middle Easter Studies leftists have purged defenders of the Jews from their field across the board. Open anti-Semites dominate such departments at elite schools like Columbia. Leaders of the AAUP make terrorists and Jew-haters like Sami al-Arian and jihadists like Tariq Ramadan their poster children for academic freedom while allowing defenders of the Jews like Thomas Klocek to be summarily sacked from the same institution at which Finkelstein teaches.

You are right that the investigation of Churchill occurred only because of the public outcry over his Internet articles. That is Colorado’s disgrace. He should have been fired for academic fraud and incompetence years ago. He should never have been hired, since he had no credible academic credential to begin with and lied about his ethnicity in applying for an affirmative action job. The judgment of his academic peers is just. Better late than never.

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