Additional Aspects of Finkelstein-Larudee Academic Freedom Struggle at DePaul University

1) Apparently the vote of the DePaul University Board on Promotion and Tenure was also four to three (4-3) in a non-recommendation of tenure for Dr Mehrene A. Larudee, assistant professor of international studies. They had voted four to three against the application of Dr Norman G. Finkelstein for promotion and tenure. The president of DePaul, Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M. used these majority votes as a cover essentially to deny tenure to both professors. While normally a president should accept the recommendation of a faculty committee, they are not mandated to do so particularly if there is the appearance, or indeed extremely strong evidence, of bias and inattention to widely accepted norms of academic freedom. Also with such evidence of a divided committee, presidential action would have been more defensible had he sided with the minority of that panel, the Department of Political Science, the Department of Political Science Personnel Committee and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ Personnel Committee that supported tenure for Professors Finkelstein and Larudee. Dean Suchar, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, supported Professor Larudee but not Dr Finkelstein’s bid for tenure.

DePaul Students on YouTube Academic Freedom Videos.

2) DePaul University students have been unusually intrepid and bold in asserting themselves in demanding academic freedom for their professors. They have conducted sit-ins, hunger fasting, suppportive rallies and created websites devoted to the issues of academic freedom, due process and progressive humanistic causes. They are planning a major conference on academic freedom at the first weekend in February 1-2, 2008. While in the formative stages, it is indicative of a sustained effort on the part of DePaul students to put critical thinking into practice. If we emphasise, as professors, the value of critical thinking, then it is our duty to support students who display activist methods in its implementation.

DePaul students opposing war as a means of corporate enrichment.

I have also been more than flattered to have been contacted by several of them. Being a non-DePaul faculty person and not having any interaction with these students prior to these events, it is rewarding and perhaps somewhat uncommon for a professor–besides exploited migratory adjuncts–to have contacts with students on more than her or his campus. As I have said elsewhere, we are, as professors and students, part of the “academy” and, hence, our destinies are mutually tied as we seek social justice and the protection of both student and faculty academic freedom. I suppose they probably know a little bit about my academic history, as it were, and construe their efforts as broader than seeking academic justice for merely two persecuted professors; namely they are seeking a sense of community and support for their noble efforts. I understand they have spoken to Noam Chomsky which is testimony to their status and knowledge of the paragon of academic brilliance and courage.

3) There has been some debate whether DePaul University has a review-appeal process concerning faculty who have been denied promotion and/or tenure. Apparently in the case of Dr Finkelstein, he is seeking, at the minimum, review of the administration’s decision through DePaul’s appeal procedures via their Faculty Council. I do not know if either professor at this point has decided to seek a formal Committee A review of the American Association of University Professors. I would think such an action would serve the academy well and present Professors Finkelstein and Larudee the opportunity to seek a stronger and more vibrant academic atmosphere at DePaul: namely to insure that such egregious denial of academic freedom on the basis of spurious charges of lack of collegiality (Finkelstein) and political engagement cannot be allowed to cast a pall of orthodoxy on their campus. Normally such a review takes place after all internal procedures have been exhausted but with the president’s action and the administration’s position that their decision is beyond internal appeal, such inquiries would be judicious, in my estimation, at this stage.

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