News Release

Academic Freedom Being Debated; Denial of Tenure Sparks Student Unrest

Inside Higher Education reports that Professor Norman Finkelstein’s tenure bid, while “backed by his department and a collegewide faculty committee,” was denied by the president of DePaul University.

Professor Finkelstein, whose parents survived the Holocaust, has been a critic of Israeli policies and what he dubbed the “Holocaust industry.” Inside Higher Education notes that “while most tenure processes are layered, several people at DePaul said it was unusual for tenure candidates there to advance several steps in the review process only to be rejected.”

ZACHARY LOCKMAN
Lockman is a professor in the Department of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at New York University. He is former president of the Middle East Studies Association. Last April he wrote a letter to the president of DePaul University in which he stated: “We fear that the generally accepted academic procedures which should have been used to evaluate Professor Finkelstein’s scholarship, and thus his qualifications for promotion to tenure, may have been unduly politicized.”

Lockman added: “According to a Chronicle of Higher Education story dated 5 April 2007, [Harvard] Professor [Alan] Dershowitz has admitted to sending a dossier critical of Professor Finkelstein to members of DePaul’s Law School and of its political science department. We regard this blatant and entirely unsolicited intervention in a tenure case by a very well-known faculty member from a different university as unacceptable. … This intervention is particularly distressing because it comes at a time when we have witnessed other instances of efforts by individuals or organizations to influence hiring, tenure or promotion decisions, based not on the candidate’s scholarship but rather on his or her political views, real or imputed.”

VICTOR LANG
Lang, a student at DePaul University, said today: “We have been here since Monday morning. … We have set up an office here so that DePaul students can come in and write letters to the president.”

“After a meeting between 30 student leaders and DePaul President Fr. Dennis Holtschneider at his office, we have taken action to defend academic freedom which is under attack at the nation’s largest Catholic institution. After an unsuccessful meeting where our demands were ignored by the administration, DePaul students are continuing their sit-in … through this week at the president’s office and plan to escalate action among the student body.”

ROBERT JENSEN
Jensen is an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin. He said today: “DePaul’s craven decision to deny a top scholar tenure is not simply a personal blow for Norman Finkelstein, but for all of higher education. It signals once again that concerns about ‘negative publicity’ that could adversely affect fundraising can easily trump first-rate research and teaching.

“Particularly troubling is the claim from DePaul’s president, the Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, that Finkelstein does not ‘respect and defend the free inquiry of associates.’ Nothing could be further from the truth. Finkelstein respects such inquiry more than the vast majority of academics, evidenced by his willingness to defend his work in public despite the abuse heaped on him. Finkelstein’s real ‘crime’ was to be a passionate advocate for truth.”
More Information

For more information, contact the Institute for Public Accuracy at (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan at (541) 484-9167.