Boycott DePaul

Posted by sepoy on June 14, 2007 · 7 mins read

Finkelstein's tenure denial rankles badly those of us determined to keep our visions of activist-scholarship intact in our academic careers. Are we to remain hostage to invested groups turning the screws on the 'controversy-shy' administration? Never. DePaul students and faculty are rallying around to protest and being threatened with expulsions and arrests - this cannot be tolerated.

Finkelstein is not the first academic to be denied tenure for holding beliefs contrary to the mainstream [liberal or conservative] and he won't be the last. I am also certain that he will find a new home, soon. However, we must, as academics, make sure that the pressure we exert on the University administrations to respect academic freedoms be equal or greater than the pressure exerted by groups to silence such voices from public discourses. You can read some letters being written to Finkelstein and judge the amount of outrage on this decision. I am posting below a letter being circulated by faculty across the US and international academic circles ... if you wish to be a signatory, please click and send an email. I have and I intend on following through.

Mr. John Simon, Chair
Board of Trustees
DePaul University

Dear Mr. Simon:

We, the undersigned, deplore the process used by the administration of DePaul University to deny tenure to Professor Norman Finkelstein and Professor Mehren Larudee. We are prepared to take the necessary steps to make sure that DePaul, as an institution, is held accountable for its violations of the principles of academic freedom.

Professor Finkelstein's scholarship has made him internationally known as an expert in his field. His five books have been published by universally-respected presses and have been translated into eighteen languages. Such an intellectual output, by a scholar applying for tenure at the level of associate professor, is far and beyond even the most stringent requirements of the most elite institutions in the United States. His teaching, as even his detractors acknowledge, has received the highest praise from his students and colleagues. His qualifications for tenure and promotion at an institution such as DePaul should not even be open to question.

The process by which Professor Finkelstein was denied tenure represents a clear violation of the principles of faculty governance and of the most basic principles of academic freedom. Professor Finkelstein,s departmental committee voted 9 to 3 in support of granting him tenure, and a five-member college-level personnel committee then voted unanimously in favor of tenure. These were the key decision-makers, and their preference was clear. It was only at this point that the dean of Professor Finkelstein,s college wrote a memorandum recommending against tenure, on the basis of a consideration that was not even a stated part of the tenure process.

The case of Professor Larudee is equally distressing. Professor Larudee, an assistant professor of international studies, was unanimously approved for tenure by her departmental committee and by the college-level personnel committee, and was even supported by the same college dean who opposed Professor Finkelstein's tenure. We fear that the only reason why Professor Larudee was subsequently denied tenure, even after receiving overwhelming approval from the relevant faculty committees, was due to her outspoken support of Professor Finkelstein.

"Academic freedom is alive and well at DePaul"? President Dennis Holtschneider declared, as part of the official statement announcing the decision to deny tenure to Professor Finkelstein. But it is not for the DePaul administration to make such a judgment; it is, in fact, the larger academic community, of which we are all members, which must judge the state of academic freedom at DePaul. In our judgment, DePaul is in grave violation of the principles of academic freedom.

Therefore, we, the undersigned, declare our intention to hold the administration of DePaul University accountable for its violations of academic freedom. Accordingly, we hereby pledge:

1. We will refuse to participate in, attend, or support any conferences or other activities sponsored by DePaul University, and will encourage our colleagues to follow suit.

2. We will, to the best of our abilities, prevent our institutions from collaborating with DePaul University on any conferences or other activities, and will urge our institutions to refuse to take part in any joint activities or exchange programs with the university.

3. We will urge our colleagues and students not to apply for any academic programs or job openings at DePaul University.

4. We will urge those professional bodies and associations of which we are members to censure DePaul University, and to apply the appropriate penalties against the institution.

5. We will contact the alumni of DePaul University and urge them to withhold contributions from the university.

It should be noted that none of these actions are aimed at individual faculty members or students at DePaul. Indeed, many members of the faculty and the student body have consistently supported Professors Finkelstein and Larudee. The decision to deny tenure in these cases was the result of a completely undemocratic process that undermined the principles of faculty governance and academic freedom at DePaul, and our actions are an attempt to move the university administration to honor these important principles.

The university administration must begin a process by which the original faculty decisions to grant tenure to Professors Finkelstein and Larudee are honored. This process must also insure that such violations of academic freedom are not repeated. Under these circumstances, we will be happy to once again consider DePaul University as an institution that honors the important principles to which we are all dedicated. Until such a time, however, we urge our colleagues, students, and other members of the intellectual community to cease business as usual with DePaul University.


(To sign this letter, please send an email with your name and any academic, professional, or other affiliation to) The Undersigned


Kafr al-Hanadwa | June 16, 2007

[...] become just so many barbs traded in an ongoing battle. And so when I heard about a petition to challenge DePaul’s decision not to give Norm Finkelstein tenure and student mobilisation on [...]