[Marxism] Finkelstein will teach even if it means jail

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Aug 27 06:55:53 MDT 2007


Today's News

Monday, August 27, 2007

DePaul U. Cancels Courses of Professor Who Lost Tenure Bid, but He Plans 
to Teach Them Anyway


DePaul University has canceled all of Norman G. Finkelstein's courses, 
taken away his office, and put him on administrative leave for his final 
year, but the controversial political scientist said that will not stop 
him from coming back to teach this fall. If necessary, he said, he will 
go to jail.

In an e-mail message, Mr. Finkelstein told The Chronicle that he intends 
"to show up on the first day of the academic year to teach my classes 
(students are currently searching for an alternative venue) and to use 
my regular office in the political-science department. If the university 
attempts to impede my movements, I intend to engage in nonviolent civil 
disobedience and go to jail. If incarcerated, I intend to go on a 
protracted hunger strike until DePaul comes to its senses."

"It is regrettable," Mr. Finkelstein continued, "that I have been driven 
to such drastic actions to defend basic principles of academic freedom 
and my contractual rights, upon which DePaul has been riding roughshod 
for so long."

Mr. Finkelstein lost his bid for tenure at DePaul in June (The 
Chronicle, June 11), after a bitter public fight that featured the 
involvement of the Harvard University law professor Alan M. Dershowitz 
(The Chronicle, April 13).

Mehrene E. Larudee, an assistant professor of international studies who 
supported Mr. Finkelstein, was denied tenure by DePaul at the same time, 
in another case that attracted widespread attention and criticism (The 
Chronicle, June 12). A university spokeswoman said Ms. Larudee's case is 
not connected with Mr. Finkelstein's "in any way," and Ms. Larudee is 
still scheduled to teach this year.

In a terse statement issued on Sunday, the university confirmed that it 
had put Mr. Finkelstein on leave "with full pay and benefits for the 
2007-8 academic year" and that "administrative leave relieves professors 
from their teaching responsibilities."

Mr. Finkelstein had been expected to return to DePaul for a final year 
of teaching, and was scheduled to teach two political-science courses 
this fall, "Freedom and Empowerment" and "Equality and Social Justice," 
as well as an honors course on states, markets, and society. Students 
who had signed up to take those courses got a surprise on Friday, when 
they were informed, via e-mail, that the classes had been canceled.

The DePaul statement said that the university "has been in communication 
with Professor Finkelstein throughout the summer and informed him of his 
status well in advance of the fall quarter." It said, "He was informed 
of the reasons that precipitated this leave last spring."

Students, however, were given very little warning, with less than two 
weeks to go until the first day of classes.

"We've known all summer that it was possible that they would try to 
prevent Professor Finkelstein from returning this coming year, but it 
was unclear how they were going to do that, or when," said Kathryn 
Weber, president of the DePaul Academic Freedom Committee, a students' 
group formed in reaction to the tenure decisions on Mr. Finkelstein and 
Ms. Larudee. "We found out on Friday that his classes have been canceled."

Ms. Weber's group denounced the university's actions in a statement 
issued on Saturday. The students accused the university of violating Mr. 
Finkelstein's contract and "further undermining academic freedom at 
DePaul by refusing to let the prominent professor teach during his final 

The university, in its statement, countered that DePaul was "acting well 
within its rights as an employer and as a university." It added that 
"there is no basis to suggest that DePaul has failed to fulfill any 
contractual obligations."

Mr. Finkelstein has a strong reputation as a teacher, and his fall 
classes were reportedly at or near full capacity. DePaul's statement 
said that enrolled students "were informed and given detailed 
instructions on how to register for alternative courses. Additional 
advisers who can override closed or capped courses have been made 
available to them for any assistance they may need to update their 

Ms. Weber took two classes with Mr. Finkelstein last year, including 
"Equality and Social Justice."

"We all consider it very ironic that that course was canceled," she told 
The Chronicle on Sunday. "What I respected most about him as a professor 
was his ability to present all sides of an issue, whether it was 
Israel-Palestine or property rights."

She believes that the DePaul administration expected the tenure 
controversy to die down over the summer, and speculated that it wanted 
Mr. Finkelstein gone because "they would rather not have his presence 
encouraging people to fight on his behalf."

The student leader told The Chronicle that the DePaul faculty was 
undertaking an investigation of the University Board on Tenure and 
Promotion because of perceived procedural problems behind the tenure 
decisions. A faculty member who did not want to speak on the record 
confirmed that such an investigation is under way.

Students from the Academic Freedom Committee plan to stage a 
demonstration at the university's convocation this coming Friday. "We 
all feel very passionately about this, that it's not something we're 
willing to back down on," Ms. Weber said. "It means something to this 
school, and it means something to us as individuals. I think it means 
quite a lot to the faculty, too."

Mr. Finkelstein, meanwhile, has retained a lawyer. "I will not continue 
to endure this nightmare through eternity," he said. "I intend to put an 
end to it, one way or another, in the coming weeks. The hunger strike 
will be open-ended."

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