I'm digging for FIRE
Post #1293 • February 11, 2009, 8:25 AM • 19 Comments
I recently joined the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which is currently celebrating its tenth year of fighting for "freedom of speech, legal equality, due process, religious liberty, and sanctity of conscience," as it puts it on its website, and fighting against speech codes, thought policing, and the caricatures of judicial procedure that take place all too frequently in academic settings. The newsletter that came with the welcome package in the mail informs me of their Red Alert List, "a distinction afforded to colleges and universities that act with severe and ongoing disregard for the fundamental rights of their students or faculty members." Lo and behold, upon this shameful list is none other than Brandeis University, where the president and board are attempting to remedy the school's financial ailments by turning its 48-year-old museum into a rummage sale:
In his fall 2007 course on Latin American Politics, Professor Hindley allegedly used terms that at least one student found objectionable. Brandeis has steadfastly refused—despite multiple requests—to disclose to Hindley in writing precisely what offended the complaining student(s). According to Hindley, however, he explained to his class that Mexican migrants in the United States are sometimes referred to pejoratively as "wetbacks." After a flawed investigation, Hindley was informed by Director of Employment Jesse Simone that he was guilty of making "statements in class that were inappropriate, racial, and discriminatory," and that he thus had violated Brandeis's non-discrimination and harassment policy. As punishment, Provost Marty Krauss threatened Hindley with termination and placed a monitor in his classes.
FIRE has received no response from Brandeis president Jehuda Reinharz regarding its demand to clear Professor Hindley's record, re-hear his case, or even so much as apologize to the man, despite widespread support from faculty and alumni. Yesterday, FIRE connected the dots:
Anyone who has followed the developments in Hindley's case will notice the same characteristic disrespect for the input of the larger Brandeis community in the handling of the Rose Art Museum controversy. In example after example, the administration has shown a tin ear toward issues of great importance in the Brandeis community. As a result, it has paid a heavy price.
The above article cites (but oddly doesn't link to) an op-ed in the Brandeis student paper by FIRE's Adam Kissel:
The Rose Art Museum controversy is just the latest issue to put the president's judgment in question. With a declining endowment, donor outrage, withering press coverage, a sharp decrease in applications and extensive faculty and student resistance, Brandeis is only one or two steps from the brink of chaos. It cannot afford a leader whose decisions lack transparency and reasonable decision-making processes. Given these conditions, I can understand why tensions are high. But this recent string of incidents is not the first episode that eroded trust in the administration. ... Last year, Provost Marty Krauss put a monitor in Prof. Donald Hindley's classes to keep him from racially harassing his students. The problem was that he never did any such thing in the first place.
As Nat Hentoff reported last year for the Washington Times:
After an investigation, during which Mr. Hindley was not told the nature of the complaint, Brandeis Provost Marty Krauss informed Mr. Hindley that "The University will not tolerate inappropriate, racial and discriminatory conduct by members of its faculty." A corollary accusation was that students suffered "significant emotional trauma" when exposed to such a term. An administration monitor was assigned to his class. Threatened with "termination," Mr. Hindley was ordered to take a sensitivity-training class. With no charges against him, no evidence of misconduct given him and no hearing, he refused in the spirit of Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, for whom this university is named.
A passionate protector of freedom of expression in a series of seminal Supreme Court opinions, Brandeis wrote in "Whitney v. California" (1972): "Those who won independence believed ... that freedom to think as you will and to speak as you think are ... indispensable to the discovery and spread of political truth."
When Ed Siegel wrote about the conservatives opposed to the arts funding in the bailout at Boston.com last week, he noted, "The one constant in all this is that art in America has come to be seen as a frill, by everyone from right-wing talk-show hosts to the trustees of Brandeis." Something about this sounded wrong. The famously Democrat Jews in famously liberal Massachusetts running the famously liberal Brandeis are right-wingers? On the contrary, it turns out that liberals make great autocrats too, given the opportunity and inclination.
Reference in title here.
Update: Brandeis saw fit to drop $20,000 on an external public relations firm, Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communications, Inc. The university is paying for it with a 10% cut to the salaries of Reinharz and Brandeis COO Peter French. The Justice responds: "Honesty, in this case, is a better policy than any PR wordsmith could devise."