Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Outrageous! Finkelstein Denied Tenure

[via The Chronical of Higher Education] DePaul Rejects Tenure Bid by Finkelstein

The headline contines on: "Says Dershowitz Pressure Played No Role." Needless to say if the thing denied in this headline were really true there would be little need to deny it in the first place. The article outlines the story, for those who do not know it:
Norman G. Finkelstein, [a] controversial political scientist who has been engaged in a highly public battle for tenure at DePaul University, learned today that he had lost that fight. In a written statement released to The Chronicle, the university confirmed that Mr. Finkelstein had been denied tenure.

Mr. Finkelstein’s department and a college-level personnel committee both voted in favor of tenure,

Pause there, let it sink in, and now continue on...
but the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences wrote a memorandum against it, and the University Board on Promotion and Tenure voted against granting tenure. The final decision rested with the university’s president, the Rev. Dennis Holtschneider, who said in the statement that he had found “no compelling reasons to overturn” the tenure board’s recommendation.

“I played by the rules, and it plainly wasn’t enough to overcome the political opposition to my speaking out on the Israel-Palestine conflict,” Mr. Finkelstein said in an interview. “This decision is not going to deter me from making statements that, so far as I can tell from the judgment of experts in the field, are sound and factually based.”

Mr. Finkelstein’s case has excited widespread interest, in part because of the involvement of Alan M. Dershowitz, a professor of law at Harvard University. The two scholars have sparred repeatedly in public. Last fall, Mr. Dershowitz sent members of DePaul’s law and political-science faculties what he described as “a dossier of Norman Finkelstein’s most egregious academic sins, and especially his outright lies, misquotations, and distortions.”

Informed of the news this evening, Mr. Dershowitz said, “It was the right decision, proving that DePaul University is indeed a first-rate university...”

In the DePaul statement, Father Holtschneider decried the outside interest the case had generated. “This attention was unwelcome and inappropriate and had no impact on either the process or the outcome of this case."

This is not the end of this outrageous story. DePaul's acquiescence to the hysterical straightjacket of neoliberal and neoconservative American discourse concerning Israel's current policy toward the Palestinians (among other things) is nothing short of an outrage, and will surely provoke widespread condemnation and, one hopes, formal censure. Around the world, in Europe, in South America, and even in Israel itself, Norman Finkelstein's scholarly contributions are recogized as indispensable to our understanding of contemporary conflict. I am quite cheerful to testify to the indispensability of Norman Finkelstein's work to my own understanding of Israel (Tom Segev, the late Edward Said are also key for me), even when his is not a perspective to which I would adhere in every detail. It is to be hoped that every scholar, whatever their politics, recognizes Norman Finkelstein's worth to the Academy as a scholar and as an engaged intellectual and that every person of independent conscience and critical perception will deplore this disgusting effort to punish an exemplar of free inquiry and committed scholarship.

The Academy does not deserve to exist as an institution so long as it fails to cherish and to nourish the work and efforts of figures like Norman Finkelstein. In an era of ever more sophisticated peer-to-peer networks, in which free expression, research, content provision, collaboration, and editing/fact-checking are rendered ever more negligibly costly and ever more widely accessible you better believe that the Academy will need all the help it can get to justify its continued privileged existence.

The failure of Finkelstein's bid for tenure is a catastrophic failure for the Academy. And as a sometimes reluctant champion of the Academy as a lonely space in anti-intellectual Amurca that still exerts some small if only occasional measure of legitimating force against the grain of the monologic energies of planetary corporate-militarism I can only hope that the Academy will make its displeasure known in this case, for Norman Finkelstein's sake, surely, as well as for our own.


Anonymous said...

Poor racist Finkelstein. Boo Hoo! You give him way too much credit. His books are filled with lies. Get a clue.

Dale Carrico said...

Wow, that didn't take long.