Brandeis Faculty Continues to Revolt in ‘Wetbacks’ Case

By on May 19, 2008

Admirably, the Brandeis University faculty continues to stand up for its academic freedom and due process rights in the wake of Provost Marty Krauss’s disastrous handling of the case of Donald Hindley, who was declared guilty of racial harassment and had a monitor placed in his classes after he criticized the use of the word “wetbacks” in his Latin American Politics course. Professor Donald Hindley, a nearly 50-year veteran of teaching, never was granted a formal hearing by Brandeis, nor was he provided with the substance of the accusations against him in writing. The provost challenged the authority of the faculty’s Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities (CFRR) and eventually just declared the matter closed in January, cutting off Hindley’s chances to appeal.

In January, I reported that the provost had misrepresented her prosecution of Hindley.

In March, I reported that the faculty was in open revolt, having suspended the faculty grievance process and having passed multiple unanimous resolutions asserting the CFRR’s authority. One of the resolutions stated in part:

We confirm that the Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities is an important instrument of faculty governance at Brandeis University, and we object as a Senate to the administration’s actions and statements that have undercut its authority.

On April 3, the Faculty Senate called on the provost to respond to the resolutions, and she produced this unsatisfying response on April 10. Again, she invoked “the law” in an unspecified way to justify her actions.

Also on April 10, the CFRR submitted another report to the Senate, writing in part:

Several specific problems with the grievance process have emerged in recent months, following on the high-profile case of Professor Hindley. In deferring new grievance cases, we simply had no choice, after hearing from some faculty that they are now unwilling to use the grievance process, for fear that their claims will not be fairly considered by the administration. We had no choice because the Provost has challenged the Committee’s authority and jurisdiction in fundamental ways. And we had no choice after the administration told the Faculty Senate last December that, in their view, the judgments reached by this Committee were nothing more than personal opinions of individual Committee members.

The Senate continued to side with the CFRR against the provost, passing another resolution almost unanimously (120 with one abstention) on May 1:

The Faculty Senate supports, as a matter of principle, the recent judgment of the Committee on Rights and Responsibilities, which found serious violations of the Faculty Handbook in a grievance case concerning Professor Donald Hindley. We are especially concerned by the Provost’s rejection of the committee’s claim to jurisdiction in that case, and ask her to join us in reaffirming that jurisdiction, along with other points of interpretation contained in the committee’s memorandum of December 19.

The Faculty Senate accepts, based on the facts as we know them, the judgment that the Provost’s actions have violated Professor Hindley’s faculty rights, including the right to academic freedom and the right to be treated fairly under University policies. The Faculty Senate affirms the Handbook provision that authorizes the Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities to interpret the Faculty Handbook on behalf of the faculty….

We regret that this recent case has damaged the collegiality of our University, its academic and intellectual function, its faculty governance procedures, and its public reputation.

Now, here’s a faculty that knows how to stand up for its rights. It is long past time for the provost to be able to back down and save face; now, she should just back down.

Schools: Brandeis University