FIRE Calls on Brandeis to Resolve Faculty Revolt

By July 10, 2008

Given the unprecedented revolt of faculty and students at Brandeis University, FIRE has called on President Jehuda Reinharz to rescind the ill-conceived finding of guilt against Professor Donald Hindley in order to restore order and Brandeis University’s good name.

In a letter sent to Reinharz yesterdaywith copies to about 160 others within and beyond BrandeisFIRE noted that the revolt has involved multiple unanimous faculty resolutions against the administration, faculty reports demonstrating that Brandeis administrators violated Hindley’s academic freedom and due process rights, the withdrawal of faculty support for the school’s harassment policy, the suspension of hearing new faculty grievances, and withering public attention. The faculty is rightly concerned about the “chilling atmosphere concerning free speech” at Brandeis since Provost Marty Krauss placed a monitor in Hindley’s classes, required him to attend “antidiscrimination training,” and threatened him with termination after he criticized the term “wetbacks” in class.

Hindley never received a proper hearing, a copy of the report that found him guilty, or any specific account of alleged violations. In addition, his Faculty Handbook procedural rights were violated, the authority of the faculty body considering his appeal was challenged by Krauss, and finally, his appeal was prematurely terminated when Krauss unilaterally declared the matter “closed.”

FIRE’s latest letter reviews the history of the case, the scathing faculty criticism of the administration’s (especially Provost Krauss’s) actions, the ongoing, unprecedented conflict between the faculty and the administration, and the public shaming of Brandeis in the local, regional, and national press and by the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts.

Highlights from the reports of Brandeis’s Faculty Senate, Senate Council, and Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities (CFRR) include:

  • Provost Krauss “continues to impose unilateral limits on the authority of our Committee, based on her own reading of faculty rules,” and the provost’s actions “present a threat to the academic freedom of … other faculty and students at Brandeis.” (CFRR, Dec. 10, 2007)
  • Provost Krauss employed a “narrow reading of academic freedom” and departed from “the full stated definitions” of harassment in prosecuting Hindley. (CFRR, Dec. 10, 2007)
  • “[S]everal faculty reported a ‘chilling atmosphere’ concerning free speech of faculty throughout the campus and some untenured faculty members are afraid to speak their minds candidly and forthrightly.” (Senate Council, Dec. 12, 2007)
  • “[W]e object as a Senate to the administration’s actions and statements that have undercut [the CFRR's] authority.” (Faculty Senate, Mar. 13, 2008)
  • The Faculty Senate reaffirmed the CFRR’s findings of “serious violations of the Faculty Handbook,” including the judgment that Krauss had “violated Professor Hindley’s faculty rights, including the right to academic freedom and the right to be treated fairly under University policies.” This resolution added, “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.” (May 1, 2008)

Brandeis University clearly faces serious problems regarding faculty governance and university policy. Resolving them will require much additional discussion at the university. From the public’s point of view, however, the resolution of the Hindley affair is simple. President Reinharz’s administration can declare that Hindley is not guilty of having violated Brandeis’s discredited Non-Discrimination and Harassment Policy.

Brandeis has entirely failed Donald Hindley and its faculty in protecting faculty rights even as they are defined and guaranteed in the university’s Faculty Handbook, much less in accordance with the moral and constitutional principles of academic freedom and freedom of expression. The Reinharz-Krauss administration has betrayed the legacy of Supreme Court Justice and free-speech champion Louis D. Brandeis.

Recipients of copies of FIRE’s letter include the Brandeis Board of Trustees, all Brandeis department chairs, nearby university presidents, presidents of some regional Brandeis Alumni Associations, notable Brandeis alumni, and the many members of the press who have been reporting on the case. Leading trustees Malcolm L. Sherman, Jack M. Connors, Jr., and Gershon Kekst cannot claim they haven’t been apprised of the details. Nor can Presidents Lawrence S. Bacow (Tufts), Robert A. Brown (Boston University), or Drew Gilpin Faust (Harvard). Nor can Mitch Albom, Sidney Blumenthal, Martin Peretz, and so on (to the tune of 150 more).

FIRE is asking the 160 recipients of copies of our letter to contact President Reinharz and urge him to end this sorry chapter of Brandeis’s history. We encourage Torch readers to do the same. President Reinharz can be reached at 781-736-3001 or jreinhar@brandeis.edu.

Schools: Brandeis University