FIRE Chairman Comments on Brandeis

By January 25, 2008

Over at The Free For All, Harvey Silverglate, co-founder of FIRE and Chairman of FIRE’s Board of Directors, offers an insightful (and scathing) commentary on the shameful situation currently unfolding at Brandeis University, where Professor Donald Hindley was found guilty of racial harassment after criticizing and explaining the term "wetback" in his Latin American Politics course.

In his post at The Free For All—the blog Silverglate shares with Wendy Kaminer, noted lawyer, social critic, and member of FIRE’s Board of Advisors—Silverglate points out the dark irony of Brandeis University suppressing speech given that its namesake, former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, is renowned as a champion of individual liberty in our nation’s jurisprudence. (As Silverglate writes, "Justice Brandeis must be turning over in his grave.") Further, Silverglate outlines Brandeis’s complete denial of due process to Professor Hindley:

What is worse, however, is Brandeis refusal to grant this long-time professor any semblance of due process. After a three-week investigation (that Hindley had not been informed of at the time), Provost Marty Krauss told Hindley that he had been found guilty of violating the campus’s harassment clause. A monitor would be placed in his classroom, he was told, and he would need to attend racial sensitivity training sessions. Hindley has never been granted an opportunity to appeal this summarily-inflicted punishment, and pleas from other students to testify favorably toward the professor were ignored. Two separate opinions from the Faculty Committee for Rights and Responsibilities that sharply criticized Krauss’ handling of the complaints were likewise ignored by her.

Silverglate closes by calling for Brandeis to come clean while it still can:

In their bunkers, Brandeis’ administrators likely cannot stay silent for long, especially since alumni, donors, and perhaps even members of the Board of Trustees are bound to get wind of the university’s assault not only on academic freedom and due process, but also on reason itself.

Of course, Silverglate’s absolutely right. As outrage deepens, Brandeis administrators would do well to remember the first rule of holes: Stop digging.