FIRE Shines a Light on Brandeis University in ‘Huffington Post’ and Full-Page Ad

By on February 13, 2009

FIRE is applying Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis’ maxim "sunlight is the best of disinfectants" to his namesake university in a big way today.

First, FIRE President Greg Lukianoff has an article in The Huffington Post in which he chastises Brandeis University for its refusal to apologize for its treatment of tenured Professor Donald Hindley, who was found guilty by the university of "racial harassment" for using the term "wetbacks"—in the context of criticizing the term—in his Latin American politics class. Greg points out that the media have comparatively ignored this outrageous case while giving massive attention to the university’s decision to shutter the well-known Rose Art Museum and sell its artwork in order to deal with a fiscal crisis. As Greg points out:

[I]n incidents met with comparatively little media interest, Brandeis University–a school named for almost certainly the most influential Supreme Court Justice on freedom of speech issues in our history–has engaged in acts of censorship so galling they could fill a half dozen Philip Roth novels. The case that I’ve hammered time after time in my posts concerns Professor Donald Hindley, who was found guilty of racial harassment for explaining and criticizing use of the word "wetbacks" in his Latin American politics class. While the school removed the monitor it had placed in Professor Hindley’s classes (presumably put there to prevent future imaginary cases of harassment) after the semester ended, Reinharz, showing the same arrogance and heavy-handedness he did with the Rose Museum donnybrook, still refuses to overturn the racial harassment finding. Why did Reinharz back down in the Rose Museum case, but not in the case of Donald Hindley? The major difference seems to be media coverage.

Read Greg’s full piece for more.

Because of its actions against Professor Hindley, Brandeis has been named to FIRE’s Red Alert list of the worst offenders against liberty on campus. The universities on the Red Alert list would do well to realize that FIRE is not going to leave them alone until they make the decision to follow the law or, in some cases, their own policies when it comes to student and faculty rights. As part of this effort, FIRE today ran a full-page advertisement in the Brandeis Hoot student newspaper reminding students of Justice Brandeis’ commitment to free speech and encouraging them to demand that the administration reverse its shameful decision in Professor Hindley’s case. As we say in the ad, Brandeis could use some good news right now. Reversing its morally unjustifiable decision against Professor Hindley would be a free and effective way to get some.

Schools: Brandeis University