FIRE’s Letter to Brandeis University’s Board of Trustees, Feburary 5, 2008

By February 5, 2008

February 5, 2008

Malcolm L. Sherman
Vice Chairman, Board of Advisors
Gordon Brothers Group LLC
101 Huntington Avenue, 10th Floor
Boston, Massachusetts 02199

Dear Mr. Sherman:

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) unites leaders in the fields of civil rights and civil liberties, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of liberty, legal equality, academic freedom, due process, freedom of speech, and freedom of conscience on America’s college campuses. Our website, www.thefire.org, will give you a greater sense of our identity and activities.

As a trustee of Brandeis University, you should be aware of the black eye that Brandeis has received over the threats to free expression, academic freedom, and due process posed by Brandeis University’s treatment of Professor Donald Hindley, who has taught Southeast Asian politics and Latin American politics at Brandeis since 1962 without facing a single complaint of discrimination or harassment until now. After a flawed investigation last fall, he was found guilty of violating Brandeis’s Non-Discrimination and Harassment Policyapparently for criticizing and explaining the use of the word “wetback” to deride Mexican immigrantsbut was never given clear written evidence of the allegations against him. Brandeis found Hindley guilty without giving him a hearing, put a monitor in his classroom, and required him to attend “anti-discrimination training.” As Brandeis’s own faculty and Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities have pointed out, Brandeis has dramatically violated its own policies guaranteeing academic freedom and has chilled speech on the Brandeis campus.

FIRE wrote to President Reinharz on December 12, making these issues clear and basing our analysis on the available documentation of the case, but we received no response. To make matters worse for Brandeis, Provost Marty Krauss simply claimed on January 7 that the case was “now closed,” even while it was under appeal. She has defended her actions by attacking Hindley, her faculty critics, and even the media, misrepresenting her actions and the requirements of federal harassment law.

The current issue of The Brandeis Hoot (enclosed) features a staff editorial on the negative publicity generated in this case:

It is time for the administration to stop causing damage, and to start damage control. There is no advantage to continuing the current treatment of Hindley …. Students, faculty, and now outside organizations have all come to the conclusion that the allegations against Hindley were baseless, and it is in the administration’s best interest to stop perpetuating a free speech debate that it can’t win.

The editorial adds that despite Brandeis’s position as a research university, an Internet search for recent Brandeis news turns up only sporting news and this case, which has been reported by The Boston Globe (enclosed), the Boston Herald, the Brandeis newspapers, and the ACLU of Massachusetts, and which has received significant coverage and uniform criticism across the Internet.

Please find the following items enclosed:

(1) The most recent statement of Provost Krauss to the faculty
(2) The January 24, 2008, article in The Boston Globe
(3) The Brandeis Hoot editorial quoted above
(4) The faculty resolution and the most recent report of the Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities regarding this case
(5) The 2003 letter from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, which makes clear that harassment law does not restrict the freedom of speech

FIRE has requested that Brandeis restore its own good name as well as Donald Hindley’s (and honor the spirit of Justice Brandeis, who was, perhaps, the most influential supporter of free speech in Supreme Court history) by admitting its errors, by reversing its findings against Professor Hindley and removing all accusations from his personnel file, andas Brandeis’s own faculty have demandedby clarifying its harassment policies and then actually following them. We have urged President Reinharz since last December to speak in favor of the academic freedom and freedom of speech of Brandeis faculty but, remarkably, he has refused to address publicly the serious problems posed by the university’s treatment of Professor Hindley.

FIRE remains dedicated to resolving this matter, and we are using all of our resources to see this terrible assault against academic freedom through to a just and moral conclusion. We ask you to encourage Brandeis to do the right thing in this case.

Sincerely,

Greg Lukianoff
President

cc:
Jehuda Reinharz, President, Brandeis University
Marty Wyngaarden Krauss, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, Brandeis University
Adam Jaffe, Dean of Arts and Sciences, Brandeis University
Marc Brettler, Chair, Faculty Senate, Brandeis University
Steven Burg, Chair, Department of Politics, Brandeis University
Jesse Simone, Director of Employment, Employee Relations and Training, Brandeis University
Members of the Board of Trustees, Brandeis University
Noah Bein, The Justice
David Pepose, The Brandeis Hoot
Stephanie V. Siek, The Boston Globe
Marie Szaniszlo, Boston Herald
American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts
Joan Bertin, Executive Director, National Coalition Against Censorship
Peter Malkin, Partner, Wien & Malkin LLP
Harvey A. Silverglate, Chairman, Board of Directors, FIRE
Nadine Strossen, President, American Civil Liberties Union

Encl.

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Schools: Brandeis University Cases: Brandeis University: Professor Found Guilty of Harassment for Protected Speech