‘National Review’ Highlights Klocek Case

By October 10, 2005

John J. Miller has written an excellent article (subscription required) in the most recent issue of National Review detailing the plight of many conservative professors on campus. He focuses particular attention on the ridiculous treatment of Professor Thomas Klocek at DePaul. Klocek, as Torch readers may recall, was suspended after a heated, out-of-class argument with pro-Palestinian students. Miller has an excellent summary of the worst aspects of the case:

Klocek’s case is particularly striking because the DePaul administration has left a long paper trail that demonstrates its disdain for his ideas as well as its disregard for the principles of academic freedom. A little more than a week after his encounter with the anti-Israel activists, Klocek found himself summoned to the office of Susanne Dumbleton, a dean at DePaul (who refused to speak to National Review). According to Klocek, Dumbleton said she had received letters complaining about Klocek’s behavior. She wouldn’t show them to Klocek, but the students who wrote them evidently felt “hurt” by Klocek’s attempts to “impose” his views on them.

Dumbleton suspended Klocek with pay and urged him to stay off campus (where he had not only been teaching, but attending daily Mass for years). She did this without arranging the formal hearing that DePaul’s own employment guidelines would seem to require. She also told Klocek not to talk to the media—a prohibition that she did not apply to Klocek’s accusers, or even to herself. “We do not respect the unfair use of faculty power over students,” she said in an interview with the DePaulia, a student newspaper. A week later, with her gag order still silencing Klocek, Dumbleton wrote to the DePaulia: “The university must serve as a forum at which individuals are able to express contrary ideas, debate opposing positions, challenge assumptions, press areas of the unknown, and consider unimagined possibilities.” This was no defense of a besieged Klocek. Instead, Dumbleton was in the process of issuing one of several apologies to the SJP and UMMA students “for the insult and disrespect they had endured.”

The notion that perhaps Klocek deserved the benefit of the doubt against the charges of politically motivated students appears to be one of those “unimagined possibilities” that Dumbleton finds so fundamental to university life. DePaul certainly doesn’t second-guess the critics of Israel on its faculty, such as Norman G. Finkelstein, a controversial political scientist who is building an academic career by savaging the Israeli government and what he calls “the Holocaust industry.”

Finding himself on the wrong side of the Israel–Palestine divide, and with the administration refusing to show even a flicker of sympathy, Klocek didn’t know how to respond. He just wanted his job back. He had taught at DePaul for nearly 15 years as an adjunct member of the faculty, and never in this time, according to the school’s administration, had anybody complained about his behavior. But now Dumbleton was finding all kinds of reasons to label him persona non grata. In a November 10 letter, for example, she accused Klocek of being “occasionally disoriented or unfocused,” perhaps owing to a “changing regimen of medication.” (Dumbleton’s Ph.D. is in English, not psychiatry.) She indicated that Klocek could teach one more class, but only if it were monitored—a condition that an increasingly desperate Klocek was willing to accept. Some time later, however, Dumbleton seemed to discourage it. “She told me she couldn’t guarantee the behavior of the students,” says Klocek. “She was basically threatening me with protests.”

In sum, DePaul suspended a professor without due process on the basis that his expression was offensive, and then—when called to task by academic freedom advocates—darkly hinted that the real reason for his suspension was medical. This allegation is made in spite of the fact that there are no known classroom complaints against the professor and that an individual’s medical history should obviously remain confidential barring specific permission to disclose. Klocek has filed suit against DePaul, and DePaul is now apparently seeking a court order limiting public access to its internal communications regarding the professor. What is DePaul trying to hide?

Also, where is the AAUP? You would think that a paper trail this clear and broken promises of due process this obvious would generate some public comment or intervention from the nation’s leading advocate for professors’ rights. After all, the AAUP weighed in publicly in favor of Ward Churchill (despite the fact that Churchill has been accused of numerous violations unrelated to academic freedom, including plagiarism, fraud, and copyright violations and has even been filmed punching a reporter) and privately supported Professor Joseph Massad at Columbia (even after Massad was found guilty of in-class misconduct by a committee stacked with friends and allies). Of course, Churchill, Massad, and Klocek all have academic freedom rights. Why has the AAUP chosen to defend only the first two?

Could it be because the third man is a religious conservative? Certainly not. After all, the AAUP is nonpartisan. Isn’t it?

Schools: DePaul University