Where is the Alumni Outrage Over the Brandeis Administration’s Shameful Behavior?

By on August 20, 2008

On July 9, FIRE sent a second letter to Brandeis University regarding its unfair treatment of Donald Hindley. A veteran professor at Brandeis, Hindley was accused of making “statements in class that were inappropriate, racial, and discriminatory” and had a monitor placed in his classroom after using the word “wetbacks” in class. He was never given a written account of the charges against him, other procedures in the Faculty Handbook were violated, and Hindley’s appeal was unilaterally cut off by Brandeis’s Provost, Marty Krauss.

In the letter, we reminded Brandeis President Jehuda Reinharz that his administration “has dramatically violated its own policies guaranteeing academic freedom and freedom of expression, has chilled speech, and has produced an atmosphere of intimidation on campus.” We also noted that the faculty has been engaged in a justified revolt, which has included withdrawing support for the university’s harassment and non-discrimination policy, suspending the hearing of new faculty grievances, and noting the atmosphere of intimidation in a report on whether or not to continue supporting the provost. Thankfully, members of the faculty have had the moral fortitude to stand up for their colleague, and are bitterly at odds with the provost over her handling of the case. We asked Reinharz to respond by July 31, but again, unlike most recipients of FIRE’s letters, he chose not to respond at all. We can only assume he is not answering because he is incapable of giving us a reasonable-sounding answer as to why Brandeis won’t even follow its own rules.

It is also a disappointment that so many others in the Brandeis community have chosen not to confront Reinharz and Krauss as the faculty, many students, and a few alumni have done. We sent copies of our July 9 letter to over 160 people, including members of the Board of Trustees and members of the administration. While the faculty and the press (including a number of national outlets and the student papers) have appropriately come to the defense of Hindley, we have seen far too little outrage on the part of those who ought to have Brandeis’ reputation and interests at heart. Some of the notable Brandeis alumni who appear not to have responded at all include:

  • Mitch Albom, Columnist, Sports Division, The Detroit Free Press
  • Sidney Blumenthal, Fellow, Center on Law and Security, New York University School of Law
  • Martin Peretz, Editor in Chief, The New Republic
  • Robert Zimmer, President, University of Chicago

These are the kind of people who pay attention to higher education and ought to be particularly interested in the case.

And what about Vartan Gregorian, President of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, former president of Brown University, and a Brandeis trustee? For that matter, almost every Brandeis trustee apparently has remained silent. The Brandeis Board of Trustees seems to have been content to take the word of people who participated in prosecuting Hindley (such as professors Adam Jaffe and Steven Burg, and of course Provost Marty Krauss) without bothering to consult those people who made a point of gathering all the facts and evaluating them (such as the members of the Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities).

We reported on Friday that President Bush recently signed the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, which included a “sense of Congress” finding supporting fundamental rights, including that of fair treatment, on campus. Congress, like most of the American public, believes that “an institution of higher education should facilitate the free and open exchange of ideas.” The Brandeis administration appears to believe otherwise. It is time for Brandeis alumni to come to the rescue of their school’s ever more tarnished reputation.

Brandeis has thousands of alumni. If you know one or if you know a trustee, remind him or her that Brandeis is on our Red Alert list because speech is not free at Brandeis. Brandeis is a dangerous place for the outspoken. Contact President Reinharz at 781-736-3001 or jreinhar@brandeis.edu and let him know what you think.

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