Brandeis Faculty, Students Revolt Over ‘Wetbacks’ Case

March 26, 2008

The recently published minutes of the March 13, 2008, meeting of the Brandeis University Faculty Senate show continuing animosity against Provost Marty Krauss over issues relating to the case of Professor Donald Hindley.

The Brandeis faculty’s Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities (CFRR) already had explained in detail, numerous times, the failures of the Brandeis administration in Hindley’s case. One result has been that the CFRR has been refusing to hear new faculty grievances. Since the Provost has challenged the CFRR’s authority, what else could it do?

Several CFRR members have met with the Faculty Senate "to discuss the breakdown in the system of faculty dispute resolution." A quotation from a February 28 CFRR memo was read into the minutes:

At issue now is whether the Brandeis faculty can have confidence in our formal grievance process. Will faculty members now avoid that process, believing that the administration simply will not abide by Handbook rules? Can the R&R Committee continue in good faith "to render judgments," when basic rules on substance and process can apparently be waived by administrative discretion? It is difficult to see how we can. And finally, can the Senate, as the focal point for faculty governance, find effective ways to strengthen the authority of the R&R Committee? If not, then it may be time for the Senate to explore alternative methods for resolving faculty disputes.

As a result, the Faculty Senate unanimously passed this resolution:

We confirm that the Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities is an important instrument of faculty governance at Brandeis University, and we object as a Senate to the administration’s actions and statements that have undercut its authority. We call upon the administration to reaffirm that the CFRR is an important instrument of faculty governance.

The Faculty Senate also unanimously passed another resolution asserting the CFRR’s authority and similar matters.

Then, the Faculty Senate unanimously proposed a change to the Faculty Handbook asserting the CFRR’s authority (not the Provost’s, notably) to interpret the handbook.

The minutes show that the faculty also recently requested that Brandeis budget "a standing fund of $10,000, to be used for access to outside legal counsel when deemed necessary by the Senate Council on behalf of the faculty," but Provost Krauss denied even this meager allocation.

It seems that the faculty is now in open revolt against Provost Krauss. A meeting is scheduled with the president. I predict that the faculty will eventually win. After all, faculty members tend to outlast presidents and provosts.

Meanwhile, yesterday’s issue of Brandeis University’s Justice student newspaper features a hard-hitting editorial that once again takes Brandeis Provost Marty Krauss to task for her handling of Hindley’s case.

The editorial adds to the avalanche of bad press, both internal and external, about Brandeis’s handling of the case. This editorial follows two articles in the campus press reporting on a well-attended lecture by FIRE co-founder Harvey Silverglate earlier this month, an excellent series in the Brandeis Hoot on the administration’s suppression of speech on campus, and a series of articles by the Hoot‘s David Pepose on continuing developments in the case.

Some choice quotations from the editorial:

The CFRR [the Brandeis faculty’s Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities] has asserted on several occasions that Ms. Krauss was responsible for serious violations of faculty rights during this process. While the faculty handbook requires the provost to inform the Faculty Senate of possible terminations and states that the CFRR hears faculty appeals of penalties imposed by the administration, Ms. Krauss threatened Mr. Hindley with termination last October without consulting the Senate and denied the CFRR’s authority in the appeals process….

But the greater consequences of the Hindley ordeal are for free speech at Brandeis. If the administration does not respect the voice of the faculty, it can’t be counted on to defend students’ rights to free speech. The administration has violated free speech in the past, such as when it removed a student’s exhibit of drawings by Palestinian children from the library in 2006, and seems as willing as ever to censor free speech again.

Indeed, for actions like these, Brandeis has joined Johns Hopkins, Tufts, and Valdosta State University on our "Red Alert" list, which is reserved for the worst, most unrepentant violators of the principles of free expression among U.S. colleges and universities.

The editorial concludes:

The University is developing a dangerously poor reputation on upholding faculty speech and faculty rights in general… No solution to this problem can be taken seriously until the Provost reaffirms the CFRR’s authority. The future of free speech on this campus is at stake.

It would be simple enough to do justice in the case by reversing the flawed finding that Hindley had somehow engaged in harassment or discrimination during his class, but the Brandeis administration has stubbornly refused to do so.

Who remains on Provost Krauss’s side? Not the faculty. Not the students. Not FIRE. Not the ACLU. If the president is not willing to step in, maybe it is time for the trustees to do so.