Brandeis University student Shafaq Hasan has an excellent column in The Brandeis Justice highlighting Brandeis’ continued mistreatment of Professor Donald Hindley. The article is a much-needed reminder for Brandeis’ inert administration, as well as for younger students unfamiliar with the story of their $50,000-plus per year university’s appalling treatment of one of its own.
In fall 2007, Brandeis encountered one such violation with regards to an incident surrounding Prof. Donald Hindley (POL). In a course about Latin American politics, Hindley allegedly described to his class that Mexican immigrants are sometimes referred to as "wetbacks." An offended student complained and consequently the University responded with a letter notifying Hindley that he had violated the school’s "Non-Discrimination and Harassment Policy."
For these actions, the University has been put on FIRE’s Red Alert List. According to the organization’s website, the Red Alert List is a compilation of schools with "severe and ongoing disregard for the fundamental rights of their students or faculty members." Although FIRE claims on its website that it contacted University President Jehuda Reinharz multiple times, Reinharz has supposedly yet to reply once to its pleas to acknowledge the wrongful violations against Hindley.
Indeed, we’ve heard nary a word from Reinharz—this in spite of Brandeis being featured in FIRE’s U.S. News & World Report ad calling out Brandeis and the other members of our Red Alert list three years running. You’d think he might want to get out and "correct the record" at some point, except that our extensive case file makes it abundantly clear there’s nothing to correct (except said injustice).
Hasan, at least, is well aware that Brandeis has woefully mistreated Hindley, calling its punishment "a gross miscalculation of the administration’s interpretation of harassment." He also writes that
Taking a statement out of context where the professor was clearly attempting to educate the students of a historical fact and then proceeding to use that statement to penalize the individual indicates that extreme political correctness is unfortunately penetrating the membrane of this university. If Hindley had chosen to avoid using the word or any ethnic slur, the students’ education would have been hindered, and the very real issues of nativism and racism would not have been discussed.
His point about the degrading effect the politically correct campus culture has on academics at Brandeis is an excellent one, and sadly true. Heck, this problem has gotten so pervasive that Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis even punished a student for his own private intellectual pursuits, finding him guilty of racial harassment simply for reading a book.
Students like Hasan, fortunately, give us cause for hope. As we reported back in 2008, Brandeis’ punishment of Hindley mobilized students at Brandeis to start three new organizations for protecting their rights. Hasan’s column is a welcome reminder of the extent to which the injustice in Hindley’s case has engaged the student population, and FIRE appreciates their efforts.
Meanwhile, former George Washington University Law School Dean Frederick Lawrence is set to take over from Reinharz on January 1, and FIRE hopes to work with him to correct the errors of his predecessor. Provost Marty Krauss—she who turned a deaf ear to the outrage of Brandeis’ faculty and declared Hindley’s case closed—is also stepping down as provost this year. For these two coming changes, FIRE will be giving thanks this holiday season.