FIRE co-founder and board chairman Harvey Silverglate, writing last week in The Boston Phoenix, pronounced Brandeis University “a clear winner” of the Phoenix‘s annual Muzzle Awards, which single out the worst offenders of free speech and individual rights in the New England area. Brandeis has earned this dubious accolade “thanks to the farcical treatment of veteran faculty member Donald Hindley this past fall.” Torch readers by now are familiar with Hindley’s case, in which the tenured professor of politics, after discussing—and criticizing—the term “wetback” in his classroom, was found in violation of the school’s anti-harassment code and forced to teach with a monitor in his class for the duration of the semester, all without being notified that he was under investigation or given a chance to rebut the charges against him.
Brandeis’ flagrant disregard for Hindley’s free speech and due process rights, to say nothing of common sense, has sparked condemnation from the university’s students and faculty, and earned Brandeis a spot on FIRE’s Red Alert list. As Silverglate aptly sums up:
Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis would likely have been appalled by the disdain for freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and due process at the institution carrying his name. But the great jurist can find solace in the fact that his quip about sunlight being the best disinfectant has once again proved true.
Also worth noting is that this is not the first time this year that Brandeis has been the recipient of such an award; the Thomas Jefferson Center (whose Jefferson Muzzles are the inspiration for the Phoenix‘s Muzzle Awards), named Brandeis one of its 2008 honorees as well. I somehow doubt the Brandeis administration will be doing much bragging over their impressive run in this category, even if these are the only free speech awards they’re likely to bring home for quite some time.