How Can Brandeis University Get Off FIRE’s Red Alert List?

By August 26, 2008

The current edition of U.S. News and World Report‘s "America’s Best Colleges" issue, released on Monday, includes a full-page advertisement by FIRE highlighting the five colleges and universities that have earned FIRE’s Red Alert distinction for being the "worst of the worst" when it comes to liberty on campus: Brandeis University, Colorado College, Johns Hopkins University, Tufts University, and Valdosta State University.

Students should think twice before choosing to attend one of the Red Alert schools. Faculty also should think twice about joining these academic communities, which got on the list because they not only have committed egregious violations of individual rights, but even after sustained public scrutiny have refused to back down from their actions.

How can Brandeis get off the Red Alert listwhere it has been since February 2008and save itself from further shame?

In his fall 2007 course on Latin American Politics, Brandeis professor Donald Hindley critiqued the term "wetbacks" in his Latin American Politics course. Without following Brandeis’ stated policies and procedures, and without ever laying out the evidence against him, Brandeis administrators declared him guilty of racially discriminatory harassment and then placed a monitor in his classes for the remainder of the term. In spite of widespread condemnation from faculty, the media, students, and the public, Brandeis remains unrepentant about its mistreatment of Professor Hindley. The faculty fought back, withdrawing faculty support for the university’s harassment and non-discrimination policy, and suspending the hearing of new faculty grievances, because the faculty could no longer trust in the good faith of the administration. Some faculty members have pointed out the atmosphere of "intimidation" that has persisted on campus under the administration of Provost Marty Krauss and President Jehuda Reinharz. The Brandeis administration, as FIRE’s Robert Shibley has pointed out, is essentially at "war" against its faculty.

But for the purposes of FIRE’s Red Alert list, all Brandeis has to do to get off the list is to finally bring justice in Hindley’s case. Come on, President Reinharz, how hard is it to acknowledge that the Faculty Senate has a point? How hard is it to acknowledge that the Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities, which had full access to the details of the case, found that serious mistakes of both process and policy interpretation were made in the prosecution of Hindley? It is probably too late to go back to the beginning and give Hindley all the due processnot to mention the respect for his libertiesthat he legally and morally deserved. Take back the wrongheaded letter that declared Hindley guilty of making "inappropriate, racial, and discriminatory" statements in class. Reverse this absurd abuse of academic freedom and reverse the finding of guilt once and for all.

Schools: Brandeis University