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Prof Finkelstein Getting Nutty

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    DePaul memos tell of run-ins with professor By Ron Grossman - rgrossman @ tribune.com September 3, 2007
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 4, 2007
      DePaul memos tell of run-ins with professor
      By Ron Grossman - rgrossman @ tribune.com
      September 3, 2007

      If embattled DePaul University professor Norman Finkelstein carries
      out his pledge to engage in civil disobedience at the start of the
      fall term Wednesday, it won't be his first confrontation with school
      administrators and campus police, according to internal university
      memos obtained by the Tribune.

      Finkelstein, both lauded and decried for his strong criticisms of
      Israel, was denied tenure in June. His classes, however, remained in
      the university's course schedule, and students were enrolled. The
      classes were abruptly canceled Aug. 24, at which point Finkelstein
      himself was notified he was being put on "administrative leave," he said.

      Oral and physical confrontations between Finkelstein and university
      officials began shortly after his tenure denial, according to a memo
      written by university Provost Helmut Epp.

      The provost's memo, dated June 26, alleges that Finkelstein "angrily
      confronted" other faculty and staff and engaged them with "threatening
      and discourteous behavior" after being denied tenure.

      On three such occasions, campus security officers were called to
      intervene, according to the provost's memo. When a dean attempted to
      escape a confrontation by ducking into an elevator, Finkelstein
      physically tried to keep the door from closing, according to the
      provost's account.

      On Wednesday morning, Finkelstein, whose case has attracted wide
      attention both within and beyond the academic world, intends to teach
      a symbolic reincarnation of one of the scratched classes, "Equality in
      Social Justice," at a public library near DePaul's Lincoln Park campus.

      Afterward, he has announced, he will attempt to enter his office, from
      which he has been barred. He promised to go on a hunger strike if
      jailed for his effort, a vow Finkelstein renewed in an interview Sunday.

      "I am morally, mentally and emotionally depleted right now," said
      Finkelstein, 53. "But I will find the resources to fight this next

      The provost's memo and other memos relating to the case have been
      circulating widely among faculty members, said Jonathan Cohen, a
      professor of mathematics at DePaul.

      Other faculty members have said they regretted the administration's
      silence on the subject, fearing students might follow Finkelstein's
      example of civil disobedience, putting their academic careers in
      jeopardy. At a convocation Friday marking the start of the academic
      year, several dozen protesters wore T-shirts proclaiming: "We are all
      Professor Finkelstein." Reportedly, some faculty wore the shirts under
      their academic gowns.

      Finkelstein's support among colleagues, once considerable, had been

      On July 10, according to one newly obtained memo, the political
      science department informed the provost that Finkelstein's actions
      "constitute unacceptable and unprofessional behavior." It recommended
      that Finkelstein be granted "non-residential leave" for the 2007-08
      academic year by DePaul, a Catholic university founded by the
      Vincentian order. Traditionally in academia, a faculty member denied
      tenure is owed a final year in the classroom.

      Earlier, the political science department had strongly supported
      Finkelstein's cause, voting in favor of his application for tenure.
      Even so, his departmental colleagues had noted Finkelstein's
      no-holds-barred writing style, saying that in his books, "careful and
      important scholarly arguments are often sprinkled with ad hominem
      attacks, invective and unsparing criticism."

      Finkelstein, himself Jewish, has been accused of fomenting
      anti-Semitism through his unrelenting criticism of Israel and Jewish
      leaders, a charge he denied to an Israeli newspaper:

      "I am just the messenger who reports on the actions of the Jewish
      establishments, actions that are encouraging anti-Semitism," he said.

      As Finkelstein's tenure review went up the administrative ladder, its
      fortunes turned. Chuck Suchar, the dean Finkelstein allegedly
      confronted in an elevator, found Finkelstein's approach to scholarship
      inconsistent with DePaul's "Vincentian values," including respect for
      the opinions of others.

      In Sunday's interview, Finkelstein turned that charge back upon the

      "It is rather regrettable that DePaul is carrying on the spirit of
      Chicago's Al Capone rather than St. Vincent de Paul," Finkelstein said.

      During the long struggle over Finkelstein's tenure, DePaul was
      besieged with letters and e-mails by his supporters and detractors.
      Finkelstein has engaged in a long-running battle with Harvard
      University law professor Alan Dershowitz, a strong supporter of
      Israel. Finkelstein's supporters have included intellectual
      heavyweights such as social critic and linguist Noam Chomsky and the
      late Raul Hilberg, the dean of Holocaust historians.

      Two years ago, Rev. Dennis Holtschneider, DePaul's president, seemed
      to be in Finkelstein's camp. When supporters of another fired faculty
      member alleged he was being muzzled and asked why Finkelstein wasn't,
      Holtschneider replied that Finkelstein's presence on campus marked
      DePaul's commitment to freedom of inquiry.

      In June, however, Holtschneider endorsed the finding of the school's
      tenure board that Finkelstein be denied tenure.

      Denise Mattson, associate vice president for public relations, said
      Sunday that the university couldn't comment on the memos obtained by
      the Tribune. She said the university considers the memos personal
      documents. She added: "The reason for [Finkelstein's] administrative
      leave was not related to the tenure decision but rather to
      unacceptable behavior exhibited on campus in June."

      Finkelstein denied picking or perpetuating a fight with the
      university, saying he continues to hope for negotiations to resolve
      the issue under conditions acceptable to both sides. But, he added, he
      intends to leave with his head held high, his reputation intact.

      He cited the example of a folk-singer, actor and civil rights crusader
      long celebrated on the political left.

      "One of my heroes is Paul Robeson, who said, 'I will not retreat
      one-thousandth part of one inch,'" Finkelstein said. "And I won't either."



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