Illinois AAUP Letter on Finkelstein Controversy
April 19, 2007
The Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M., Ed.D.
President DePaul University
1 E. Jackson
Chicago, Illinois 60604
Dear Father Holtschneider:
I write on behalf of the American Association of University Professors, Illinois Conference. Our State Council has been following carefully Professor Norman G. Finkelstein’s application for promotion to associate professor of political science and tenure, because of the unusual public attention it has received.
We have noted with considerable concern that the process, normally followed at DePaul and all other reputable universities, has in this instance been subjected to outside pressures that may have unduly influenced Professor Finkelstein’s case. It has long been recognized that “faculty status and related matters (including tenure) are primarily a faculty responsibility.” Furthermore, determinations in these matters should primarily result from faculty peer review through established procedures. (AAUP Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities, section V). It is our understanding that in Professor Finkelstein’s case there has been extraordinary, perhaps unprecedented unsolicited intervention in opposition to his application by Alan M. Dershowitz, Frankfurter Professor of Law at the Harvard Law School. Professor Dershowitz has been involved in an ongoing dispute with Professor Finkelstein about matters of scholarly and public concern.
Academic freedom, the primary concern of AAUP, allows “full freedom in research and in the publication of the results.” (1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure). It appears that much of the opposition to Professor Finkelstein is based on the “tone” of his writings and not their accuracy and scholarly rigor. In this regard we call to your attention the AAUP statement “On Collegiality as a Criterion for Faculty Evaluation” which concludes after much experience and study that “certainly, an absence of collegiality ought never, by itself, to constitute a basis for …denial of tenure…”
The affirmative vote of Professor Finkelstein’s departmental colleagues and the College Personnel Committee would indicate that, in their professional judgment, his research, teaching and service have satisfied university requirements for tenure and promotion.
We respectfully submit this statement to express our conviction that the surest protection of academic excellence is academic freedom. Academic freedom in turn requires that tenure decisions be made in fair and established processes in which the primary responsibility lies with the faculty of the institution. We trust that DePaul will adhere to these principles.