Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Why DePaul Is Violating DePaul's Rules

Today's Chicago Tribune features a front-page article about Finkelstein's suspension. It's a good article by Ron Grossman, a conservative journalist who has written a lot about higher education (he used to write about controversies at the U of Chicago when I was a student there, until the U of C administrators flexed some muscle and ordered the Tribune to stop his writing).

Grossman makes a few significant errors. The worst is letting DePaul get away with calling this an "administrative leave." Under DePaul's rules, a "leave" is something requested by an employee. When the university imposes a "leave" on someone against his will, that's called a "suspension." But the university's rules for suspension (see last page) require that a suspension (which is always paid) only occur following a hearing by a faculty committee, or in case of an emergency where no hearing is possible. There has been no hearing, and there is no emergency. This proves that DePaul is violating its own contractually obligating faculty handbook.

Grossman also claims that Dershowitz was "asked by DePaul to comment" on Finkelstein's tenure. This is utterly false. Dershowitz stepped in on his own; later on, perhaps at Dershowitz's request, an anti-Finkelstein faculty member at DePaul asked for Dershowitz's critique, but this was never part of the formal tenure process. Grossman makes it seem like Dershowitz was officially appointed as an outside reviewer by DePaul, and nothing could be further from the truth. Officially, DePaul objected to Dershowitz's tactics.

Second, Grossman claims that tenure is "the academic equivalent of a lifetime job guarantee." Hmm, maybe he should ask the hundreds of tenured faculty in New Orleans who were fired, or Ward Churchill, if that's true.

Finally, Grossman writes this odd passage: "He was denied tenure in June, but officials could offer no explanation for why his courses were left in the schedule." Grossman fails to inform readers that a terminal year after denial of tenure is an absolute norm at DePaul and around the country, and it's a contractual obligation of DePaul in this case, not a mere norm.

Grossman's article concludes with Finkelstein stating that he won't sue DePaul. It's actually refreshing to see people seeking to persuade the public rather than running to lawyers, but here I think that the students have the true cause for a lawsuit. They expected to receive credit for taking a class, and now the university, in violation of its own rules, is depriving them of this opportunity.

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