DePaul Professor Who Supported Finkelstein Also Was Denied Tenure
Chronicle of Higher Ed. June 12
By SIERRA MILLMAN
DePaul professor who supported Finkelstein also was denied tenure
Another professor at DePaul University was rejected for tenure at the same time as Norman G. Finkelstein, and she believes her advocacy for the embattled political scientist may have derailed her career.
“There is no good explanation for why I was denied tenure,” Mehrene E. Larudee, an assistant professor of international studies, said in an interview on Monday. “So one has to look elsewhere.”
Praised as “outstanding” by the dean of her college and recommended unanimously by distinguished faculty peers during the tenure process, Ms. Larudee was 19 days away from becoming director of DePaul’s program in international studies when she learned on Friday of the decision against her.
She and the program’s current director, Michael A. McIntyre, had been discussing the responsibilities she would be assuming when he received, via e-mail, a letter from DePaul’s president, the Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider.
“Hey, this is great, I’ll get to congratulate Mehrene right now,” Mr. McIntyre recalls thinking, until he read the letter. “Our jaws just dropped, hit the floor, when we saw the decision went the other way,” he said.
In the letter, Father Holtschneider said that the University Board on Faculty Promotion and Tenure had decided against awarding tenure to Ms. Larudee and that he accepted that decision.
Ms. Larudee suggested that her active participation in a committee that formed to defend Mr. Finkelstein may have biased administrators against her own tenure case.
A university official denied that there was any connection between the two cases. “I want to emphasize that our faculty-review process assures that every case is evaluated independently, on its own merits,” said Denise Mattson, a spokeswoman. “No cases are linked in any way.”
According to Father Holtschneider’s letter, Ms. Larudee demonstrated a “strong service record” but would not receive tenure because of “mixed teaching evaluations, at times below the departmental mean, a thin record of scholarship.”
Mr. McIntyre declined to comment on whether Ms. Larudee’s advocacy work may have affected the tenure decision, but he dismissed the tenure board’s reasoning and said, “I’m just shocked that unanimous recommendations would be overturned with a sentence that doesn’t even scan grammatically and has no real substance.”
He confirmed Ms. Larudee’s account that Charles S. Suchar, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, had given her the strongest possible endorsement in her most recent merit review, in March, and said Mr. Suchar had approved her as the international-studies program’s next director. “That indicated the level of his confidence in her tenure case,” he said.
Mr. Suchar was not available for comment on Monday.
Anne Clark Bartlett, who is president of the universitywide Faculty Council and a professor of English, said she was surprised by the decision. It’s “fairly unusual for someone to be turned down at a higher level after being upheld at a lower level” of the tenure process, she said. “I think people are still coming to terms with what this means,” she said.
Gil Gott, who is chair of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ Faculty Governance Council and an associate professor of international studies, said in an e-mail message that the decision against Ms. Larudee was “devastating to international studies.” Mr. Gott emphasized that he was commenting as an individual and not as a university official.
While Mr. Suchar wrote a letter in favor of Ms. Larudee’s tenure, he had recommended that the university reject Mr. Finkelstein’s bid (The Chronicle, June 11).
Mr. Finkelstein, who is the son of Holocaust survivors, has generated controversy through his criticism of Israeli policy toward the Palestinians. He has accused some prominent Jews and Jewish groups of exploiting the Holocaust for personal gain and has publicly feuded with Alan M. Dershowitz, a professor of law at Harvard University who is an ardent defender of Israel. Mr. Dershowitz sent members of DePaul’s law and political-science faculties a dossier attacking Mr. Finkelstein last fall (The Chronicle, April 5).
The Faculty Governance Council voted unanimously last November to send a letter to administrators to “express the council’s dismay at Professor Dershowitz’s interference in Finkelstein’s tenure and promotion case.”
Mr. Gott said on Monday that he and others had been “assured that the integrity of the process would be protected.”
“However,” he continued, “to my knowledge, no specific protections were introduced to remedy already-existing problems, such as any lingering false impressions that Alan Dershowitz’s packet may have created in the minds of faculty members or administrators who served on or influenced decision-making bodies in the case.”
On Monday, about two dozen students convened at Father Holtschneider’s office and waited in a conference room during the day until the president met with them about the decision to deny Mr. Finkelstein tenure, Ms. Mattson said. “They shared a frank exchange of views regarding this year’s tenure decisions,” she said. The president told the students he would not contravene the University Board on Faculty Promotion and Tenure’s decision.
Ms. Larudee says her own support of Mr. Finkelstein is consistent with the university’s commitment to social justice and humanitarian issues. “I’m devoted to these principles,” she said.
Ms. Larudee is a non-Jewish member of the Chicago chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace, a national organization that seeks to influence American foreign policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In late March, she joined a committee to defend Mr. Finkelstein against attacks and began contacting national figures who might help.
Now she’s looking for help, but a meeting she requested with the university’s provost stalled initially because his staff said he would only meet with her alone. Late Monday, she received a message from the provost indicating he would meeting with her and a colleague. She says she won’t accept the tenure decision: “I expect to fight.”