Dr. Norman Finkelstein, a professor at DePaul University, a Catholic school in Chicago, has been denied tenure even though he meets all of the professional standards for the position.
Finkelstein has raised a considerable amount of controversy with his claims that Jews have used the Holocaust for financial gain and the oppression of the Palestinians.
Dr. Finkelstein’s application for tenure has caused charges of anti-Semitism, personal vendettas, and outside interference in the hiring process to surface. Ironically, his family was imprisoned by the Nazis with only his parents surviving the Holocaust. Finkelstein was informed Friday that he had been denied tenure by the university.
The professor’s position on being denied tenure is that he, “met the publishing standards and the teaching standards required for tenure” and that DePaul’s decision was based on “transparently political grounds” and an “egregious violation” of academic freedom.”
The Catholic university’s staff was divided on whether to offer tenure to Finkelstein. The political science department where he teaches voted to award him tenure but, the University Board on Promotion and Tenure rejected his bid.
DePaul’s president, the Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, upheld that decision. In a letter to Dr. Finkelstein, Father Holtschneider wrote that Dr. Finkelstein is an excellent teacher and a nationally recognized public intellectual but does not “honor the obligation” to “respect and defend the free inquiry of associates.”
Professor Finkelstein’s work has drawn the ire of many for his accusations that Jews have been exploiting the Holocaust for monetary gain. He has also criticized Israel for oppressing the Palestinians. One of his most persistent critics has been Alan Dershowitz, the attorney and Harvard law professor whose fervent defense of Israel has led to frequent and often venomous conflicts with Dr. Finkelstein.
Dershowitz went so far as to lobby the university to deny Finkelstein’s tenure application. Many faculty members at DePaul and elsewhere decried what they called Mr. Dershowitz’s heavy-handed tactics.
Sounding resigned, Mr. Finkelstein said of DePaul, “Rationally, it has to deny me tenure.”
“Any time I wrote or spoke would evoke another hysterical response and would be costly for them,” he said, referring to the college’s fund-raising efforts.
In a statement Father Holtschneider said the outside attention paid to Mr. Finkelstein’s bid for tenure “was unwelcome and inappropriate and had no impact on either the process or the outcome of this case.” He added: “Some will consider this decision in the context of academic freedom. In fact academic freedom is alive and well at DePaul.”
It is no surprise that Mr. Dershowitz was delighted. “It was plainly the right decision,” he said.
Mr. Finkelstein said he plans to leave Chicago for New York. “Teaching is in my bones. I love to teach,” he said, but he added that as a result of this “blacklisting, I will be barred from ever entering a college classroom again.”
Nonetheless, any temptation to “indulge in a bout of self-pity,” he said, was halted by thinking of his parents, who survived the Warsaw ghetto and the Nazi death camps while the rest of his relatives were exterminated. “They survived,” he said. “I’ll survive.”