Brandeis University: Professor Found Guilty of Harassment for Protected Speech

By August 28, 2008

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The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is a nonprofit organization that unites leaders, faculty, and students to defend and sustain civil liberties on college campuses in the United States. FIRE protects and promotes individual rights including the rights to freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of association, academic freedom, legal equality, due process, religious liberty, and sanctity of conscience—essential qualities of individual liberty and dignity.

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Brandeis University

In spite of widespread condemnation from faculty, the media, the ACLU, and the public, Brandeis University remains unrepentant about its mistreatment of Professor Donald Hindley, who was declared guilty of racial harassment after he criticized the use of the word “wetbacks” in his Latin American Politics course.

Due to this shameful behavior, FIRE has placed Brandeis on its Red Alert list. Red Alert institutions have displayed a severe and ongoing disregard for the fundamental rights of their students or faculty members. They are the "worst of the worst" when it comes to liberty on campus. For more information, click here.

FIRE recommends that students and faculty think twice before choosing to join Brandeis’s academic community because at Brandeis, speech is not free.  

Brandeis can easily get itself off the Red Alert list and restore its reputation by finally bringing justice in Hindley’s case. President Reinharz must take back the wrongheaded letter that declared Hindley guilty of making "inappropriate, racial, and discriminatory" statements in class. Brandeis must reverse this absurd abuse of academic freedom and reverse the finding of guilt once and for all.

Faculty Condemnation of the Brandeis Administration:

Report from Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities, November 29, 2007

Brandeis Faculty Senate Minutes, May 1, 2008: The Faculty Senate accepts, based on the facts as we know them, the judgment that the Provost’s actions have violated Professor Hindley’s faculty rights, including the right to academic freedom and the right to be treated fairly under University policies…. We regret that this recent case has damaged the collegiality of our University, its academic and intellectual function, its faculty governance procedures, and its public reputation.

FIRE Blogs:

"Where is the Alumni Outrage Over the Brandeis Administration’s Shameful Behavior?," Brandon Stewart, August 20, 2008: The Brandeis University administration continues to maintain public silence about its unfair treatment of Donald Hindley, a beloved professor of nearly 50 years who had a monitor placed in his classroom after he critiqued the term "wetbacks" in class. Why have Brandeis’s alumni chosen not to confront President Jehuda Reinharz and Provost Marty Krauss as the faculty and many students have done? While the faculty and the press (including national media and both student newspapers) have come to the defense of Hindley, where are notable trustees and alumni such as Mitch Albom, Sidney Blumenthal, Martin Peretz, Robert Zimmer, and Vartan Gregorian?

"Brandeis’ Inexplicable War Against Its Faculty," Robert Shibley, July 3, 2008: Brandeis University President Jehuda Reinharz has a problem on his hands. His administration has managed to take a student complaint—that a Politics professor uttered the word "wetbacks" in his class—and turn it into an open faculty revolt. Bewildered students are left wondering how this could have happened at a university named after one of free speech’s most notable defenders.

More FIRE blogs »

External Media Coverage:

"ACLU statement criticizes Provost," David Pepose, The Brandeis Hoot, February 1, 2008

"Shhh! Free speech crackdown on campus," Margery Eagan, Boston Herald, January 27, 2008

"Brandeis professor says his right to free speech violated," Stephanie Siek, The Boston Globe, January 25, 2008

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A "red light" institution has at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech. A "clear" restriction is one that unambiguously infringes on what is or should be protected expression.

A "yellow light" institution has some policies that could ban or excessively regulate protected speech. The colleges and universities that earn yellow lights may have policies that restrict a significant amount of protected expressions.

If FIRE is unable to find a policy that seriously imperils speech, a college or university receives a "green light". A green light does not indicate that a school actively supports free expression.