The Academe Blog

The blog of Academe Magazine. Opinions published here do not necessarily represent the policies of the AAUP.

The Hypocritical Accusation of Hypocrisy by Accuracy in Academia

Malcolm Kline of Accuracy in Academia (whom I will be debating on Thursday in Washington DC at the Heritage Foundation), has a blog entry today responding to Academe Blog’s coverage of the Norman Finkelstein case at DePaul, and complaining that the AAUP (and I) failed to defend DePaul adjunct Thomas Klocek when he was fired by DePaul: “Klocek’s name never turns up in a search of either Wilson’s academe blog or of the website of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), of which Wilson is a member. The AAUP protested Finkelstein’s dismissal but not, from any record we have been able to unearth, Klocek’s.”

In reality, I have written extensively defending Klocek’s academic freedom, including in my book Patriotic Correctness: Academic Freedom and Its Enemies. (Academe Blog, which began last year, did not exist during the Klocek case.) However, I did write about the Klocek case on my College Freedom blog, arguing that “at a basic, principled level, the Klocek and Finkelstein cases are the same.”

In the Illinois AAUP’s newspaper Illinois Academe in Fall 2005, I wrote: “The DePaul administration accuses Klocek of ‘threatening and unprofessional behavior,’ although it never specified any threats made by Klocek. AAUP guidelines protect extramural speech of all academics, including adjunct instructors. Removing an instructor for an argument outside of class is a violation of due process, and firing him is even worse. Extramural comments are only subject to punishment if they indicate professional misconduct, and hostile arguments may be unpleasant but certainly do not rise to that standard. Although some critics point to Klocek’s firing as an example of political correctness, it primarily reflects the powerlessness of adjunct faculty and the corporatization of colleges where students are seen as customers and those who offend them will be removed.”

In Spring 2006 (pdf), Michael McIntyre, then president of the Illinois AAUP and a DePaul professor, wrote a lengthy front-page column for Illinois Academe defending Klocek’s rights and concluded, “We can either act collectively – and in far larger numbers than we now muster – to take back academic freedom for all faculty members, or we risk losing it for all of us.”

It is true that the AAUP as an organization never spoke out about the Klocek case, just as it does not speak out publicly about the vast majority of academic freedom violations. The AAUP has rarely in the past defended adjunct faculty (particularly those such as Klocek, who didn’t exhaust all of the internal appeal procedures at DePaul, which the AAUP normally requires before it intervenes). I believe that the AAUP needs to speak out in many more cases, a point that I’ll be making on a panel at the AAUP conference tomorrow. But the failure of the national office of the AAUP to publicly defend Klocek has nothing to do with a bias against conservatives. And the Illinois AAUP and myself certainly did speak out in defense of Klocek’s rights.

The real hypocrisy in the Klocek and Finkelstein cases is that of Accuracy in Academia and other conservatives who defended Klocek while cheering the violation of Finkelstein’s academic freedom. On my blog five years ago, I wondered: “Will the conservatives who rightly defended Klocek make a similar argument against denying Finkelstein tenure for the crime of being rude?”

Certainly not Accuracy in Academia and Kline, which has supported DePaul’s firing of Finkelstein. Kline himself falsely referred to Finkelstein as “DePaul University’s denier-in-residence.” Another article justified denying Finkelstein tenure because of “Finkelstein’s offensive behavior.”

Accuracy in Academia also ran an essay by William Donahue which falsely claimed that Finkelstein was “suggesting that Alan Dershowitz be assassinated,” and concluded by calling for the firing of Finkelstein: “The time has come for responsible Catholic leaders to hold up a stop sign to this kind of ad hominem assault. Robust free speech should be welcomed on campus, but if it is to have pedagogical value, it must respect logic and standards of evidence. Character assassination of the kind Finkelstein engages in does not meet that test. He has abused his rights as a faculty member and he has defamed Catholic education.”

In 2005, Kline accused DePaul of a “double standard” for firing Klocek while still employing Finkelstein. Perhaps he’ll be willing to acknowledge that it’s Accuracy in Academia which has the double standard, and is unwilling to consistently defend academic freedom for everyone.

About John K. Wilson

Founder of College Freedom (http://collegefreedom.blogspot.com)

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