Jul 25, 2006
In my position with the National Association of Chiefs of Police, I get many reports, press releases and other documents on a daily basis. Because of time constraints, I may read perhaps one-third of them, giving priority to Department of Homeland Security and FBI reports.
However, every once in a while I get something that angers me and compells me to research.
Such is the case with the one report that describes the unfair, almost Stalinist treatment, of a Chicago educator whose only transgression is he supports Israel’s right to defend itself from terrorists.
Responding to what has been condemned as a violation of academic freedom, professors, scholars, and students worldwide signed a petition by The Scholars for Peace in the Middle East to reinstate Professor Thomas Klocek to his teaching position at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois.
Klocek was suspended from the university following a campaign launched by pro-Palestinian student groups and the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). Klocek believes in Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign Jewish state within safe and secure borders.
CAIR and Muslim student groups told University officials that Klocek offended Muslim students when discussing Christian interests in Israel, disputing that Israeli treatment of Palestinians was akin to the Nazi treatment of the Jews, and then terminating the discussion when it appeared that the students were more interested in Israel-bashing than discussing the issues.
Titled “A Petition to Reinstate Professor Thomas Klocek to DePaul University With No Prejudice or Penalty,” the petition is to be delivered to DePaul’s president and Dean upon its goal of 2,000
DePaul’s Alleged Violations Of Academic Freedom
In an interview with Walking Eagle Productions, a documentary film company covering the DePaul controversy, Klocek said that he was suspended by DePaul administration, and ultimately lost his position and teaching benefits, after engaging in an out-of-class argument with pro-Palestinian students at a student activities fair on campus.
Klocek shared that he served 14 years a part-time adjunct professor in DePaul’s School of New Learning and that he was considered a popular professor, with large class enrollments and received excellent student reviews, with no prior complaints about Klocek’s behavior.
But after engaging in heated discussion with two Muslim student groups at a Student Involvement Fair on DePaul’s campus, the student groups Students for Justice in Palestine (SPJ) and United Muslims Moving Ahead (UMMA) went to the administration to call for Klocek’s firing. Both
groups were backed by CAIR’s Chicago office, and other local Muslim advocate groups, some of whom called for even harsher punishment.
Klocek said that although no third-party witnesses were provided by the offended parties, DePaul’s Dean of the School of New Learning, Susanne Dumbleton, had him suspended without any hearing, and held his insurance benefits in jeopardy.
Once Klocek was removed from his teaching position, Dumbleton then publicly castigated Klocek in DePaul’s student newspaper, The Depaulia, stating that Klocek was being punished by the DePaul Administration for expressing what she deemed to be Klocek’s “erroneous assertions” to the
Muslim student groups.
Christina Abraham, Civil Rights Coordinator for CAIR’s Chicago branch office, granted an interview to Walking Eagle Productions to explain their reasons for filing the original complaint to DePaul on behalf of the student groups. Abraham stated that she believed all of the student group’s allegations, and that they were serious enough to demand Klocek’s immediate firing.
First Amendment groups, such as the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), protested DePaul’s actions. FIRE’s then-president David French stated in its own press release that Klocek’s suspension violated DePaul’s policies guaranteeing academic freedom as well as its
contractual promise of due process “because his statements were allegedly offensive.”
“While DePaul may now argue that the issue is one of professionalism, its public statements at the time of Klocek’s punishment make it clear that Klocek’s real crime was offending students during an out-of-class discussion of a controversial and emotional topic.” said French. “Academic freedom cannot survive when professors who engage in debate on controversial topics are subject to administrative punishment without even the most cursory due process.”
A Peace Organization Rallies For Academic Freedom
How did Scholars for Peace in the Middle East become involved in Klocek’s defense?
“SPME is an academic community of scholars.” explains SPME President Dr. Beck, in an interview with Walking Eagle Productions. “And as such, we’re trying to support another scholar on what we see as a violation of his academic freedom and due process. The goal is to raise awareness among faculty members that we may not be as safe as we think we are, and to get him reinstated without penalty.”
Klocek is undeterred and confident that true scholars will rise above such divisiveness, and support the petition on behalf of him. “The issue of free speech and academic freedom,” says Klocek, “extends to all faculty members, part- and full-time, non-tenured and tenured alike.”
While the petition is open for everyone to sign, SPME is especially encouraging signatures from professors. SPME however, has expressed the important role students can play in circulating their petition professors in their own schools and classes, or contacting professors who remain active during the summer in online forums and web blogs.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and he’s a staff writer for the New Media Alliance