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DePaul Rejects Tenure Bid by Finkelstein and Says Dershowitz Pressure Played No Role

June 08, 2007

Norman G. Finkelstein, the controversial political scientist who has been engaged in a highly public battle for tenure at DePaul University, learned today that he had lost that fight. In a written statement released to The Chronicle, the university confirmed that Mr. Finkelstein had been denied tenure.

Mr. Finkelstein’s department and a college-level personnel committee both voted in favor of tenure, but the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences wrote a memorandum against it, and the University Board on Promotion and Tenure voted against granting tenure. The final decision rested with the university’s president, the Rev. Dennis Holtschneider, who said in the statement that he had found “no compelling reasons to overturn” the tenure board’s recommendation.

“I played by the rules, and it plainly wasn’t enough to overcome the political opposition to my speaking out on the Israel-Palestine conflict,” Mr. Finkelstein said in an interview. “This decision is not going to deter me from making statements that, so far as I can tell from the judgment of experts in the field, are sound and factually based.”

Mr. Finkelstein’s case has excited widespread interest, in part because of the involvement of Alan M. Dershowitz, a professor of law at Harvard University. The two scholars have sparred repeatedly in public. Last fall, Mr. Dershowitz sent members of DePaul’s law and political-science faculties what he described as “a dossier of Norman Finkelstein’s most egregious academic sins, and especially his outright lies, misquotations, and distortions.”

Informed of the news this evening, Mr. Dershowitz said, “It was the right decision, proving that DePaul University is indeed a first-rate university, not as Finkelstein characterized it, ‘a third-rate university.’ Based on objective standards of scholarship, this should not have even been a close case.”

In the DePaul statement, Father Holtschneider decried the outside interest the case had generated. “This attention was unwelcome and inappropriate and had no impact on either the process or the outcome of this case.” —Jennifer Howard

Update: See a Chronicle article with more details and reaction.