The Tenure Case of Norman Finkelstein

Howard Freil in ZNet:

Norman Finkelstein was denied tenure at DePaul University on June 8, 2007, despite votes in favor of tenure by the school’s Political Science Department and a college-level personnel committee. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, tenure was opposed by the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the University Board on Promotion and Tenure, and the university president, Rev. Dennis Holtschneider, the ultimate decision-maker in the case, who reportedly told the Chronicle that he found “no compelling reasons to overturn” the tenure board’s recommendation.

In addition, Holtschneider reportedly told the Chronicle that he “decried the outside interest the case had generated” and stated for the record: “This attention was unwelcome and inappropriate and had no impact on either the process or the outcome of this case.” While the outside interference was both inappropriate and probably unprecedented, due on both counts to the prolifically public opposition to Finkelstein’s tenure by Harvard Law School’s Alan Dershowitz, it seems implausible that Dershowitz’s campaign had no impact at DePaul on the final decision to deny tenure to Finkelstein.

Because few assistant professors with books published by at least three major publishers (in this case the University of California, W.W. Norton, and Verso) are denied tenure, and because even fewer with such books, a vote of support from their department, and glowing student evaluations, are denied tenure, it is difficult to imagine that anything other than outside interference, almost all of it from Dershowitz, led to the denial of Finkelstein’s tenure at DePaul.