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Provost, faculty debate Hindley

Published: January 18, 2008
Section: Front Page, News

hindley.jpgProvost Marty Krauss and the Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities gave opposing opinions regarding the treatment of Prof. Donald Hindley (POL). Hindley was ordered by Krauss in November to attend anti-discrimination training and a monitor was placed in his classes after Hindley was accused of making “inappropriate…and discriminatory remarks.”

On Nov. 29, the Committee issued an opinion defending Hindley, arguing the sanctions imposed by the Provost were “based on her acceptance of a deeply flawed process [and] violated Prof. Hindley’s right to fair and equitable treatment.”

“While I appreciate the efforts of the Committee…I disagree with the Committee’s opinion because I have found numerous errors…in its analysis,” wrote Krauss on Dec. 10 in a memo to the Committee, adding, “I cannot in good conscience accede to the recommendations of the Committee. Such a course of action would undermine the community’s faith in the integrity of the University’s policies, chill future students, faculty and staff from coming forward with complaints, place the University at significant risk of violating state and federal law, and potentially lead to retaliation against the students who have the courage to speak out against discrimination.”

Krauss stated in her response that she felt the Committee overstepped its jurisdiction, which she felt was solely to determine if the proper sanctions, not the proper investigation, were taken.

“I must say that I was greatly concerned by the Committee’s willingness to examine in depth faculty ‘rights,’ while failing to recognize an obligation to consider their concomitant ‘responsibilities,’” she added.

“All faculty have important responsibilities to the Brandeis community…not based on the language of the Handbook, but pursuant to the very principles central to Brandeis’ mission,” she said.

Krauss stated that the investigator did not harbor an ulterior motive against Hindley, adding the Committee had never interviewed the investigator.

Responding to the Committee’s claims that informal discussions with Hindley should have occurred first, Krauss replied that Politics chair Stephen Berg and the investigator “made an informed professional judgment” to move straight to official sanctions, adding that Hindley’s decision to widely share the charges made against him validated their decision.

Krauss also added “the Anti-Discrimination Policy contains an extensive definition of harassment as well as numerous examples.”

The Committee, who responded to Krauss’ ruling on Dec. 19, said they felt the decision to forgo informal discussions “seriously misstates those Procedures to say that [that step] is discretionary on the part of the investigator,.”

Krauss also alleged that when told by the investigator that his comments offended a student, Hindley “attempted to minimize the impact by arguing that to have one person offended was not significant” and claimed his “purpose was to vaccinate American kids against Bush and Cheney and their use of racist terms like Islamo Facist.”

The Committee questioned the veracity of these statements: “Having studied the investigator’s report carefully, we believe more questions should have been raised about her interpretation of quotations she attributes to Prof. Hindley… as we noted previously the investigator failed to give Prof. Hindley a chance…to confirm whether these quotations were even accurate.”

According to Krauss’ report, three students complained of “significant emotional trauma.”

The Committee, meanwhile, stated this information was never mentioned during interviews with Krauss, adding, “had we been told about these unreported facts, we might well have interviewed the HR investigator.”

Krauss also felt the Committee was incorrect in their assertion that the investigator should have questioned other students’ reactions, stating that discrimination law “is designed for the very purpose of protecting those in the minority from discrimination by the majority.”

Krauss also stated Hindley’s reading of her initial decision to her class, which led to a group of students angrily questioning Krauss, “would have had the exact same result” as a poll.

Regarding the sanctions against Hindley, Krauss said that Assistant Provost Richard Silberman was placed in Hindley’s class “simply as an observer,” adding that “once the University determined that Prof. Hindley had engaged in discriminatory conduct, it was under a legal obligation to take…remedial action.” Furthermore, Krauss said she was afraid of retaliation from Hindley. She did not, however, discuss why the monitor remained in the classroom during the appeals process.

Regarding the Committee’s suggestion to remove the students from the classroom, Krauss stated, this “contradicts the fundamental tenets of anti-discrimination law.”

“It is absolutely contrary to law, and frankly to ethics, to punish the victim in a harassment case,” said Krauss. “Furthermore, it would have discredited the victim’s complaints and sent the message that the University’s response to harassing conduct is to separate the victim from the harasser instead of stopping the harasser’s conduct.”

The Committee responded that “[the Provost] has not produced any counter-authority, more than a month after our request, [which] leads us to conclude that this violation cannot be excused by unsubstantiated claims of legal necessity.”

Krauss also defended her use of the word “termination” in her Oct. 30 sanctions, stating, “I was informing him that if he engaged in further…discriminatory conduct, he would be subjected to further discipline, ‘up to, and including, termination.’”

Thus far, there has been no word following these memos. The Committee concluded, “it is a curious feature of the faculty dispute resolution process that the Provost, in cases of this sort, essentially becomes the final judge of her own actions… this case raises serious problems that will require campus-wide discussion to repair, obligating all of us to show a positive spirit of cooperation and respect.”

“These complaints are Brandeis students who are…intimidated and hurt, and challenging the behavior of a long-time tenured professor. We owe them the same ‘rights’ as every other member of this community and my fear is that they may well feel victimized a second time by the Committee’s ‘ruling,’” Krauss continued. “I am committed to academic freedom for our faculty and students, but I am equally committed to the principle that we will not tolerate racially harassing speech.”