Advertise - Print Edition

Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Politics professor accused of making racist remarks

Published: November 2, 2007
Section: News

Professor Donald Hindley (POL) was charged with violating the Universitys Non-Discrimination and Harassment Policy for statements made in his classes, sources say. Based on documents forwarded via e-mail, Hindley, who has taught at Brandeis for 46 years, will have to undergo University-funded anti-discrimination training and have a monitor in his classes.

I, as Provost, am extremely concerned for the welfare of the Universitys studentsthe University will not tolerate inappropriate, racial and discriminatory conduct by members of its faculty, said a letter allegedly written by Provost Marty Krauss, which was scanned in its entirety and sent via e-mail by Hindley to the Concerned e-mail listserve.

I sincerely hope that you will recognize the seriousness of this matter and take affirmative steps to correct your conduct. Failure to do so may result in further disciplinary action up to, and including termination, the letter concluded. Krauss did not respond to e-mails and phone messages asking for clarification.

According to his e-mail, Hindley said that on Oct. 22, he received a message from Director of Employment, Employee Relations & Training Jesse Simone, asking to meet regarding an important and confidential matter. During this meeting, Hindley said, Simone said a complaint [had] been made by more than one student in my Latin American Politics course that my remarks were racist. Hindley added that it seemed to me that the complaint had been shown to be preposterous.

When asked about the complaints made, Simones superior, Vice President for Human Resources Scot Bemis, said the office refused to comment. However, according to one of the letters forwarded, Simone stated that she had concluded my investigation on Oct. 30, concluding that Hindleys remarks were inappropriate, racial, and discriminatory.

Later that day, Krauss sent another letter with her decision to pursue anti-discrimination training and have Assistant Provost Richard Silberman monitor his classes.

It appears that other than the complainants[,] no students from either of my classes were contactedlet alone students from previous semesters, years, etc., concluded Hindley's e-mail. This [is] the Reinharz Brandeis University: secretive, authoritarian, and personalist. We all know what sort of community this creates. The individual secret deal is what matters.

Hindley declined to elaborate via telephone, stating any comments he made could be used against him. He did not answer when asked if he would pursue legal action.

Student responses to Hindleys situation were sympathetic. I have taken both of Professor Hindley's Latin American Politics courses and as a result of those experiences I am highly skeptical of the validity of these charges, said Kenny Fuentes 08. Our study of these regions of the world are full of racial tensions and harsh realities that Professor Hindley never sugar-coats. His blunt analysis of the racism problems in Latin America may surprise some, but he strongly stands against the domination of the indigenous and afro peoples of Latin America by the largely white ruling class.

He has dedicated his career to educating his students about the rampant racism still prevalent in Latin American societies, a form of racism largely unknown to the American population, Fuentes said. Without passing judgment on the complaints which as of now remain unknown, I am concerned that this situation represents, at best, a misunderstanding, and at worst, a political attack speaking from intellectual experience and personal knowledge, I am strongly inclined to support Professor Hindley.

“That's not the first time I've heard someone say that,” said Jeff Arak '07. “He does have a rather cavalier attitude in his class conduct from what I remember.”

Kevin Conway 09, who is not a Hindley student, disagreed with the process leading to the decision.

Regarding whether or not the investigation is illegitimate and politically motivated, consider that [Simone] wrote Hindley on [Oct. 30] about an alleged racist remark made in late September, said Conway. For the better part of a month the investigation was conducted behind closed doors, without even so much as a courtesy phone call to Hindley, who has the right to be informed that he's being investigated.

Describing the second letter by Krauss as humorous in many regards, Conway added instead of suggesting that Hindley have a talk with the offended student and apologize for an allegedly offensive remark Brandeis has now elected to put a monitor in his classroom. So at the end of the day, the offended student is still offended and we've accomplished nothing, but this is how we deal problems at Brandeis: with committees, not with communication.

Conway concluded by saying Hindley may very well be fired because of an unknown racist remark, an accusation promulgated by an anonymous Brandeis student. [It] sounds totally illegitimate to me.

Ephraim Rinsky 09, who currently takes a course with Hindley, said basically the deal is he'll occasionally use words that would be offensive in another context, like wetback but the thing is that the way he uses them is in a sarcastic way to make a point about ignorance. Instead, Rinsky said, he uses them in a way that shows the ridiculousness of abuseI think the context of that word Americans still have the Mexicans land and then when they come back we call them wetbacks. Basically, your ears perk up when you hear that word. You think its racist, but when you pay attention, its not racistits more of satire against people who are ignorant.

Rinsky added sometimes he uses words that are offensive, but I never really think they are in a maliciously racist way even if he is sometimes offensive, I dont think that is a reflection of any racism. We were discussing these issues like Brazil, where there are several race classes there. I think it is unrealistic to expect him to teach a class about parts of the world where there is deep-seated racism without touching upon the topic of race and describing to us what its really like there.

He said I feel like the University is being hypocriticalour motto is 'truth even unto its innermost parts. I think to ask him to cover up and not really tell us the truth as he sees it would be doing us a disservice as students. I think those innermost parts are referring to the not-so-pretty truth that cant be ignored.