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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Letters to the editor: Response to Hindley

Published: November 16, 2007
Section: Opinions

Dear Editor,

When I first read about the accusations made against Prof. Hindley, I was quite surprised. I took one of his Latin American Politics classes, and as someone who can understand the need for racial sensitivity, I was shocked at the allegations. Yes, Prof. Hindley is not an average professor. He does not just brush over the material as many other professors at Brandeis do as he lulls the class to sleep. He says interesting and provocative things that keep the class alert and involved. I will not say that he has been my favorite professor in my four years here, but he definitely added to my Brandeis education in a positive manner. But in its infinite wisdom, the Brandeis Administration has tried to make him conform to the cookie cutter image of a professor who cannot teach past the books that he reads. If this is what we want our professors to be like, then why exactly are we paying over $45,000 a year to attend one of the top universities in the country.

Even though I find the fact that Prof. Hindley is being investigated so zealously by the university to be atrocious, what is more appalling is the pretext under which they are conducting the investigation. I have read The Hoot's article, (Student reveals nature of Hindley Complaint, Nov. 9) and I couldn't believe that one of Jane's' complaints was that he talked about his kids bad music or that he made fun of his house compared to those of his neighbors. Do these complaints belong anywhere near an investigation that may result in a tenured professor being terminated? Brandeis University is so in love with its image as a caring and accepting place that it is willing to bend over backwards to ensure that no one could possible tarnish its precious image. Why is the school's administration so afraid of standing up for one of its professors. He has been here 46 years. Has Brandeis ever heard of loyalty? However, as they struggle to maintain this image, they are neglecting the more direct principle of caring for its faculty. The man has served Brandeis and its students for over 40 years, and they are willing to turn their back on him far too quickly.

Secondly, has the University even bothered to examine from whom these complaints are coming? I'm assuming they haven't. Instead of approaching Prof. Hindley to tell him in person that his comments make her feel uncomfortable, she went straight to the administration.

Also, after filing these complaints against Hindley, “Jane” was so offended and so appalled by what she had heard that she decided to remain in his class? Do these look like the actions of a student is so offended that she feels the need to report the professor or does it sound like someone who just like causing trouble. To further prove this point, she has even said that she would take another class with Prof. Hindley. Come again?

Furthermore, I am fairly certain that the administration has not talked to other students in the class. I know this because if they had talked to students who had been in my class, especially the four South Americans who had taken multiple Hindley classes, they would have found that most people, especially the ones to whom these alleged comments would have been directed, were not offended. Just because one person was offended means nothing. I am sure that you could find many people that would be offended by language about which most people would not think twice. For example, most people do not even know that “Native American” is no longer the most politically correct term, but if someone said that he or she was offended by that term most people would tell them to get a life.

Finally, the administration has not fully understood the implications that this investigation has brought on the entire university. From now on, every professor has to be fretful about approaching any topic that is somewhat controversial. We cannot address these subjects if we do not do it honestly. We cannot talk about racial intolerance if we do not first discuss its origins and how it manifests itself in the public. The quality of a Brandeis liberal arts education will be in serious jeopardy if this investigation ends as its advocates wish it to. I hope Brandeis is ready for this.

As a senior, I have seen many actions taken by the Brandeis Administration and by some of its students over my four years that have made me shake my head. However, the fact that the administration has allowed itself to be led around by the nose by a student lacks all credibility. If a fair and thorough investigation was conducted that investigated every relevant detail of the case eventually found that Prof. Hindley is guilty of doing what has been alleged that would be one thing. However, the administration is ready to ostracize a professor who has taught at Brandeis for over two-thirds of its existence over one shaky allegation. Truth even unto its innermost parts, right? I thought that was the school's motto, but it must just be the catch phrase that they put on their key chains.

– Michael Dax '08