In an earlier post I lamented DePaul’s inexplicable reliance on “civility” as apparently the defining characteristic of a professor’s career. DePaul seems set to deny controversial professor Norman Finkelstein’s tenure bid because he is rude (very rude) to his critics. In that post I noted that I had “no opinion” about the merits of Finkelstein’s tenure bid because I knew nothing about his scholarship.
Well, one of the reasons I knew nothing about his scholarship is that there is apparently not much to know. In a devastating profile in FrontPage, Steven Plaut outlines a career that looks to be built almost entirely on ties to the most world’s extreme anti-Semites and terror apologists. When you survey what Finkelstein has actually done (or not done) with his many years in the academy, it makes DePaul’s actions all the more troubling. Is it really the case that the only reason DePaul may deny tenure to a man without a single serious scholarly publication is that he is too mean?
This leads one to wonder . . . what is the academic record of the political science faculty that voted 9-3 for Finkelstein? Do they feature similar CVs of ideological screeds masquerading as scholarship? Many of the most controversial radical academics seem to have attained high-profile positions (including — in Ward Churchill’s case — becoming chair of the ethnic studies department at a flagship state university) with the thinnest of academic resumes. Their chief qualification is holding the right positions on the right issues and “speaking truth to power” (as the radical left defines the phrase).
Now I seriously doubt that DePaul’s’ political science department actually agrees with the substance of Finkelstein’s more extreme positions, but he certainly makes the right people angry. And — in some quarters — that may very well be the single best thing any academic can do to help his or her career. If FrontPage attacks, the academy must defend.