Wednesday, May 18, 2005

FIRE scolds DePaul on Klocek case, DePaul Prez say school supports free speech, citing "Vagina Monologues"

FIRE is the acronym for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

It's mission, according to its web site is to:

"... defend and sustain individual rights at America's increasingly repressive and partisan colleges and universities. These rights include freedom of speech, legal equality, due process, religious liberty, and sanctity of conscience -- the essential qualities of individual liberty and dignity. FIRE's core mission is to protect the unprotected and to educate the public and communities of concerned Americans about the threats to these rights on our campuses and about the means to preserve them. "

Naturally, the FIRE is troubled by what has occurred at Chicago's DePaul University. This press release came out late this afternoon.

DePaul Professor Suspended Without a Hearing After Arguing with Students on Middle East Issues

CHICAGO, May 18, 2005 DePaul University administrators have suspended Professor Thomas Klocek without a hearing after he engaged in an out-of-class argument with pro-Palestinian students at a student activities fair. When the students complained to administrators, Klocek was denied the rights that DePaul guarantees to professors accused of wrongdoing and immediately suspended. Statements from DePaul administrators indicate that Klocek was disciplined because of his harsh criticism of the students' viewpoint, despite DePaul's stated commitments to free speech and academic freedom.

"DePaul has unquestionably violated Professor Klocek's due process rights, and the university did so because his statements were allegedly offensive," commented David French, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which wrote to DePaul on Klocek's behalf.

The incident in question occurred on September 15, 2004, when Professor Klocek engaged in conversation with students representing Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and United Muslims Moving Ahead (UMMA). According to the DePaulia student newspaper and other sources, during the debate, Klocek cited a Chicago Sun-Times article that quoted the general manager of the Al-Arabiya television network as saying, "It is a certain fact that not all Muslims are terrorists, but it is equally certain, and exceptionally painful, that almost all terrorists are Muslims." A heated but strictly verbal argument ensued during which Klocek argued that a Christian viewpoint, in addition to Muslim or Jewish ones, should be considered in discussing Israel and Palestine. According to Klocek, SJP and UMMA students (several of whom had gathered around Professor Klocek) made their own controversial statements comparing Israeli Jews to Nazis. The argument concluded when Klocek walked away from the SJP and UMMA tables and thumbed his chin at the students in what he believed to be an Italian hand gesture meaning "I'm outta here."

To read the entire press release, click here.

For the Neil Steinberg Chicago Sun-Times article (excerpted) click here.

For the DePaul president's response, and the V-Monologues explanation, click here.

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