Sunday, March 27, 2005

DePaul staffer speaks out for Klocek

Yesterday morning I received an e-mail from a DePaul faculty member, a supporter of Professor Klocek. He sent some valuable links from the DePaulia, and gave me a rundown of his opinion on the suspension of Adjunct Professor Thomas Klocek.

In his e-mail, this staffer told me "DePaul's claim that there is no free speech issue involved strikes me as nonsense."

We spoke on the telephone last night (by mutually agreement, after the Illinois-Arizona game); we spoke for about an hour.

The incident in the DePaul cafeteria with the Professor Klocek and the two Muslim students occurred on September 15, 2004. This issue appeared on my source's radar screen later that month, when he (and the entire student body and faculty of DePaul, all 28, 000 of them) received an e-mail from DePaul President Dennis Holtschneider apologizing for two unnamed "insensitive" incidents by DePaul faculty members. One of the instances, it turned out, was the cafeteria confrontation involving professor Klocek and the Muslim students.

In the e-mail, Holtschneider states that the behavior of the two faculty members was in contrary to the DePaul philosophy of acceptance of other cultures, races, religions and sexual preferences.

Shortly after this e-mail was sent, the DePaulia, the school's weekly newspaper, published a detailed account of the cafeteria confrontation, "Loop professor takes heat for conduct."

Klocek came to one of the two Palestinian groups (UMMA and SJP) and began a discussion that apparently became quite heated by all accounts. According to my source, and this is mentioned in the DePaulia article, Klocek referred to a recent article written by Abdel Rahman al-Rashed, the general manager of Al-Arabiya news channel, entitled "A Wake-Call: Almost all terrorists are Muslims."

That opinion piece was written in the aftermath of the Beslan massacre on September 3 in southern Russia.

The opening sentence of the Al-Rashed article was "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. "

This DePaulia article also reported on Klocek's suspension from DePaul's School of New Learning, and also included this revealing paragraph:

Administrators discussed the situation with Klocek and determined that it was an isolated incident and not typical behavior for the professor, (School of New Learning Dean Suzanne) Dumbleton said. She further explained that Klocek has had an otherwise positive career of 15 years, and explained that he is a very well read, intelligent instructor who made an error in judgment. There had been no previous student complaints regarding Klocek's conduct and he had a positive relationship with the university.

Not to jump around too much, but note there is no mention of Klocek's " health issues that affected his teaching" which the university president referred to in an e-mail forwarded to me last week. See my Friday post.

A week or two later (not sure of the time line), this letter from the editor appeared in the DePaulia, written by Dean Susanne Dumbleton. It's a must read.

Here is the a key excerpt:

On Sept. 15, at the Loop Student Involvement Fair, these assumptions were violated. The students’ perspective was dishonored and their freedom demeaned. Individuals were deeply insulted.

Our college acted immediately by removing the instructor from the classroom. This is a part-time faculty member, whom the university contracts for individual courses. He has no further responsibilities with the university at this time.

In my meeting with the students on Sept. 23, I apologized to them for the insult and disrespect they had endured, acknowledged the seriousness of the offense, and informed them that this teacher had been removed from class. I repeat that apology now. I sincerely regret the assault on their dignity, their beliefs, their individual selves, and I continue to be saddened by the fact that they have experienced such pain at the hands of a person who taught at my school, which has defined commitment to social justice as one of its core values. Indeed, our mission says: “SNL (School of New Learning) deliberately works to shape a more just, livable world; to ensure that those who have historically been ignored, excluded, marginalized, oppressed and economically disenfranchised benefit from the many learning opportunities available through SNL and beyond.

To me, it sounds like an issue of academic freedom in regards to Thomas Klocek's troubles with DePaul.

Possibly, possibly, that may have been the end of it. But Selma Nasser, one of the students who involved with the September 15 discussions with Tom Klocek, in her words "re-lived the nightmare, the feelings of outrage, inadequacy, hurt and disappointment" when she saw the professor, once again in the school cafeteria.

In a letter to the DePaulia, Professor deserved harsher treatment, Nasser calls for Klocek's dismissal from DePaul:

"How could anyone in good conscience allow this incident to slide with anything less than his permanent termination and requiring his apology?"

As this is a very long post, I'm going to end it here from now. To summarize, for the winter quarter, Professor. Klocek, because of his "health problems" was offered one class to teach in the winter quarter, under the condition he accept monitoring via unannounced classroom visits. Klocek viewed this as demeaning--he refused and here we are today. He's been suspended without pay by DePaul, and as an adjunct professor, does not enjoy the protect of tenure.

There's a lot more to this story. Some of the minor details are just plainly wrong, according to my source. Look for some follow up details late tonight or early tomorrow. Then I go on vacation.

The final word comes from my tipster: "DePaul's claim that there is no free speech issue involved strikes me as nonsense."

No comments: