- Post-9/11, anyone challenging America's war on terrorism
faces possible recrimination, especially vulnerable Muslims, targeted for
political advantage to incite fear to justify war.
- Moreover, anyone critical of Israel leaves them vulnerable
to vilification, intimidation and persecution. Even university professors
are targeted, including distinguished tenured ones - censured, suspended
and/or fired unjustly.
- Yet America's First Amendment states:
- "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment
of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the
freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably
to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
- Of all Bill of Rights freedoms, this one's most important
because without it all others are at risk.
- Some would also argue that academic freedom derives from
First Amendment rights, including US Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas
(1939 - 1975). In 1952, he cited it in an Adler v. Board of Education opinion,
calling its denial a violation of speech freedom.
- He also believed that doing so is "the most dangerous
of all subversions....There must be no limit on the range of temperate
discussion, no limits on thought. No subject must be taboo. No censor must
preside at our assemblies."
- In Wieman v. Updegraff (1952), Justice Felix Frankfurter
(1939 - 1962) concurred, saying:
- "To regard teachers - in our educational system,
from the primary grades to the university - as the priests of our democracy
is therefore not to indulge in hyperbole. It is the special task of teachers
to foster those habits of open-mindedness and critical inquiry which alone
make for responsible citizens, who, in turn, make possible an enlightened
and effective public opinion."
- "They cannot carry out their noble task if the conditions
for the practice of a responsible and critical mind are denied to them.
They must have the freedom of responsible inquiry, by thought and action...."
- In Sweezy v. New Hampshire, Justice Earl Warren (1953
- 1969) concurred with a High Court majority, saying:
- "We believe that there unquestionably was an invasion
of petitioner's liberties in the areas of academic freedom and political
expression - areas in which government should be extremely reticent to
tread. The essentiality of freedom in the community of American universities
is almost self-evident....To impose any strait jacket upon the intellectual
leaders in our colleges and universities would imperil the future of our
Nation....Teachers and students must always remain free to inquire, to
study and to evaluate, to gain new maturity and understanding; otherwise
our civilization will stagnate and die."
- In Keyishian v. Board of Regents (1967), Justice William
Brennan (1956 - 1990) notably said:
- "Our Nation is deeply committed to safeguarding
academic freedom, which is of transcendent value to all of us and not merely
to the teachers concerned. That freedom is therefore a special concern
of the First Amendment, which does not tolerate laws that cast a pall of
orthodoxy over the classroom."
- American jurisprudence today is much more hardline than
earlier because two-thirds or more of all federal judges are from, affiliated
with, or sympathetic to the extremist Federalist Society. It advocates
rolling back civil liberties; ending New Deal social policies; opposing
reproductive choice, government regulations, labor rights and environmental
protections; as well as subverting justice (including speech and academic
freedom) in defense of privilege.
- As a result, academia is easily threatened, especially
when challenging mainstream dogma, notably through honest discourse about
- University of North Carolina (UNC) Professor Terri Ginsberg
is one of many victims. She was denied tenure-track positioning, then fired
from her visiting professorship at North Carolina State University (NCSU)
"pertaining to (her) scholarship and teaching on the Palestinian-Israeli
- Ginsberg's Distinguished Credentials
- After receiving her doctorate in Cinema Studies at New
York University (NYU), she taught film, media, and literary studies at
Rutgers University, NYU, Dartmouth, Ithaca College, SUNY-Purchase College,
and Brooklyn College-CUNY.
- Her expertise includes:
- -- Palestinian/Israeli cinema;
- -- German cinema;
- -- Holocaust films;
- -- Critical theory; and
- -- Gender and sexuality studies.
- Her authored, co-authored, and edited books include:
- -- "Historical Dictionary of Middle Eastern Cinema;"
- -- "Holocaust Film: The Political Aesthetics of
- -- "Perspectives on German Cinema."
- She's also written articles for the Middle East Journal
of Culture and Communication, Spectator, Situations, Arab Studies Quarterly,
and other publications, including on Palestinian/Israeli conflict issues.
- From 2006 - 2008, she co-chaired the Society for Cinema
and Media Studies Middle Eastern Caucus. In New York, as part of Jews against
Israel's Occupation and International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, she's
also been a community organizer. In addition, she's an International Council
for Middle East Studies (ICMES) Programming Committee member.
- Ginsburg's Case
- In December 2009, she sued NCSU. At an October 25, 2010
Summary Judgment hearing, Judge Shannon Joseph summarily dismissed it without
reason. At issue was either not understanding or being dismissive of First
Amendment rights. "(S)he was apparently only looking for direct evidence
of discrimination and speech suppression," or bent the law to support
power and privilege over justice.
- Despite "mountain(s) of circumstantial evidence,"
she dismissed it out of hand. In April 2011, Ginsberg's Record of Appeal
was filed, then "an Appellate Brief with the North Carolina Court
of Appeals" on June 24. A late summer or early fall hearing should
- Litigation Background
- Ginsberg sued in December 2009. A State of North Carolina
mandated mediation hearing followed in May 2010. No settlement was reached.
During a week of subsequent depositions, NCSU "admitted that it suppressed
(her) speech critical of Zionism and supportive of the Palestine liberation
struggle" while employed as a visiting professor.
- As a result, "it chose not to interview or hire
(her) for a tenure-track position because" her scholarship focused
honestly on Israel/Palestine, the Middle East, "Jewish" and related
issues. "Amazingly, (NCSU) claims that it has the right to suppress,
refuse and reject on the basis of these considerations." As a result,
Ginsberg filed a Record of Appeal and Appellate Brief for redress.
- In September 2010, when discovery ended, "NCSU filed
a Motion for Summary Judgment, held on October 25 as explained above. "By
dismissing the case, Judge Joseph essentially decided that" the North
Carolina Constitution's Article I, section 14 free speech provision excludes
anti-Zionist criticism and views supporting Palestinian, Arab and Muslim
- As a non-tenure-track faculty member at the time, Ginsberg
was fired as a visiting professor and denied a campus grievance hearing
- one a tenure-track/tenured faculty member likely would have gotten. "(T)he
judge's decision also impacts the labor rights of contingent academic workers"
nationally because they comprise 70% of faculty members today.
- Ginsberg strongly believes her Summary Judgment dismissal
was improper. As a result, she was denied a jury trial on grounds that
no speech violations occurred. In fact, Judge Joseph's ruling ignored evidence
that "NCSU faculty exhibited symptoms of discomfort with (her) political
views and public statements."
- For example, NCSU witnesses, including its Film Studies
Program director, admitted they reacted negatively to views she expressed
at a Palestinian film screening, during which she thanked audience members
for supporting Palestine's liberation.
- As a result, NCSU witnesses said they believed they would
thus "perceive the Film Studies and Middle East Studies programs as
biased. Shortly thereafter, (she) went from being the favored candidate
for a tenure-track position to be denied an interview."
- Later, NCSU claimed she was denied for being "overqualified,"
and because her scholarship "shift(ed) to Middle Eastern interests,"
making her inappropriate for a European film position despite her "voluminous
publication record" and European film work, "far exceed(ing)
the prevailing candidate."
- Based on bogus reasoning, however, she was also denied
a jury trial, a decision Ginsberg hopes will be reversed on appeal.
- Terri Ginsberg v. Board of Governors of the University
of North Carolina
- Its Statement on the Grounds for Appellate Review says:
- "Judge Joseph's order, which entered judgment as
a matter of law in favor of the defendant on all of the plaintiff's claims,
is a final judgment and appeal is therefore proper pursuant to NC Gen.
- In October 2007, Ginsberg applied for a Film Studies
tenure-track position. It requires candidates with "a primary concentration
in at least one area of European Cinema, although additional areas of expertise
are welcome (other national cinemas, digital media, theory, etc.),"
as well as "an excellent research and teaching record in the area
- The search committee initially listed her most qualified
among "First Tier Candidates" until "suddenly" she
"fell out of favor (and) was not listed in either the first or the
second tier, but moved to the bottom of the 'reject' tier, and was not
even granted an interview for the position."
- The reason given was that she was "now working with
Palestinian/Israeli, rank issue(s)...." Moreover, it called her "experience
and the quantity of her publications exceed(ing) that which normally would
be expected of a beginning assistant professor in our department."
- "Included in the tier above her were candidates
who did not even appear to be in the field of Film Studies, including (one)
about whom the notes said, 'is he really film studies?' "
- Despite being the most qualified candidate, another one
was chosen "whose publication and teaching records were not nearly
as strong as Ginsberg's...."
- Moreover, although the applicant wrote about Holocaust
film, she didn't challenge Zionism, include alternative Jewish perspectives,
or publish books. In addition, Ginsberg's contract wasn't renewed despite
her cinema expertise and distinguished scholarship.
- Clearly, her activist views about Israel/Palestine, Zionism,
and America's one-sided Middle East policy got her punished. As a result,
her academic and speech rights were violated, subjecting her to Inquisition
- A Final Comment
- University of Chicago Professor Peter N. Kirstein, a
noted academic freedom supporter, said Ginsberg was fired:
- "for daring to cross the ideological line into artistic
and pedagogical assessment of the Palestine Question. (She's) just one
of many academics who support human rights and the decolonization of Palestine
whose academic freedom has been denied. Many have either been silenced,
fired, denied tenure, or non-renewed throughout academia" for daring
to defend right over wrong - especially when challenging Israel, Zionism,
or America's one-sided support for both.
- As a result, each censor victory "is a defeat of
free speech and the right to conscience that this nation and the academy
cynically trumpet," while waring lawlessly against democratic values,
including truth, justice, rule of law standards, human rights, civil liberties,
and courageous activists who champion them.
- Among others well known to this writer, Ginsberg notably
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
- Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and
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