Sunday, June 17, 2007

Who Is John Simon?

In the week since Professor's Norman Finkelstein and Marueen Larudee were denied tenure by DePaul University, a lot has happened. Feeling that the two progressive faculty members were being targeted because of their political views critical of US and Israeli foreign policy, many took action. Students met with President of the school Fr. Holtschneider, and unhappy with his rationalizations, they sat in his office for 3 days and 2 nights before being kicked out under threat of arrest and expulsion. Community members joined a rally to support academic freedom and the Faculty Council and Administrative Faculty Council held meetings which affirmed that DePaul did not follow the tenure process according to the faculty handbook and authorizing an appeal to the professor's denied tenure.

What is becoming clearer over time is the behind the scenes role played by those who should not have a say in the tenure process. It should be a faculty and student decision, but more and more we are seeing evidence of interference by those with political agendas.

While many people are aware that Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz and apologist for Israeli torture tactics, has been lobbying to prevent Finkelstein from receiving tenure, few are aware of some of the details of his influence at DePaul. Dershowitz has claimed in print that his involvement in DePaul's tenure process was a result of being asked into it by Patrick Callahan, the former Political Science department chair. In student's meeting with Fr. Holtschneider though, Holtschneider explained that Dershowitz was inviting himself into the tenure process by e-mailing and asking Holtschneider for a meeting. Holtschneider explained to us that he didn't even read the letters but instead handed them over to DePaul's general council.

It's becoming clear though that Dershowitz's influence at DePaul might go above Holtschneider.

The director of DePaul's Board of Trustee's is a lawyer, John Simon, who works for the law firm Jenner and Block. Jenner and Block has ties to anti-Finkelstein groups like the Jewish United Fund. In fact 50 lawyers with the firm attended a fund raiser for the group, featuring keynote speaker Alan Dershowitz. Recently the Jewish United Fund released a press statement praising DePaul's decision to deny tenure to Finkelstein.

This raises troubling questions. Did John Simon meet with Dershowitz to discuss the Finkelstein tenure case? How much money do anti-Finkelstein groups like the Jewish United Fund donate to DePaul and how much of an influence does this have on a tenure process which is supposed to be independent of the corrupting influence of money? How much influence does the Board of Trustee's have over the tenure process? I am e-mailing both John Simon and Alan Dershowitz with these questions today. Stay tuned for their responses.

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