Chicago, IL (PRWEB) July 20, 2006
Responding to what has been condemned as a violation of academic freedom, professors, scholars, and students worldwide signed a petition by The Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) to reinstate Professor Thomas Klocek to his teaching position at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois.
Titled “A Petition to Reinstate Professor Thomas Klocek to DePaul University With No Prejudice or Penalty,” the petition is to be delivered to DePaul’s president and Dean upon its goal of 2,000 signatures. As of this announcement, SPME needs 742 more signatures to reach its goal. Supporters can fill out the Klocek petition on SPME's Web site at http://www.spme.net.
DEPAUL’S ALLEGED VIOLATIONS OF ACADEMIC FREEDOM
In an interview with Walking Eagle Productions, a documentary film company covering the DePaul controversy, Klocek said that he was suspended by DePaul administration and ultimately lost his position and teaching benefits after engaging in an out-of-class argument with pro-Palestinian students at a student activities fair on campus.
Klocek shared that he served 14 years a part-time adjunct professor in DePaul’s School of New Learning and that he was considered a popular professor, with large class enrollments and received excellent student reviews, with no prior complaints about Klocek’s behavior. But after engaging in heated discussion with two Muslim student groups at a Student Involvement Fair on DePaul’s campus, the student groups Students for Justice in Palestine (SPJ) and United Muslims Moving Ahead (UMMA) went to the administration to call for Klocek’s firing. Both groups were backed by CAIR (Council on American Islamic Relations) Chicago, and other local Muslim advocate groups, some of whom called for even harsher punishment.
Klocek said that although no 3rd party witnesses were provided by the offended parties, DePaul’s Dean of the School of New Learning, Susanne Dumbleton, had him suspended without any hearing, and held his insurance benefits in jeopardy. Once Klocek was removed from his teaching position, Dumbleton then publicly castigated Klocek in DePaul’s student newspaper, The Depaulia, stating that Klocek was being punished by the DePaul Administration for expressing what she deemed to be Klocek’s “erroneous assertions” to the Muslim student groups.
Christina Abraham, Civil Rights Coordinator for CAIR's Chicago branch office, granted an interview to Walking Eagle Productions to explain their reasons for filing the original complaint to DePaul on behalf of the student groups. Abraham stated that she believed all of the student group’s allegations, and that they were serious enough to demand Klocek’s immediate firing.
First Amendment groups, such as the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), protested DePaul’s actions. FIRE’s then-president David French stated in its own press release that Klocek’s suspension violated DePaul’s policies guaranteeing academic freedom as well as its contractual promise of due process “because his statements were allegedly offensive.”
“While DePaul may now argue that the issue is one of professionalism, its public statements at the time of Klocek’s punishment make it clear that Klocek’s real crime was offending students during an out-of-class discussion of a controversial and emotional topic.” said French. “Academic freedom cannot survive when professors who engage in debate on controversial topics are subject to administrative punishment without even the most cursory due process.”
A PEACE ORGANIZATION RALLIES FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM
How did Scholars for Peace in the Middle East become involved in Klocek’s defense?
"SPME is an academic community of scholars.” explains SPME President Dr. Beck, in an interview with Walking Eagle Productions. “And as such, we're trying to support another scholar on what we see as a violation of his academic freedom and due process. The goal is to raise awareness among faculty members that we may not be as safe as we think we are, and to get him reinstated without penalty."
Klocek is undeterred and confident that true scholars will rise above such divisiveness, and support the petition on behalf of him. “The issue of free speech and academic freedom,” says Klocek, “extends to all faculty members, part- and full-time, non-tenured and tenured alike.”
While the petition is open for everyone to sign, SPME is especially encouraging signatures from professors. SPME however, has expressed the important role students can play in circulating their petition professors in their own schools and classes, or contacting professors who remain active during the summer in online forums and web blogs.
CONTRIBUTIONS FOR KLOCEK NEEDED
A fund has also been created to assist Klocek law counsel with legal expenses. Contributions may be sent to the following address:
Thomas Klocek Legal Defense Fund
c/o Cole Taylor Bank
P.O. Box 88481
Chicago Il 60680
Scholars for Peace in the Middle East is an independent, faculty-driven, not-for-profit [501 (C) (3)], "big-tent" grassroots community of scholars with well over 6000 academics and members, dedicated to peace in the Middle East consistent both with Israel's right to exist as a sovereign Jewish state within safe and secure borders. Full information can be read at http://www.spme.net/aboutus.html
For Further Information Contact, Dr. Edward S. Beck, President, 717.576.5038
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