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Eisenstein: Well, these retaliation charges and guilty findings are based on two separate incidents. Basically, professors Lerner and Joyce both (tried to) initiate conversations with me (Lerner by email and Joyce in person). In both instances, I attempted to convey that I was not interested in conversations with them that did not involve official University business. My exchange with Lerner happened over my personal email — that is, I responded to an email he sent to my non-University account.
So, again, we have the University investigating my speech — speech on my personal email account and associated with one of my personal associations — the Jewish Federation of Northwest Indiana. My exchange with Joyce was in person and in the aftermath of that exchange, she then falsely accused me of saying mean-spirited comments. As FIRE pointed out in a second letter to the University, all of the alleged speech is protected by the First Amendment.
FP: Do you anticipate that after all of this the University will change its behavior?
Eisenstein: I am convinced that nothing, at this point, will get the University to change its behavior. In fact, at this very moment, the University is conducting yet another investigation of my free speech. This time the University is investigating whether or not my blog has violated the University’s anti-harassment/discrimination policies. The specific blog in question can be viewed here. It is essentially accusing me of retaliation for publishing emails they provided to me through a FOIA request. But, essentially, the University is continuing to violate my First Amendment rights even up to today. The question of why it would do this remains the University’s commitment to Muslim legal definitions, especially when it comes to “offending” Islam. As recently as last week, Miriam Joyce, a professor who filed a complaint against me is quoted as saying that she believes in free-speech but only if it does not offend our Saudi students. This is the one of the same professors who voted against my department supporting a presentation by Ms. Peggy Shapiro from StandWithUs on the Nazi roots of contemporary anti-Semitism, which was covered here on Frontpage.
FP: Why do you think the University engages in this kind of behavior?
Eisenstein: I think that the University behaves this badly for a number of reasons. First, the university administrators (and others at the university) never have to pay the legal bills for their illegal behavior. If the administrators were held personally accountable for the financial troubles they inflict upon the tax payers (I am at a state funded university), I think we would see a wholesale change in behavior. Second, as an individual, it is expensive to legally defend yourself against an institution that gets to feed off public funds. And, points one and two are related, as I think the University and its administration relies on most professors (and students) not having the resources to legally pursue their cause. I would like to see University administrators, and other professors, have to pay out of their own pocket for patently violating the First Amendment.
FP: How might you advise others to confront similar situations?
Eisenstein: There are two things I would say: 1) get a lawyer right from the start. And 2) contact FIRE.
FP: Tell us a bit about the lawsuit you have filed. What might it achieve? What do you hope it will achieve?
Eisenstein: The lawsuit deals with three issues: administrative violations by the University, the collusion of faculty with Chancellor Keon of PUC to subvert my freedom of speech, and outrageous violations to my right to privacy. For the first issue, the University, as I referenced before, did not follow its own procedures in how it chose to pursue the original 9 harassment/discrimination complaints against me. Most importantly for me, though, is that the University has found me “guilty” of two instances of retaliation that do not meet any legal standard for retaliation. So I want to have those administrative decisions reversed and the sanctions imposed on me reversed.
I also want the University to protect my — and others’ — right to privacy. The University administration released private documents from my personnel file to other faculty members who then made these documents public. This is a plain violation of the law and I want the University to have to take steps to correct this mistake and to ensure it will not ever happen again. Really, this was extreme and outrageous.
Finally, the collusion of the faculty with the administration to deny me my civil rights is as outrageous a situation as one can imagine. The University not only allowed the abuse of its legitimate process dealing with real harassment and discrimination, it encouraged and participated in the abuse. These practices need to stop. The University has policies that say the right thing — their policies state that speech protected by the First Amendment will not be investigated — but the University never adhered, nor adheres, to that policy. What I want is for the University to never again investigate someone’s free speech, ever. As the Supreme Court has indicated, if free-speech is chilled at a university it cannot continue to be an institution of higher learning.
FP: Professor Maurice Eisenstein, best of luck to you in your battle for free speech at Purdue and thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.
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