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Back to March Ed Reporter

Education Reporter
NUMBER 266 THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS MARCH 2008

Brandeis Threatens Professor; He Defends Free Speech
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History professor Donald Hindley has taught at Brandeis University for almost 50 years. This year, several students complained to the school's administration about Hindley's use of the word "wetback." The word refers to Mexicans who entered the United States across the Rio Grande. Hindley used it in verbal quotation marks to refer to American citizens' negative attitude toward those immigrants during the time period studied in class. Even though he used the term in a historical context, three students accused Hindley of discrimination.

According to Brandeis provost Mary Kraus, the students suffered "significant emotional trauma" over the term "wetback." Kraus praised the students for the courage it took to "speak out against discrimination" — even though they made their complaints anonymously.

Professor Hindley first learned of the complaints against him when he received two letters from the university accusing him of racial harassment and discrimination. The letters required Hindley to attend sensitivity training, and threatened to fire him. The administration also posted a monitor in Hindley's classroom to watch for further indiscretions.

Hindley took recourse to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a legal group that frequently defends students and professors when university administrators try to curtail their exercise of First Amendment rights. Hindley hired a lawyer to defend him against Brandeis's actions, and the university backed down.

Unfortunately, litigation over free speech restrictions on our nation's campuses has become commonplace, as universities attempt to silence speech that some find offensive or disagreeable. (Boston Herald, 1-27-08)


 
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