Finkelstein affair ends with a whimper

Professor Norman Finkelstein's long battle with DePaul University is over. The embattled academic announced his decision to resign from the university on Wednesday. Depaul and Finkelstein issued a joint statement explaining their legal settlement. Here's what Finkelstein had to say:

"I came to DePaul University in 2001 and was put on a tenure-track position in 2003. To get tenure I had to demonstrate a credible record as a teacher, scholar, and citizen of the university. During my six year stint at DePaul I consistently received among the highest student evaluations in my department. I have published five books to critical acclaim from leading scholars, and they have been translated into 46 foreign editions. I have been recognized as a public intellectual at many of the leading universities in the United States and Europe and have become an internationally recognized scholar in my academic specialties. Based on this record, I should have received tenure. Indeed, after extensive scrutiny of my academic credentials, my department voted overwhelmingly to tenure me as did the college-level tenure committee, which voted unanimously in my favor. The only inference that I can draw is that I was denied tenure due to external pressures climaxing in a national hysteria that tainted the tenure process. The outpouring of support for me after the tenure denial from among the most respected scholars in the world buttresses this conclusion.

Although DePaul's decision to deny me tenure was a bitter blow, I would be remiss in my responsibilities if I did not also acknowledge DePaul's honorable role of providing a scholarly haven for me the past six years. It is a fact, and I would want to acknowledge it, that the DePaul administration kept me on its faculty despite overwhelming external pressures. It is also a fact that my professional colleagues displayed rare rectitude in steadfastly supporting me. It is also a fact that DePaul students rose to dazzling spiritual heights in my defense that should be the envy of and an example for every university in the United States. I will miss them.

It is now time for me to move on and hopefully find new ways to fulfill my own mission in life of making this world a slightly better place on leaving it than when I entered it."

For their part, DePaul stood by their decision to deny Finkelstein tenure, but also added some surprising praise:

"Professor Finkelstein is a prolific scholar and an outstanding teacher. The University thanks him for his contributions and service."

A somewhat anticlimatic end to this whole affair. Just last week, Finkelstein promised to fight DePaul with 'peaceful civil disobedience', and even a hunger strike. In fact, before Finkelstein settled with the university, over 100 students had gathered on the DePaul campus to protest his termination. The demonstration ended when Finkelstein read the joint statement to the crowd. Some of the assembled students cried.

I can't say I blame Finkelstein for settling with the university. He's an academic, and ultimately all this controversey must have been distracting from his work. Now he can move on, and try to find a university less in thrall to certain segments of public opinion. However, the larger issues of academic freedom raised by the Finkelstein case remain unresolved.

Unsettling, to be sure. I'm left to wonder: who will be the next scholar forced from academia over their work?

UPDATE [07/09/07]:

Here's video of Finkelstein reading his statement:

More video and media reactions can be found here.