Revolution #86, April 29, 2007
Banned from Campus: Activist Professor Under Attack at University of Hawai'i
We received the following from a correspondent in Hawai'i:
On March 2, the Associate Dean for Research of the University of Hawai'i-Manoa, accompanied by a security guard, came to Professor Michael D'Andrea's office with a letter from the Chancellor of the university. The letter immediately banished Prof. D’Andrea from the entire campus, took away his teaching responsibilities, and issued a gag order preventing him from speaking or communicating with any UH faculty, students or staff in person or by any other form of communication. All for allegedly engaging in "intimidating, hostile and bullying behavior" which is "not conducive to a positive and neutral work environment." The letter provides no examples of the alleged behavior but states that the action is being taken to "avoid further disruption of the operations of the University."
Prof. D'Andrea is a tenured professor in the Counselor Education Department in the College of Education. He has been at UH for 18 years and has an outstanding academic record, including 6 published books and more than 200 peer-reviewed publications. He has received numerous awards for his research, much of which focuses on institutionalized racism and the effects of racism on minority students.
What has made D’Andrea a target of the university administration is his outspoken stand on issues on the campus and in the larger world. He has filed grievances against the College of Education and system administrators for discrimination against minorities. He has been a vocal opponent of classified military research on the campus. He has been involved in organizing a "social justice counseling summit" to help students explore ways to pursue social justice in their work. He has tirelessly spoken out against the U.S. war in Iraq, including at Not In Our Name and World Can't Wait rallies on campus.
For this kind of advocacy, the UH administration has accused him of actions that are “not conducive to a positive and neutral work environment.” Several grievances have now been filed against him that are intended to lead to his firing. UH faculty members are union members, and there are procedures in place to process grievances and complaints--all of which the administration has attempted to nullify by labeling Prof. D’Andrea as a “threat to university operations” and preventing him from contacting students and faculty who are potential witnesses in his defense.
On April 11 Prof. D'Andrea filed suit in Federal Court based on violation of his 1st and 14th amendment protections. He is being represented by Attorney Eric Seitz and the ACLU. The first hearing in his case challenged the gag order on D’Andrea, which his attorneys said is “blatantly unconstitutional” by limiting his free speech and association and preventing him from defending himself on grievances against him.
UH attorneys opened their argument with an outrageous attempt to link the killings at Virginia Tech just hours before to the D'Andrea case, implying that lifting the gag order would similarly threaten students and faculty at the University of Hawai'i! When asked by the judge whether they believed D'Andrea posed a similar physical threat, the UH lawyers conceded that complaints against him were limited to alleged verbal intimidation, including shouting, but continued to maintain that such things could lead to physical violence and that "university campuses have become dangerous places."
The first witness for UH could present nothing that any reasonable person would find even vaguely threatening. She had allegedly heard from several other students that they were reluctant to express differing opinions in class (not an uncommon complaint at universities). Central to her complaint was that D’Andrea had sent her a letter asking her to meet with him and a professional facilitator after hearing that she had complained to the Dean. She also testified that D'Andrea had used a UH list-serve to send a "political message."
Before D’Andrea’s attorneys could question the witness about the nature of this “political message,” UH conceded on the gag order and entered into an agreement allowing Dr. D'Andrea to contact students and faculty in order to defend himself against the university's grievances against him. This is just the beginning of what will undoubtedly be a long battle. Arbitration of the complaints against Professor D’Andrea is being scheduled, and his case against UH has just begun.
Attorney Seitz said, “D’Andrea has been a thorn in their [the administration’s] side for quite a while, protesting against a Navy research center on campus and against the war in Iraq.” While the grievances against D’Andrea have not been made public, Seitz says the allegations are “really benign” and added: “They’re not that big a deal. Out of the blue, he’s banned from campus and can’t talk to anyone. It’s like hitting a nail with a sledgehammer.”
UH’s attack against Prof. D’Andrea has become a subject of interest on campus and in the community, but so far there has been little outrage. Few people know about David Horowitz’s reactionary campaign against progressive professors and the broader right-wing agenda of stifling dissent and critical voices on campuses. Yet, within the last several years, two other very popular, untenured professors who were strong voices of dissent at UH (including in the battle against classified military research on campus) were driven out of their positions.
The challenge we’re facing is to connect UH’s attacks against Prof. D’Andrea here with the broader agenda of silencing dissent on campuses across the U.S., and to mobilize people to stand up to this assault before it’s too late. And while the events at Virginia Tech were horrific, there's a need to oppose the efforts by the university to use this as a pretext to further limit dissent (as was exemplified at Prof. D’Andrea’s court hearing) and to implement new security measures and limits to access to campus, as the administration is now raising.
The special supplement in Revolution issue #84, “Warning: The Nazification of the American University,” and the talk by Bob Avakian, “Balance” Is The Wrong Criterion—And a Cover for a Witch-hunt—What We Need Is the Search for the Truth: Education, Real Academic Freedom, Critical Thinking and Dissent” (audio file available on bobavakian.net and revcom.us/avakian) are providing us with an indispensable framework for getting a broader understanding of what’s really going on, to sound the alarm, and to mobilize people politically.
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