Bryan McCann in the Daily Texan:
Dallas Morning News coverage (interesting stuff here about judcial
good Dallas Morning News editorial
Hooman’s blog post (with video of Bryan). Addresses the role of the
movement and a debate going on in larger abolition movement about
whether Texas is a “lost cause.”
Mother Jones blog post with analysis of politics of DP in Texas
(gives movement the short shrift)
And… a message from Kenneth’s family…
Dear Friends, Family and supporters,
Oh my God, where to start. We are estatic, overwhelmed and full of smiles!
Finally the Death row nightmare is over, no more seeing him from
behind glass- soon we will be able to hug him. Nydesha will be able
to hu him :-)
Without all the hard work from all of you- it would have not been
possible. You guys worked around the clock, made the calls, wrote the
letters, marched with us, signed petitions, helped us organize,
contacted the media and made this cross bareable for us.
We thank God for having you allm we won guys- and all because of the
fantastic team work!!!!!
We love you all!
Tasha & Kenneth
Kenneth Sr & Lawrence
Dave Zirin writes critical sports news and was a tireless activist for Kenneth. Here are his reactions followed by a letter from Kenneth about the role of sports in his life:
Edge of Sports Nation – I sit here stunned: a goofy smile on my face, a
tear on my cheek. This must be what victory feels like. Forgive me if I’m
not familiar with its near-narcotic euphoria.
For folks who haven’t heard, Kenneth Foster’s death sentence was struck
down today by Texas Gov. Rick Perry after a 6-1 recommendation by the
appointed Board of Parolees. This is just a tremendous victory for those
us around the world who fought to make sure today wasnt the day Kenneth
was put to death. We must take the time to remember Michael LaHood who
his life 10 years ago at the hands of Mauricio Brown who was driving in
Kenneths car. But we also remember the words of Sean Paul Kelly, Michaels
closest friend who opposed Kenneths execution. Kelly told the press,
..the execution of a young man who didn’t even kill Mike? That’s not
justice. It’s senseless vengeance, a barbarism cloaked in the black robes
When victories like this occur, every link in the chain matters. Without
question, the strongest links in this chain was Kenneth and his family.
Kenneth said from the outset, “It’s my belief that if this does not become
a political issue then I have no chance.”
That was the plan of action laid out for the DRIVE movement on death row,
the Campaign to End the Death Penalty and other organizations that worked
on his case. We made it political, asking the question over and over why
Kenneth should be put to death for driving a car?
It was also the inspiration for a group of athletes and even a couple of
sports writers, to stand together and demand that this man not be put to
death. I want to take a moment and thank Etan Thomas, Dr. John Carlos,
Evans, Toni Smith, Dave Meggyesy, Jeff “Snowman” Monson, Dennis Brutus,
William Gerena–Rochet, Neil DeMause, Doug Harris, Lester Rodney, Rus
Bradburd and the INIMITABLE Scoop Jackson.
Below is a letter I received from Kenneth a couple weeks back with some of
his thoughts on sports and society. I thought when I would eventually
publish it, it would be a kind of eulogy. Instead it is a celebration of
the struggle so desperately needed to see any kind of progress. It’s also
testament to his spirit. So good people, meet Mr. Kenneth Foster.
In struggle and sports,
Let me say that I grew up like most youths playing sports. I started off
playing pee-wee football and went all the way up to high school giving it
years. I went to high school and hung out with guys that are now NFL
football players (Priest Holmes, ND Kalu and have a cousin that was in the
NFL as well- Tony Brackens). I indulged in basketball and track and field
as well. But for me sports never took hold of me the way it did other
youths. I had a pretty active mind, so from year to year I wanted to
something new. My last year in sports was my Freshman year in high school
(around 1992). By then the streets encompassed my mind.
So, coming into prison I entered with a little bit of love for sports.
But, I had a different personal legend to unfold, so I slowly began to
drift from that interest. As I began to become politically and culturally
conscious the more recidivistic aspects of prison began to heavily reflect
off of me. A strong contrast comes to light when a man steps outside of
the prison molds.
Facing an injustice the only thing that I began to get obsessive about was
how to get heard and be free, and as the saying goes- you cant serve 2
gods. Sports, as you know, becomes a way of life. You monitor it, you
almost come to breathe it. Its not just about watching a game, but
knowing the stats, knowing the colleges they came from, knowing their
proneness to injuries, etc.. All of this becomes relevant due to the fact
that 9 times out of 10 theres money on these games. Sports becomes a way
of life in prison, because it becomes a way of survival. For men that
dont have family or friends to help them financially this becomes an
income, and at the same time it becomes a way to occupy your time. Thats
another sad story in itself, but its the root to many mens obsession with
I also began to observe the way sports is used as a crutch for a sense of
pseudo-pride. In prison, due to being stripped of you humanity, man cling
to anything they can to give them a sense of identity. The spectrum
intensely- it could be keeping a pet snake in your cell, it could be
wearing an earring youre not supposed to, keeping your hair trimmed a
certain way when youre not supposed to, and then theres the more intense
levels of rolling with the gangs or becoming interested in religion,
politics, etc.. More times than not sports becomes a crutch.
Seeing this, sports became something that I avoided. It was just another
weapon in the arsenal of ignorance and mental oppression. It was another
part of the term we call- penitentiary poli-tricks. These are tricky
games, rules and concepts whose function only dilute and separate prisoner
power. Therefore, I began a self-induced process to undergo sports
amnesia. I didnt watch it, I didnt even listen to it, I didnt gamble on
it and didnt entertain conversation about it. I even extended that to the
city I was from. Not wanting to be belligerent in conversation if a
asked me where I was from I would tell them. I didnt mind the casual
conversation. But, I made sure to keep the lines drawn. Theres a comfort
zone that rises and while interacting with each other and joking ones,
while playing the dozens on each other, will way things like- Aww, that
fool must be from Dallas talking like that. You know how them fools from
Dallas is, or that sounds like a Knicks fan over there, you know them
dudes is throwed off anyway. The cities and teams become protracting
devices often-times for subliminal feelings and thoughts. This really
becomes so when someone has lost a gambling bet and what often comes out
as- Man, them damn Spurs aint shit. To hell with them Spurs,- usually
translates to Man, fuck you. And this has been the cause of numerous
prison riots across the kountry.
This is why when Im approached with the city pride think I let an
individual know straight from the outset- I dont represent cities, I
represent ideologies. I dont care about any city or State in this
kountry, because the only thing theyve done is railroaded me and aint
none of these teams donating to my Defense Fund, so they dont exist in my
world- Thats a truth that cant be rebuttled. But for many, whom are
hopeless and still lost in their lower-selves, sports is a mighty ruler in
In 2000 Texas death row was moved to a new unit due to a death row prison
escape in 1998. As a result Texas officials stripped us of everything we
had- work program, group rec, arts and crafts and TVs. That has lasted up
until today and those continued conditions was the spark for the creation
of DRIVE (drivemovement.org) which was a protest coalition I helped
But, having no TVs doesnt stop the sports lovers. They go into their
radios and find ways to wire it up and catch TV stations by radio, so the
love of the game continues.
For a prisoner who has become politicalized I have a very hardline
mentality- so things like sports, gambling, drinking, fooling with guards
(in friendly manners) dont exist for me. Because this goes against the
grain of the norm I become a target not only for guards, but for inmates
well. From years of repression and humiliation (just like slavery) there
is an enjoyed monotony.
I wanted to say that my favorite part of the book was the interview with
Mumia. Mumia just has this way of taking the most complex of issues and
making it seem so simple and understandable. I was even drawing my own
parallels throughout your book- for example I saw the censoring of the 2
Live Crew in what David Stern is doing to his NBA Players. And if we
wanted to stretch it, what Stern is doing is on the edges of old
Apartheid/Jim Crow laws where you cant do this, you cant do that, you
cant go here or there. Everyday in this kountry we see things that we
thought was Rights being rolled back. Even my case is an example of where
theyre trying to execute me, because they say I should anticipate
something and now theyve passed laws to make repeate sex offenders
eligible for the death penalty. Pretty soon well be back to the old
Emmitt Till days where you get murdered for looking at the wrong person
And so, all of this ties into a deeper issue. For those of us in these
movements we have strong allies in the athletic field. You did a great
highlighting Roberto Clemente and Etan Thomas. I have even tried to reach
out to Etan. I think for those of us in the movement we have to start
making demands from athletes (and rappers too). Athletes have the money
and platforms. Im sure that many fear going through what Carlos Delgado
went through, but in this day and age stances must be made. Its never
easy to make them, but we, as a people, must stop feeling uncomfortable to
stand on what we know is right. We must not feel uncomfortable to ask for
things back from persons that benefit from us so much. We have to find
more Etans and create coalitions. They must become serious and passionate
like CEDP members. And when one try to silence them, like they did
Delgado, we will let their bias and racist be reflected on their own.
Athletes, Artist and Activist: from solidarity to power is the next book
you should work on. We have to connect the Glovers, Etans, dead prezs and
Fred Hampton Jrs; also the Delgados, Welfare Poets, and other Latin
movements. And then we have to take that internationally building with
ones like Chavez and other countries open for progressive change. We have
to put challenges up like Dennis Brutus did with SANROC.
Speaking of such, though I dont know where it was initiated from, I have a
great feeling that you probably had your hands in it, and that was the
Jocks for Justice petition done on my behalf. That touched me greatly and
whomever is responsible Id like to thank them from the bottom of my heart.
Ive read Dennis Brutus work and I was always enchanted by the photo of
Tommie Smith and John Carlos. Its time to bring this new generation out.
You wield power, because you have vision and like Baldwin said- Where
there is no vision the people perish. I only wanted to share a piece of
my journey with you and want to continue to be a pebble in the pond.
Though I wanted to save your book as a collectors item since you signed it
Im going to try to circulate it around here and see what I can spark in
these dry prairies.
Brother, I wish you much success in all that you do and will pray that
work opens more eyes and empowers even more minds. Its been a great
blessing for me to have met you, even in this limited fashion.
Revolutionary Love to you!
Haramia Ki Nassar
(Kenneth Foster Jr.)
August 30, 2007
Movement to Save Kenneth Foster Wins Historic Victory
Family members and supporters of Kenneth Foster, Jr. are jubilant in the reaction to Texas Governor Rick Perry’s announcement today that he would commute the death sentence of Kenneth Foster, who was convicted under the controversial “Law of Parties” for a 1996 murder in which he had no actual involvement. The Board of Pardons and Paroles had recommended clemency by a vote of 6-1. Foster’s execution had been scheduled for tonight.
In a statement announcing the commutation, Perry said, “I am concerned about Texas law that allowed capital murder defendants to be tried simultaneously and it is an issue I think the Legislature should examine.”
Reaction among Foster’s family and friends included both joy and disbelief. “We felt a bit of disbelief because Perry’s decision was so unprecedented.” said Dana Cloud of the Save Kenneth Foster campaign. “But everyone is so happy that Kenneth will be able to touch his wife and daughter and that we have a chance of seeing him free. Anything is possible when you are alive.”
Claire Dube, a close high-school friend of Kenneth’s and an active member of the Save Kenneth Foster Campaign, broke into tears when she heard the news. “We don’t even know what to say. It’s incredible.”
Keith Hampton, Foster’s attorney, also expressed relief and happiness at winning his client’s life. Hampton thanked the activists of the grassroots movement that started in Austin and spread around the world for putting the necessary pressure on the Board and the Governor to win. “Extra-legal means work,” he said.
“Governor Perry once said that there was no hue and cry against the death penalty in Texas,” commented Lily Hughes of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty. “Well, here was your hue and cry.”
Foster’s family and other supporters will continue to work to free him from prison. “It seems like ten years on death row under 23-hour lockdown could amount to time served for any crime that Kenneth ever committed,” Cloud said.
Perry’s decision is historic. Not only has the Board of Pardons and Paroles rarely recommended clemency (by one count, 3 times since 1982), but Rick Perry has overseen more executions than any Governor of the State of Texas, including George Bush.
“This case demonstrated to the world just how arbitrary and capricious capital punishment is,” Cloud said. “It gives people pause when someone who killed no one could come this close to being executed.”
“Public sentiment has been turning against capital punishment,” Hughes said. “We’ve seen a lot of states stop executing people. Winning Kenneth’s life might be a real turning point in the history of the death penalty in Texas.”
Date With the Executioner for Murder by Someone Else
HOUSTON, Aug. 29 — Kenneth Foster has a date on Thursday with the executioner’s needle. Not for killing anyone himself but for what he was doing — and may have been thinking — the night in 1996 when he was 19 and a sidekick pulled the trigger, killing a 25-year-old San Antonio law student.
Ensnared in a Texas law that makes accomplices subject to the death penalty, Mr. Foster, 30, is to become the third death row inmate this week, and the 403rd since capital punishment resumed in Texas in 1982, to give his life for a life taken.
But unlike most others condemned to death in this state, Mr. Foster, a onetime gang member, aspiring musician and prison poet from San Antonio, is not a murderer in the usual sense. He was convicted and sentenced to die for abetting a killing — 80 feet away — that he may, or may not, have had reason to anticipate.
The man who pulled the trigger is dead, executed last year. One accomplice is serving life in prison as a result of a plea bargain, and a second is serving life for a separate murder.
Now, failing a last-minute reprieve, Mr. Foster, the group’s driver in a robbery spree — who argues that he never was party to the murder — is facing lethal injection. His guilt, affirmed so far in every appeal, including five turned away by the United States Supreme Court, hinges in large part on difficult questions of awareness and intention.
Other states hold co-conspirators responsible for each other’s criminal acts in a so-called law of parties. But few of those have a death penalty. And no other state executes them on the scale of Texas.
With polls showing capital punishment still enjoying majority support in Texas and around the country, but by dwindling margins, the Foster case has spurred vigils and protests from abroad to the death house in Huntsville, as well as a backlash by victim’s rights advocates who still mourn the slain law student, Michael LaHood Jr.
It has also smudged concepts of guilt and innocence. If Mr. Foster is not legally guilty of murder, as his lawyer, Keith S. Hampton, and supporters contend, many find it hard to pronounce him blameless.
“I’d hate to use the word innocent,” said his father, Kenneth Foster Sr., a former heroin addict who told a church audience in Houston Saturday that he used to take his baby son with him on drug runs and petty crimes. He said his son “should be punished to some degree, but not put to death.”
At the heart of the case is Texas’s law of parties under which those conspiring to commit one felony such as a robbery can all be held responsible for an ensuing crime, like murder, if it “should have been anticipated.”
In 1982, in Edmund v. Florida, the United States Supreme Court found that the Constitution barred the death penalty for co-conspirators who do not themselves kill. But five years later in Tison v Arizona, the justices carved out an exception, ruling that the Eighth Amendment did not forbid execution of a defendant “whose participation in a felony that results in murder is major and whose mental state is one of reckless indifference.”
According to evidence in the case, on the afternoon of Aug. 14, 1996, Mr. Foster had borrowed his grandfather’s rented white Chevy Cavalier and was driving three companions — Julius Steen, Dewayne Dillard, and Mauriceo Brown — on a robbery spree through San Antonio. Mr. Steen and Mr. Brown, with Mr. Dillard’s gun, held up four people.
After midnight, they trailed two cars to a street where Mr. LaHood had just driven home, followed by a companion, Mary Patrick. She and Mr. Steen exchanged some remarks. Mr. Brown took the gun, chased Mr. LaHood and shot him dead. Ms. Patrick later characterized it as a robbery.
Mr. Foster and his companions fled but were soon stopped by the police. Mr. Foster denied participating in the earlier robberies or the shooting, claiming the group had been out looking for clients for his music business.
He was tried together with Mr. Brown, who was also convicted and was executed in July 2006. Mr. Steen and Mr. Dillard, facing charges in other cases, were not tried. But Mr. Steen testified he did not believe that Mr. Foster knew that Mr. LaHood would be robbed, although Mr. Steen said, “I would say I kind of thought it.”
Later Mr. Dillard testified in Mr. Foster’s appeals, claiming that before they reached the LaHood house, Mr. Foster sought to end the night’s spree so he could return the car to his grandfather. Therefore, Mr. Fuller’s lawyer, Mr. Hampton, argued, his client lacked the mindset to be legally culpable for the killing that followed.
Mr. Hampton also contended that Mr. Steen and Mr. Dillard were improperly withheld as crucial witnesses, and that mitigating testimony about Mr. Foster’s upbringing was not presented to the jury.
“I was in jail at the time he got arrested,” said Kenneth Foster Sr., saying that a strategy of portraying his son as churchgoing and well-raised had backfired.
“One of the jurors said he should have known better,” the elder Mr. Foster said. “They never called me. If the mitigating evidence had been put on, he never would be on death row.”
8/30–just heard that the Board voted 6-1 in Kenneth’s favor. Now it is time to keep pressure on the Governor.
CONTACT GOV. PERRY NOW !!!! SPREAD THE WORD!!!
Calling from Texas: (800) 252-9600
In Austin or from out of state: (512) 463-1782
Fax (512) 463-1849
To Email, send message from the website:
Against terrible odds, death row inmates actively protest executions. This from Texas inmate Rob Will, a member of the Death Row Intercommunalist Vanguard Engagement (DRIVE) movement:
Physical protesting for Kenneth has begun!
August 22, 2007
Physical protesting for Kenneth has begun!
I’ve been thinking about nothing but Kenneth’s pending execution date lately. He’s set to be murdered in eight days. Eight days until he may be strapped down to a gurney and murdered by TDCJ employees, employees of the state of Texas, paid executioners.
Earlier on KPFT news (www.kpft.org) I heard that yesterday there was a rally in Austin for Kenneth. They said that approximately 200 people attended and some people even conducted civil disobedience (i.e. sit-ins) though no one was arrested. When I heard the broadcast I felt an overwhelming sense of Solidarity. One of the main reasons I’ve fought for so long is to show that I’m willing to fight for myself and others here on Death Row. This is one of the main points we all strongly agreed on when forming DRIVE. We wanted to show people out there in the abolitionist community that we were willing to fight with them, and sacrifice for them, and stand with them in complete solidarity.
And on that note: physical protesting for Kenneth has begun! Yesterday, Reg Blanton and Randy Greer occupied the outside recreation yard and refused to leave. They’ll surely be writing updates about their action soon so I’ll be brief and say that Randy was assaulted with a tear gas grenade, then handcuffed and escorted back to his cell. Then, Reg was assaulted with the grenade and the Riot Team stormed onto the yard and forcefully restrained him.
I’m listening to a rebroadcast of the August 9 edition of Democracy Now! about Kenneth. His daughter, Nydesha, is speaking right now. Everyone needs to listen to this. Listen to his daughter speaking and if hearing her doesn’t bring tears to your eyes then you’re not human. I know a lot of people who read what I write aren’t involved with the anti death penalty community. Still, I’d like everyone to listen to that show or read the transcript.
Kenneth’s life is in the hands of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles (BPP) and the Texas governor, Rick Perry. In an update I sent out yesterday, I asked everyone to send a letter to both the former and the latter. If you haven’t done that-go do it right now! Also, I’d like everyone in Texas to do something else. Contact your senator, house representative, and/or city councilperson and briefly explain Kenneth’s situation to them and ask them to contact the governor and the BPP to request clemency. [This can be done through Kenneth's website, http://www.freekenneth.com or by clicking here.] Anyone with a conscience should be disturbed by the fact that Kenneth is scheduled to be executed in only eight days-simply for driving a car while another person a committed a murder, a murder that was spontaneous and Kenneth had no idea would occur. It’s absolutely outrageous!
I’ve been going back and forth, working out and doing other things while writing. I’ve been over here racking my brain trying to think of anything that I can do to help save Kenneth, anything we can do. I also heard on the news that a small protest rally went down in Houston today. I deeply appreciate all of the solidarity everyone has shown Kenneth. Ah ha! I just overheard two officers on the run talking about how Kenneth and John Amador conducted sit-ins today. I don’t really know John Amador but I know he has an execution date scheduled for the day before Kenneth’s.
This is very significant because there have never been two people on Death Watch protesting before their execution date. Excellent! By protesting, both of them are refusing to simply accept the injustice of their own murder. They’ve already begun direct actions and have vowed to not walk on the date of execution. I also heard that yesterday the European Union called for Gov. Perry to halt all executions. The governor released a statement essentially saying that the EU needs to mind its own business. A typically Texan thing to say.
As if we don’t live in a time of steadily-increasing globalization. That reminds me of something else I heard on the news today: 3,711 US soldiers have been killed in Iraq. Fourteen soldiers died today in a Blackhawk helicopter crash. Rick Perry is a vehement supporter of George Bush and the war in Iraq. He doesn’t care about the interests of working class people and if he allows Kenneth to be executed that will show just how sick and depraved the neo-conservative mindset is.
I’ll sign off by sending everyone who attended yesterday and today’s rallies for Kenneth an embrace of Strength and some serious vibes of Solidarity.
One Love One Struggle:
PS. Today’s execution marked the 400th for the lovely state of Texas.
“Yes, Dante, they can crucify our bodies today as they are doing, but they cannot destroy our ideas, that will remain for the youth of the future to come”
–Nicola Sacco, to his son. Sacco was a political prisoner who was unjustly executed on 08/22/27, exactly 80 years ago today.
Chronicle of Higher Education
Monday, August 27, 2007
DePaul U. Cancels Courses of Professor Who Lost Tenure Bid, but He Plans To Teach Them Anyway
By JENNIFER HOWARD
DePaul University has canceled all of Norman G. Finkelstein’s courses, taken away his office, and put him on administrative leave for his final year, but the controversial political scientist said that will not stop him from coming back to teach this fall. If necessary, he said, he will go to jail.
In an e-mail message, Mr. Finkelstein told The Chronicle that he intends “to show up on the first day of the academic year to teach my classes (students are currently searching for an alternative venue) and to use my regular office in the political-science department. If the university attempts to impede my movements, I intend to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience and go to jail. If incarcerated, I intend to go on a protracted hunger strike until DePaul comes to its senses.”
“It is regrettable,” Mr. Finkelstein continued, “that I have been driven to such drastic actions to defend basic principles of academic freedom and my contractual rights, upon which DePaul has been riding roughshod for so long.”
Mr. Finkelstein lost his bid for tenure at DePaul in June (The
Chronicle, June 11), after a bitter public fight that featured the
involvement of the Harvard University law professor Alan M. Dershowitz (The Chronicle, April 13).
Mehrene E. Larudee, an assistant professor of international studies who supported Mr. Finkelstein, was denied tenure by DePaul at the same time, in another case that attracted widespread attention and criticism (The Chronicle, June 12). A university spokeswoman said Ms. Larudee’s case is not connected with Mr. Finkelstein’s “in any way,” and Ms. Larudee is still scheduled to teach this year.
In a terse statement issued on Sunday, the university confirmed that it had put Mr. Finkelstein on leave “with full pay and benefits for the 2007-8 academic year” and that “administrative leave relieves professors from their teaching responsibilities.”
Mr. Finkelstein had been expected to return to DePaul for a final year of teaching, and was scheduled to teach two political-science courses this fall, “Freedom and Empowerment” and “Equality and Social Justice,” as well as an honors course on states, markets, and society. Students who had signed up to take those courses got a surprise on Friday, when they were informed, via e-mail, that the classes had been canceled.
The DePaul statement said that the university “has been in communication with Professor Finkelstein throughout the summer and informed him of his status well in advance of the fall quarter.” It said, “He was informed of the reasons that precipitated this leave last spring.”
Students, however, were given very little warning, with less than two weeks to go until the first day of classes.
“We’ve known all summer that it was possible that they would try to prevent Professor Finkelstein from returning this coming year, but it was unclear how they were going to do that, or when,” said Kathryn Weber, president of the DePaul Academic Freedom Committee, a students’ group formed in reaction to the tenure decisions on Mr. Finkelstein and Ms. Larudee. “We found out on Friday that his classes have been canceled.”
Ms. Weber’s group denounced the university’s actions in a statement issued on Saturday. The students accused the university of violating Mr. Finkelstein’s contract and “further undermining academic freedom at DePaul by refusing to let the prominent professor teach during his final year.”
The university, in its statement, countered that DePaul was “acting well within its rights as an employer and as a university.” It added that “there is no basis to suggest that DePaul has failed to fulfill any contractual obligations.”
Mr. Finkelstein has a strong reputation as a teacher, and his fall
classes were reportedly at or near full capacity. DePaul’s statement
said that enrolled students “were informed and given detailed
instructions on how to register for alternative courses. Additional
advisers who can override closed or capped courses have been made
available to them for any assistance they may need to update their
Ms. Weber took two classes with Mr. Finkelstein last year, including
“Equality and Social Justice.”
“We all consider it very ironic that that course was canceled,” she told The Chronicle on Sunday. “What I respected most about him as a professor was his ability to present all sides of an issue, whether it was Israel-Palestine or property rights.”
She believes that the DePaul administration expected the tenure
controversy to die down over the summer, and speculated that it wanted Mr. Finkelstein gone because “they would rather not have his presence encouraging people to fight on his behalf.”
The student leader told The Chronicle that the DePaul faculty was
undertaking an investigation of the University Board on Tenure and
Promotion because of perceived procedural problems behind the tenure decisions. A faculty member who did not want to speak on the record confirmed that such an investigation is under way.
Students from the Academic Freedom Committee plan to stage a
demonstration at the university’s convocation this coming Friday. “We all feel very passionately about this, that it’s not something we’re willing to back down on,” Ms. Weber said. “It means something to this school, and it means something to us as individuals. I think it means quite a lot to the faculty, too.”
Mr. Finkelstein, meanwhile, has retained a lawyer. “I will not continue to endure this nightmare through eternity,” he said. “I intend to put an end to it, one way or another, in the coming weeks. The hunger strike will be open-ended.”
This from the Chicago Tribune:
DePaul pulls plug on controversial professor
Course cancelled a week before class
By Ron Grossman
Tribune staff reporter
August 28, 2007
The required reading was at the bookstore, the students had the course syllabus, and space in Political Science 235, “Equality in Social Justice,” was standing-room only when DePaul University pulled the plug Friday on what was to have been Norman Finkelstein’s final year at the school.
A controversial scholar — accused by critics of fomenting anti-Semitism and lauded by supporters as a forthright critic of Israel — Finkelstein attracted wide attention across the academic world when he was denied tenure in the spring.
By Monday, the books for his course had been pulled from the DePaul bookstore’s shelves, while his case was restarting a firestorm of protest. The American Association of University Professors was preparing a letter to the university, protesting Finkelstein’s treatment as a serious violation of academic ethics.
Finkelstein vowed not to take the rebuff lying down — or, perhaps more correctly, to do something just like that. In addition to canceling his course, the university informed him that his office was no longer his.
“I intend to go to my office on the first day of classes and, if my way is barred, to engage in civil disobedience,” Finkelstein, 53, said in a telephone interview. “If arrested, I’ll go on a hunger strike. If released, I’ll do it all over again. I’ll fast in jail for as long as it takes.”
Fall classes start Sept. 5 at DePaul, where Finkelstein has been a faculty member for six years. During that time, his star has risen and fallen at the Catholic school, founded by the Vincentian order.
His books brought him far-reaching renown. They also were condemned for their provocative language, as in the “The Holocaust Industry,” where he called efforts to get compensation from Germany for World War II slave laborers a “shakedown.” Finkelstein, himself Jewish, has described leaders of American-Jewish organizations as “Holocaust-mongers.”
He has engaged in a long-running feud with Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz, a strong supporter of Israel. He has charged Dershowitz with appropriating other scholars’ findings; Dershowitz was similarly skeptical of the legitimacy of Finkelstein’s work when asked by DePaul to comment on his application for tenure, the academic equivalent of a lifetime job guarantee.
Nonetheless, Finkelstein’s work has been praised by ivory-tower luminaries such as the distinguished linguist Noam Chomsky and the late Raul Hilberg, dean of Holocaust historians. Finkelstein’s supporters are planning a lecture-rally for him in October in Chicago.
Two years ago, Finkelstein was held up as an example of DePaul’s commitment to freedom of inquiry by its president, Dennis Holtschneider.
Students have held Finkelstein in high regard, reporting that his tone in the classroom is measured, quite unlike the red-hot rhetoric of his books.
This year, though, Dean Chuck Suchar found Finkelstein’s scholarship inconsistent with “DePaul’s Vincentian values,” among them respect for others’ views. Holtschneider seconded that motion in refusing Finkelstein’s tenure.
Student support continues
DePaul officials declined to comment on the case. Denise Mattson, associate vice president for public affairs, said: “Finkelstein has been assigned to an administrative leave with full pay and benefits for the 2007-08 academic year. Administrative leave relieves professors from their teaching responsibilities. He was informed of the reasons that precipitated this leave last spring.”
He was denied tenure in June, but officials could offer no explanation for why his courses were left in the schedule.
On Friday, Andrew Riplinger, a DePaul student registered for Finkelstein’s course, received an e-mail from him.
“Professor Finkelstein wrote that if the course was canceled by the university, it would be taught at another location,” said Riplinger. “Then the university sent an e-mail announcing the course had been canceled.”
Riplinger and other student supporters, fearing such an action, have been meeting regularly over the summer and communicating their uneasiness to the administration. Their committee was scheduled to meet Monday evening in the DePaul student center, Riplinger said.
Final year at school threatened
According to the norms of academia, a professor denied tenure has the right to a final year of teaching at the university that turns him down. The watchdog of those rights is the American Association of University Professors, the umbrella organization of college teachers, which can censure a school found in violation of its ground rules. Such a finding also can be the preliminary to a lawsuit against the university by the faculty member.
According to Jonathan Knight, director of the AAUP’s program in academic freedom and tenure, a university owes a faculty member denied tenure more than just a year’s salary. He or she has the right to a classroom (and presumably an office). A university can’t simply buy him or her out by invoking administrative leave, Knight said.
He added that a faculty member can’t be put on administrative leave without a hearing except in an extreme emergency.
“We’re not aware of an emergency requiring DePaul to take such action at the 11th hour and 59th minute,” Knight said.
Finkelstein said that, rather than filing a lawsuit, he intends to fight the university’s action with a hunger strike, and the attendant publicity.
“In the court of public opinion, I can win,” Finkelstein said. “I say: ‘Let the people judge.’”
Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune <http://www.chicagotribune.com/>
desmond tutu has submitted an amicus brief to the supreme court in kenneth’s
Former President Jimmy Carter offered a letter to Governor Perry asking Perry to Grant Kenneth Foster clemency.
South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu has signed onto an Amicus Curiae (friend of the court) in support of a cert petition for Kenneth filed Keith Hampton on 8/27.
The supreme court is now poised to decide on this petition, in which Hampton basically asks the court to intervene and fix the irreversable
mess the lower courts have created in this case.
We can only hope that Perry will have the humility and good sense to recognize the moral authority of these world leaders.
Former Bexar County D.A. Sam Millsap to Gov. Perry: I’m glad I didn’t oversee this case because I would have made a grave mistake
August 27, 2007
Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles
P. O. Box 13401
Austin, Texas 78711-3401
RE: Kenneth Foster
To the Honorable Members of the Board:
I am writing to urge you to recommend clemency in the Kenneth Foster case.
I am no wild-eyed, pointy-headed liberal. I am the former elected Bexar
County District Attorney (1983-1987); I am responsible for the prosecution of
more than a few death penalty cases all of which produced convictions and
Because you have been buried with letters from throughout the world, I will
not rehash the facts and legal problems with the case in this letter; they
are obvious. There is nothing I can say about the legal issues or evidence
that you have not already heard ad nauseam.
Fortunately, I was no longer the Bexar County District Attorney when this
horrible crime was committed. Had I been, there is every likelihood that I
would have decided to seek the death penalty against
Foster because I could have done so–and that would have been a mistake. With the
benefit of 20 additional years of life experience, I now believe
that no useful purpose is served and it is morally wrong to execute a person based on
nothing more than the law of parties.
Is there no limit to our lust in this state for retribution? How many people
must we execute for this crime before justice is served? Having already
executed the shooter, what benefit results from the execution of someone who was
simply nearby and had no idea that a murder would be committed? As the
civilized world watches in amazement that a single American state has executed
400 people in the last 25 years, what does it say about us? if we’re willing to
execute someone who was in the car when this horrible
crime was committed?
Surely, there is a limit to what we are capable of in this state.
There are tough cases and there are easy cases. This is an easy case. If we
can’t say no to execution in a case like the Kenneth Foster case, there is
no practical limit to our thirst for vengeance. I urge you to recommend that
the Governor grant clemency in this case.
Sam D. Millsap, Jr.