Norman Finkelstein, the DePaul University faculty member whose case attracted attention beyond the academic world, has been denied tenure.
At DePaul, as elsewhere, tenure decisions are not announced publicly, but as news of Finkelstein's fate spread across the academic gossip network late Friday, DePaul's president issued a statement confirming denial of tenure and explaining the university's position on the combative political scientist.
"Over the past several months, there has been considerable outside interest and public debate concerning this decision," Rev. Dennis Holtschneider said. "This attention was unwelcome and inappropriate and had no impact on either the process or the outcome of this case."
Hailed by some for his outspoken views on Israel and Jewish issues, he has been decried by others as fomenting anti-Semitism. Supporters and opponents of Finkelstein, 53, have circulated petitions about the assistant professor, a frequent and fiery speaker on campuses across the nation.
Among his supporters are Raul Hilberg, the dean of Holocaust historians formerly at the University of Vermont, and celebrated linguist Noam Chomsky. Among those challenging the legitimacy of Finkelstein's scholarship is Harvard professor of law Alan Dershowitz.
Finkelstein is noted -- some would say, notorious -- for the heated rhetoric of his books and public appearances. He has called leaders of American-Jewish organizations "Holocaust mongers." In his book "The Holocaust Industry," he portrayed legal efforts to get compensation for World War II slave laborers as an extortion.
His students, though, have given him high marks, saying he has encouraged debate on touchy issues such as the continuing struggles between Israel and the Palestinians.
Before coming to DePaul, Finkelstein taught at several New York universities but was not granted tenure. At DePaul, his application for tenure was supported by the political science department but opposed by Dean Chuck Suchar of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, who said he found Finkelstein's attack-style scholarship inconsistent with the university's commitment to respect for the views of all.
Finkelstein could not be reached for comment; Hilberg saw DePaul's decision as disquieting.
"I have a sinking feeling about the damage this will do to academic freedom," Hilberg said.
Dershowitz applauded the outcome of the long and bitter case. "I think it was the right decision," he said. "DePaul is a better university for making it."
Holtschneider recognized that the school would be criticized -- as it would have, had the decision gone the other way.
"Some will consider this decision in the context of academic freedom," he said. "In fact, academic freedom is alive and well at DePaul."