Norman G. Finkelstein and officials of DePaul University clashed on several occasions this summer after the controversial assistant professor of political science lost his bid for tenure in June, according to internal university memoranda obtained by The Chronicle.
Mr. Finkelstein was abruptly placed on paid administrative leave late last month, just 10 days before the beginning of the fall semester (The Chronicle, August 27). The terms of the leave forbid Mr. Finkelstein from teaching his scheduled classes or entering his office on the campus.
The university did not publicly state a reason for placing Mr. Finkelstein on leave at the time, but now says it was because of disruptive behavior described in the memos, which were first reported by the Chicago Tribune in an article published on Monday.
A university spokeswoman declined to comment on the memos on Monday, but said they "appear to be authentic." The spokeswoman, Denise Mattson, also confirmed that Mr. Finkelstein was put on leave "because of unacceptable behavior exhibited on the campus in June."
According to one of the memos, dated June 26 and written by DePaul's provost, Helmut P. Epp, that behavior included two incidents in which Mr. Finkelstein refused to leave the office of a dean or a professor, prompting them to call DePaul's office of public safety. In a third instance, the memo says, Mr. Finkelstein followed Charles S. Suchar, the dean of liberal arts and sciences, to an elevator and blocked the elevator door from closing. He did not relent until Mr. Suchar threatened to call the police.
"As provost, I cannot ignore the faculty's complaints about Professor Finkelstein's behavior nor their requests that they be protected from his abuse," Mr. Epp wrote in the memo.
Mr. Finkelstein said in a telephone interview on Monday that he had been made aware of those complaints in late June, but that his contract to teach at the university for a final year was still renewed after that. He said he did not defend himself against the complaints at the time because he was not aware they were going to be used as justification to put him on leave.
"These memos were suddenly resurrected two months later and used as a pretext to put me on administrative leave," Mr. Finkelstein said. "These are trumped-up charges, and if they had any real substance, there should have been a hearing in which these matters would be adjudicated."
The university's decision to deny him a hearing on the accusations of threatening behavior, he said, was "part of a consistent pattern of denial of due process" by DePaul officials -- a pattern that he said violates the university's own policies and those put forth by the American Association of University Professors.
In his writings and public comments, Mr. Finkelstein has inspired heated debate on such topics as the Israel-Palestine conflict and what he has termed "the Holocaust industry." He has sparred publicly over such issues with Alan M. Dershowitz, a professor of law at Harvard University who took the unusual step of seeking to influence DePaul's tenure proceedings regarding Mr. Finkelstein (The Chronicle, April 13).
Despite the university's decision to suspend Mr. Finkelstein from his teaching duties, the professor said he plans to teach one of the canceled classes in protest on Wednesday at a public library near DePaul's campus, and, afterwards, he will attempt to enter his office.
"I want an amicable, reasonable settlement for resolution of our differences. I want to be able to leave DePaul with my head up high and reputation intact," said Mr. Finkelstein. "I still believe that DePaul and I can resolve our differences, but unless there's a resolution that enables me to preserve my honor and my dignity, I will feel duty bound to stand by my word, go to jail, and go on a hunger strike."