Calling Brandeis Professors and Students:

If any of you are Brandeis professors or students, and thus have a special perspective on the Hindley controversy -- for instance, know something about the facts that the posts haven't discussed, or know something about public reaction to the question -- could you please post it in the comments below? Likewise, if you know some Brandeis professors and students, and can get something from them that you can post, then please do post it here. I'd love to know more than what is said the reports I've read.

If you do not have any special Brandeis-specific knowledge on this, and just want to speak to the merits of the question, please post your comments at the other post on the subject. Thanks!

Marc :
I suspect my father might be one of the most senior faculty members at Brandeis - he has seen a lot there. His brief comment on the affair d'Hindley

"Truth even unto its innermost parts. Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy."

I'll try to get more specifics from him if you like . . .
1.29.2008 3:26pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Marc: I would like that, thanks!
1.29.2008 3:42pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
In response to my Language Log post on this case someone sent me this reference to a student newspaper article that contains quotations from a complaining student, which I don't think you've cited.
1.29.2008 3:53pm
Anderson (mail):
Here's one of the quotes from the article linked by Bill Poser:

Despite her complaints, Jane said she may take another course with Hindley, because "I won't have to do work."

Now there's a young lady who understands what the true purpose of education is. I hope any potential employer googles that up when contemplating her application.
1.29.2008 3:57pm

Unfortunately, "Jane" was just a pseudonym. But her comments are pretty remarkable.
1.29.2008 4:06pm
Grover Gardner (mail):
Already off-topic, I suppose, but is it possible she was being sarcastic--that she didn't find the course difficult, or even that the professor spent so much time on digressions that she didn't feel there was much substance to the class?
1.29.2008 4:10pm
Brandeis Alum:
As an alumni who graduated this past spring, I can say that there were a bunch of racial incidents over the last few years. One possibility is that the administration is really trying to crack down. See for example the "Gravity" controversy from last year, in which a campus humor magazine published a satirical, but patently offensive, advertisement. Link to the article

I do not think that this is the explanation. I think that the explanation is that the administration is looking for a way to get rid of Professor Hindley. He is a bit of a maverick professor and always makes controversial comments in his class. He is pro-Palestinian which rubs the administrators the wrong way. My guess is that the administration is aware of the way in which he runs his classes—they tend to be very biased and one sided, discussing Latin American and Southeast Asian politics (his two specialties) from a socialist perspective. But he tends to get pretty good course evaluations because his classes require little work, so the administration does not have any real way to get rid of him since he is tenured. Additionally, he does have a somewhat devoted following of far left leaning students. I think that the way that the administration has handled this is terrible, but I'm just trying to think of a reason about why they handled the situation in this manner. Unfortunately I don't have direct information about what he said in class, but I have taken classes with Prof. Hindley and the "wetback" comment sounds like something he would say. However, he would never mean it in a derogatory way. The only people that I have known to be offended by his comments are the upper class Latin American students in his class. Prof. Hindley comes from a socialist perspective, so he makes wealthy students from Latin America feel uncomfortable, as he likes to engage them about the elitist society in some of the countries.
1.29.2008 4:11pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Bill Poser: Thanks for the pointer, but I did indeed read the article and quote it in this post on this chain.
1.29.2008 4:37pm
Anderson (mail):
Unfortunately, "Jane" was just a pseudonym

Doh! RIF.
1.29.2008 4:41pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):

Bill Poser: Thanks for the pointer, but I did indeed read the article and quote it in this post on this chain.

Ah, so you did. I'm too busy today.
1.29.2008 4:57pm
Bender (mail):
Re: Brandeis Alum's comments above: All excellent reasons why Professor Herbert Marcuse should have been fired back in the '60s. But that was before PC.

The points about upper-class Latin American students seem relevant. Even back in the late '60s, when I was at Brandeis, the South American students tended to be upper class and -- as one might expect at Brandeis -- Jewish. This group would likely be very uncomfortable with a leftist professor; and with good reason, since they may well have had family members and acquaintances killed by leftist thugs. Apropos this, it's worth noting that a large proportion of Venezuela's Jewish population has already left Venezuela in response to Chavez's populist Jew baiting. An explanation -- but not an excuse -- for "Jane's" behavior.
1.29.2008 5:19pm
I'm a grad student (physics) at 'deis and I can say, without any hesitation, that I give less than half a shit. I actually heard about it first on VC. Go figure.

The commotion on campus is pretty muted, much less than the "Blackjerry" stupidity that went on last year. That racial faux-pas led to an unending parade of meetings, recrimination and job-loss for the editors.
1.29.2008 6:02pm
I found a way to not "have to do work" while not paying Brandeis tuition, and you can too! Sign up for my exciting free seminar!
1.29.2008 6:30pm
kimsch (mail) (www):

I took her comment about not having to do work as similar to the urban legend that if your roommate dies you automatically receive all "A"s for that semester/year.

I see it as I'll take another course with him and he won't dare grade me badly no matter how little work I do because then I can sue him for retaliation for my complaint.

If only she put that much effort into acually doing the work to get a good grade and actually earn a degree...
1.29.2008 7:10pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
My guess is that the administration is aware of the way in which he runs his classes—they tend to be very biased and one sided, discussing Latin American and Southeast Asian politics (his two specialties) from a socialist perspective.
"very biased and one-sided" and "socialist perspective" would describe almost the whole Sociology Dept. and many other classes when I was a student.
1.29.2008 7:35pm
Grover Gardner (mail):
"If only she put that much effort into acually doing the work to get a good grade and actually earn a degree..."

What?? How do you know she doesn't get good grades? You don't know that. Look, you can read her remark any way you want, but Brandeis Alum's comment above indicates that this professor gets great evaluations because his classes are easy. *IF* that's true, then it would go a long way toward explaining this students comment. She certainly didn't strike me as a "slacker"--quite the opposite, in fact, a bit prissy and punctilious.
1.29.2008 9:14pm
kimsch (mail) (www):
Sorry Grover. When I read that even though she was offended enough to complain about the instructor but would still be willing to take other classes from him "because I won't have to do work" the first thing that came to my mind was what I said above, that she could say that a bad grade was due to retaliation and sue regardless of the merits.

She could be a good student and get good grades, but wouldn't you say that taking "easy A" courses is slacking?
1.29.2008 9:27pm
Dave N (mail):
I just think Louis Brandeis' body is probably in perpetual spin cycle over all of this.
1.29.2008 9:47pm
Brandeis Alum:
Just to respond to the comments about why "Jane" said that she wouldn't have to do work. That is because Prof. Hindley usually assigns a couple of books over the semester but doesn't actually assign any reading--he tells students to "go at their own pace." Given that classes at Brandeis are generally very intensive, most students interpret this to mean no reading at all. The entire grade in his class is based on a midterm and a final (no papers/projects) and the questions are always the same: (ie. explain how the PRI lost power in Mexico or explain how/why Castro rose in Cuba.) The students who take his classes tend to be those why are genuinely interested in Latin American/Southeast Asian politics and those who want an "easy" A.
1.29.2008 10:02pm
kimsch (mail) (www):
Thanks for the explanation Alum, but I also wonder why she would want to take another course with the same instructor who offended her so badly.
1.29.2008 10:09pm
Truth Seeker:
Thanks for the explanation Alum, but I also wonder why she would want to take another course with the same instructor who offended her so badly.

Okay half this thread is off topic, but I don't understand the confusion. This is college (where you want a degree and a good GPA) not law school (where you want to learn a trade).

When I was in college 30+ years ago there were a few classes with no work, no assignments, I don't remember if you even had to show up, and everyone got an A. And every semester the classes were full and the first day of class there were dozens of extra students jammed into the classroom hoping to sign in late.
1.29.2008 11:24pm
Brandeis Alum:
I should note that Brandeis students tend to be overachievers (double majoring is the norm, triple majoring is not uncommon) so many students will take Prof. Hindley for an easy class. Prof. Hindley may have been a great professor 30 years ago (I have no idea), but he is definitely past his prime, and I think that the university wanted to get rid of him. I think that it is interesting that the university now says that the case is "closed." I do not know if Prof. Hindley took the diversity class that he was supposed to take (he initially said that he wouldn't take it). They probably could have used this as an excuse to fire him, but this bad publicity probably changed their plans so they are trying to sweep this under the rug without admitting that they were wrong.
1.29.2008 11:55pm
I posted this in another thread, though I'll re-post it here given the thread title:

I'm a senior at Brandeis, and my feeling is that the administration was using this as an excuse to nail Hindley. The guy is very old and has been around forever; I don't think he's published much lately and my feeling is that they want to make room for someone else. I took a class with him and it was obvious that he wasn't very fond of Jehuda Reinharz (the university president) so he may have had some run-ins with the administration in the past.

Also, I don't see how anyone could have taken what he said to have been offensive. In the class I took with him he did use some words that might be inappropriate/offensive out of context, but not in the way they were used in class. That's just part of his style.

It's really terrible that the university is embarrassing itself like this by taking advantage of a whiny student to silence an academic who, by any standard, hasn't done anything wrong.
1.30.2008 1:13am

I don't think he's published much lately

academic who, by any standard, hasn't done anything wrong.

1.30.2008 1:56am
Tony Tutins (mail):
Wow, according to "Jane," the prof's transgressions against "appropriateness" include digressing and talking about his personal life. Where will it all end?

Further, it's very likely the prof's reference to "wetback" was meant to describe racism, not advocate it. Pointing out that racists will call even a successful member of a minority group "ethnic slur" goes back at least to Malcolm X. ("What do racists call a black man with a PhD?" "N*gger") Hurtful words cannot be fairly appraised when taken out of context.

Maybe this no longer applies, but when I was in undergrad, for every course that was an easy A, there were two or three that were arduous Bs. Being given a little slack was a godsend.

Finally, I think every faculty has some tenured deadwood who hasn't done research or published in years. Seizing some pretext to dump them may be the only solution.
1.30.2008 11:45am
Another Alum:
I graduated in 95. This is just sad. I never took a Hindley Class, but I remember many an occassion when Jerry Cohen would use "the N word" in class. He loved to tell the story about how he was hung in effigy in the 60s with the word "Nigger Lover" on the dummy, and then he would say, "they called me a nigger lover, and you want to know why? Because I am."

But it was in context of the civil rights battles of the 60s, the taking over of Ford Hall, SDS, etc. I don't know if anyone ever complained, but hey, it's Jerry Cohen, so I doubt it.

I also took a bunch of classes with Prof. Burg. Good guy. I imagine he's stuck in the middle here.

I can't say I'm surprised about how the administration is acting. I don't know if it's because they want to get rid of Hindley, or if it's just typical PC hypersensitive Brandeis silliness. They probably thought that this is what the masses wanted, but read the tea leaves wrong.

I won't be giving to Brandeis this year. Maybe I'll give to FIRE instead.
2.1.2008 10:57pm