Pa.-based Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has sent a letter to PUC's chancellor exhorting him to halt a disciplinary investigation of professor Maurice Eisenstein for what the group called harassment because of Eisenstein's expression of political and religious opinions online. The group's letter is dated Jan. 24.
In his own Feb. 12 email to a group of Indiana legislators, the political science professor contends the university is trying to teach him a lesson and curtail his freedom of speech.
Eisenstein said he has been under investigation since November by university officials for comments he posted on his Facebook page months ago about Muslims killing Christians in Nigeria.
About two dozen Purdue University Calumet students protested for two days in November, calling for the associate professor's classes to be boycotted and for him to be dismissed.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education letter to Chancellor Thomas Keon said, in part, "do not let your students abuse the university's disciplinary process in order to interfere with the free personal expression and academic freedom of one of your own professors. Please spare the university the embarrassment of fighting against the Bill of Rights, by which it is legally and morally bound."
The letter was written by Adam Kissel, FIRE's vice president of programs. Kissel did not return Times calls for comment. FIRE asked the university to respond by Feb. 14.
Keon allegedly sent a letter to FIRE late Tuesday saying the university "respects the organization's advocacy in support of U.S. Constitutional principles" but declined to discuss Eisenstein with members of FIRE. The letter said the university would communicate directly with the professor. The letter, which FIRE sent to Eisenstein and which Eisenstein released to The Times, also outlined the school's anti-harassment policy.
Purdue Calumet spokesman Wes Lukoshus later released a statement saying: "Purdue Calumet is committed to academic freedom, as well as freedom of speech, as stated in Purdue University's Anti-Harassment Policy. That expressed and consistent with university regulations, we do not discuss publicly matters of a personnel nature."
Eisenstein said he is being unjustly investigated for harassing others by his speech. In his Feb. 12 email to state lawmakers, Eisenstein asked them to inform Purdue University that violations of the U.S. and Indiana constitutions by administrators (who, he noted, are quasi-state employees) will not be tolerated by a state-funded institution.
"They have talked about what I have said on Facebook, in blogs, what students said I said from years ago, even a semester ago," he said. "Everything is under investigation, and they are not allowed to do that for a number of reasons."
Eisenstein said Purdue policy calls for complaints to be investigated within 120 days of the incident. He said it appears university officials are piggybacking everything on the Facebook comment.
Eisenstein said the university "missed the point of FIRE's letter and my communication." He said there never should have been a question of harassment but instead a determination of free speech.
"Now the administration is refusing to discuss my issue," he said. "They are doing what universities do when they want to teach someone a lesson. They are still after me. They are not recognizing the Constitution of the United States."