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Not a Fireable Offense

November 1, 2010

Lincoln University of Pennsylvania's administration further distanced the college from a controversial professor whose anti-Israel rhetoric and Holocaust denial have aroused widespread criticism, but said he could not be fired for his statements.

The remarks of Kaukab Siddique, associate professor of English and journalism, are "an insult to all decent people," and do not represent the views of the university, Michael B. Hill, executive vice president of Lincoln, said in a statement released Thursday.

Siddique stirred controversy when he appeared at a pro-Palestinian rally in Washington in September. He called the state of Israel a "hydra-headed monster" that should be destroyed or dismantled. This led critics to unearth past statements and writings that cast doubt on the Holocaust as a settled fact.

“I’m not an expert on the Holocaust. If I deny or support it, it doesn’t mean anything,” Siddique told Inside Higher Ed last week, before citing the work of Holocaust deniers and the need to examine both sides of an issue.

Hill referred to Siddique's status as a tenured associate professor, and added that the principle of academic freedom prevented the institution from acting more forcefully. "Like all faculty members, he is entitled to express his personal views in conversation or in public forums, as long as he does not present such opinions as the views of the university," Hill said. "Therefore, we cannot take action at this time based on the content of Dr. Siddique’s statements and opinions -- no matter how insidious they may be -- without undermining the principles on which Lincoln University was founded and the values by which we exist today."

On Tuesday, Joseph Torsella, chair of the Pennsylvania Board of Education, sent a letter to Lincoln calling on its administrators to investigate whether Siddique had used any university resources to disseminate his views, to report those findings to the state board, and to make a clear public statement repudiating those views.

Torsella also asked Lincoln's administration to investigate Siddique's fitness to teach "in light of his denial of the indisputable historical facts," he wrote. The standards needed to initiate such a review are high, he noted, but "Mr. Siddique’s misrepresentations of history are equally grave and consequential, and raise questions about intellectual integrity."

In Pennsylvania, any decisions about the competence of an individual professor are left to the university that employs him or her, said a spokesman for the board.

A spokeswoman for Lincoln said Friday that the university was still reviewing Torsella's request for an investigation.

 

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