Fairleigh Dickinson University last week dismissed an adjunct professor who is a leader of the National Socialist Movement of the United States, also known as the American Nazi Party.
The university says that it dismissed Jacques Pluss for missing too many classes. He denies this and says that he lost his job because of his political views. Pluss has taught for several years in the history department at Fairleigh Dickinson and was previously a tenured professor of history at William Paterson.
In an interview Saturday, he said that he became active in Nazi politics only in the last year. He is identified on the party's Web site as being in charge of the "Office of Information."
The Equinox, the student paper at Fairleigh Dickinson, reported that students who have taken courses with Pluss were stunned by the news that their professor was a Nazi, and that most of them said that they could think of nothing in his courses that suggested his political leanings. One student, however, was quoted as saying that in hindsight she could see things about his teaching that were unusual, such as an assignment that students write a journal from the perspective of a German soldier during World War II.
Pluss was teaching the History of Western Civilization this semester and was informed Monday that he was being replaced immediately, although he would be paid for the rest of the semester.
In an interview, Pluss stressed his academic credentials (a University of Chicago Ph.D. in medieval history) and his commitment to keeping his politics out of his teaching. "I never brought my beliefs into the classroom or shared them with my colleagues," he said. He said it would be "complete nonsense" to say that Nazis shouldn't teach at colleges.
"Many of us have political views. Some are mainstream, some are extreme, some are left and some are right," he said. "I just stick to teaching the material."
He said that that the assignment about the Nazi soldier was to write a short essay about the perspective such a German would have had during the Battle of Stalingrad. "I wanted to get across the point that war is war and all soldiers bleed."
Pluss said that he taught World War II "from all perspectives," declining to elaborate. During courses that cover the period of the Holocaust, Pluss said that he taught about the "ghastly event" in a way similar to most professors. Asked if he believed that the Nazis had killed six million Jews, Pluss declined to comment.
He also declined to elaborate on quotations in The Equinox, from an interview he gave that paper and from radio shows, but he said that the quotes were correct. Among those comments, he called Fairleigh Dickinson a "heavily Judaized institution" that had taken "the typical Jewish, lawyerly, Hebrew line" in dismissing him. The Equinox also said that he used racial slurs to describe black basketball players at the university.
In the interview with Inside Higher Ed, Pluss said that his views were consistent with the platform of the National Socialist Movement. That document, among other things, calls for stripping U.S. citizenship from anyone who is Jewish, gay or not white. The Nazi Web site also features photographs of Hitler, drawings of marching Nazi soldiers, photographs of American Nazis in their uniforms, and images of the U.S. flag.
Fairleigh Dickinson officials were not available for comment over the weekend. But John Snyder, a dean at the university, told NorthJersey.com that Pluss was dismissed for missing too many courses, not his views, which Snyder said the university only learned about this week. But Snyder was also quoted as saying that Nazi views made it impossible for Pluss to ever receive another teaching assignment.
"It's not politics, it's hate mongering,'' Snyder said. "It's just hatred directed at the very students he taught. His position would be untenable on the basis of student welfare. It's our job to see to it that students are treated with respect and security."