Time to Fight Back: Statement from Legal Counsel in Support of Professor George Ciccariello-Maher

Time to Fight Back: Statement from Legal Counsel in Support of Professor George Ciccariello-Maher

June 4, 2017: The Abolitionist Law Center, together with Eisner & Dictor, P.C. have been retained by tenured Professor George Ciccariello-Maher as legal counsel for the purpose of defending him from the ongoing efforts of reactionary forces to pressure Drexel University to unlawfully terminate him. Following months of concerted harassment of Professor Ciccariello-Maher and his employer, including numerous death threats against Ciccariello-Maher, Drexel University has caved into pressure and convened a so-called “Committee of Inquiry” to review unspecified “conduct” of the Professor in light of unspecified University “policies.” In doing so the University has intimated that the Committee may recommend termination of Professor Ciccariello-Maher’s employment.

As the Professor’s legal counsel we have notified Drexel University that any termination of his employment would be beyond the authority of this Committee as it has been constituted in violation of the University policy requiring that discipline or adverse action against tenured faculty must “be carried out under the standards approved by the American association of University Professors (AAUP).”[1] These standards are set forth in the AAUP’s Statement on Procedural Standards in Faculty Dismissal Proceedings[2] and its Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure.[3] The Committee of Inquiry has not been formed and is not proceeding pursuant to these standards, and as such any adverse action against Professor Ciccariello-Maher would be patently unlawful.

To be clear: any adverse employment action taken against Professor Ciccariello-Maher in this matter will render the University liable for breach of contract.

Thus, we are demanding that Drexel University abide by its avowed commitment to academic freedom and cease the ominous and unjustifiable inquiry into his political speech and opinions. The mere formation of the Committee of Inquiry that is investigating Professor Ciccariello-Maher’s “conduct” to ascertain if any “policies” of the University have been violated represents a dangerous, chilling precedent for any academic whose opinions or modes of expression contravene political orthodoxies.

On Saturday, June 3, in response to a request that Professor Ciccariello-Maher address the Committee, we wrote the Committee and the Provost requesting information regarding the conduct being investigated, the policies at issue, and the AAUP standards being used. We informed the Committee of the following:

This is a very serious matter. In recent months, Professor Ciccariello-Maher has been the subject of a concerted attack by forces of right-wing revanchism, including hordes of neo-Nazis and white supremacists of the alt-right, Fox news, and Pennsylvania Republican Party State Senators. These forces are broadly aligned around a virulent and reactionary project of chauvinistic nationalism that is mobilizing racist, sexist, homophobic, and transphobic elements of society pursuant to a politics of scapegoating. Academic freedom and free speech are values to be protected with even greater vigilance in such an environment. This Committee must critically and fearlessly evaluate how Drexel University has allowed itself to be put in a position where it is enabling these forces. Anything less falls woefully far beneath the standards of academic freedom that are supposed to animate a democratic society.

We are heartened to see the emerging mobilization on behalf of Professor Ciccariello-Maher and look forward to working with his supporters and all the others who are mobilizing against the ceaseless rightwing attacks on public intellectuals who make principled and serious commitments to combating white supremacy, challenging police violence, struggling for social transformation, supporting movements for liberation, and fostering an ethic of solidarity. Make no mistake about it, Professor Ciccariello-Maher is being targeted because he has made such commitments, and we will diligently participate in the fight back on behalf of our client.

 

/s/ Bret Grote

Bret Grote, Esquire

Legal Director
Abolitionist Law Center

 

/s/ Benjamin N. Dictor

Benjamin N. Dictor, Esq.

Eisner & Dictor, P.C.

 

[1] Drexel University Tenure and Promotion Policy, § VII. Termination of Tenured Faculty.

[2] Accessible at: https://www.aaup.org/report/statement-procedural-standards-faculty-dismissal-proceedings.

[3] Accessible at: https://www.aaup.org/report/recommended-institutional-regulations-academic-freedom-and-tenure.