The North Carolina Supreme Court won’t consider a petition of discretionary review by professor Terri Ginsberg, who was denied tenure several years ago after her outspoken criticism of Israeli policies.
Ginsberg, a film scholar, has said that following her public criticism of Israeli policies, she endured immediate retaliation from the administration of North Carolina State University, where she was a professor of film studies. As I reported in January 2010, she was “punished with partial removal from — and interference in — duty, non-renewal of contract and rejection from a tenure-track position” in 2008.
Ginsberg and her attorney, Rima Kapitan, filed a lawsuit with the North Carolina Superior Court. In October 2010, the court dismissed the case in favor of NCSU’s decision to deny Ginsberg tenure.
Following the court’s ruling, Ginsberg and Kapitan filed an appeal in June 2011 to the North Carolina Court of Appeals. However, on 15 November, the appeals court dismissed the appeal and upheld the lower court’s ruling.
Not deterred, Ginsberg and Kapitan then filed a petition for discretionary review in December 2011. The petition asked the court to reconsider the North Carolina Court of Appeals’ affirmation of the November 2010 lower court’s dismissal of Ginsberg’s original lawsuit against NCSU. But this past week, the NC Supreme Court refused to consider the petition.
In a press release sent to The Electronic Intifada on 22 June, Kapitan said that:
The Court’s Order to deny Dr. Ginsberg’s Petition offers neither an opinion nor a reason for the decision. Dr. Ginsberg’s Petition was supported by an Open Letter sponsored by several national and international human rights organizations and delivered on February 7, 2012 to both the North Carolina Supreme Court and NCSU Chancellor Randy Woodson. As of its closure on June 22, the Open Letter had accrued 1274 signatures.
Kapitan also noted that the court’s decision to dismiss Ginsberg’s appeal review is “particularly troubling in the wake of Arizona’s recent outlawing of Chicano/a studies curricula in that state’s educational system, and as pro-Zionist groups in California are attempting to force California State University–Northridge to forbid mathematics professor David Klein from posting to his faculty website information about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in support of human rights for Palestinians.”
For her part, Ginsberg told The Electronic Intifada by email that this week’s decision by the North Carolina Supreme Court was not unexpected, given the history of North Carolina and NCSU’s positions on her case. She added:
The decision is troubling, however, on a number of levels. For instance the Court offered no opinion or reason for its decision. It simply affirmed the Court of Appeals’ wrong-headed decision to ignore the voluminous evidence I supplied of NCSU’s academic freedom violations. That sets a dangerous precedent by which academic employers may be given carte blanche to suppress the politically unpopular speech of their faculty, to the detriment of North Carolina students and to public discourse generally.
Although my legal options are now exhausted, the larger struggle continues.
I am grateful for all 1274 supporters who signed my Open Letter to the NC Supreme Court, which was delivered to the Court and to Chancellor Woodson last February. At this time I am encouraging everyone who shares my view that open discussion of Zionism and criticism of Israeli policy are crucial for helping bring about a genuine peace in Palestine/Israel to e-mail Chancellor Woodson (firstname.lastname@example.org) and demand that he reverse his predecessor’s decision to deny me my rightful and deserved campus grievance hearing (see this sample letter).
I would also encourage activists to place the issue of academic speech and freedom more centrally within their strategic and organizational platforms. After all, if we can’t properly inform students and the broader public about the history and current reality of Palestine and the Palestinians, our critical discourse and its effectiveness will continue to be limited by the parameters set by private interests and corporate media. In effect, although my particular battle has been lost in the official court system, my case and others like it in California, Arizona, and Illinois are coming to prevail in the court of public opinion, where such egregious violations of academic freedom will not be tolerated.