Legal battle ends, “larger struggle continues” for professor denied tenure because of her politics

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 ( 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.




Is there any possibity that Teri has retained an ironic appreciation for the fact that a Ginsberg and a Finklestein are perhaps the most prominent cases of tenure denial for pro-Palestinian views? I believe Norman has prospered spiritually from his case, it elicited such an outpouring of moral support from his students and the academy. I hope that has been Teri's case as well.

In my brief letter to the chancellor, I hit on all three monotheist topoi: give the Jew who befriends the Muslims a Christian chance.


Not to minimize the disgusting behavior of NCSU, but it isn't true that Ginsberg was denied tenure. Rather, it seems, she was in a visiting non-tenure track position for a year and was being encouraged that it would become tenure track until, it seems, they didn't like her politics. Quoting Ginsberg from another statement:

"I was given strong indication the teaching professorship would convert into a permanent tenure track position."

"That I should apply for it and that I was a shoe in for that position. So I moved down from New York City, where I lived for many years to Raleigh, NC. Not long after I got there, a number of incidents occurred that led me to believe the conversion was not going to take place."

An academic department choosing not to convert a visiting position into a tenure track is their prerogative they don't need to justify as it is in a tenure case. So this is not the same as tenure denial and it happens all the time for various reasons. It is disturbing that this is being inaccurately reported as a tenure denial case which then becomes conflated with very real tenure cases were denied or attempted to deny because of criticism of Israel eg: Finkelstein or Abu el Haj and other actual tenure cases. Your article was circulated among many academics. Not getting the facts of these cases right or giving them clearly, can only be confusing and discrediting for those of us struggling for the kind of academic freedom Ginsberg was denied.
Accuracy is important, even if it is not as spectacular as an attention grabbing headline.


Although Jasko is correct that Terri Ginsberg was denied a tenure-track position rather than actual tenure, the rest of his commentary is evasive and corporate-minded. In fact, Dr. Ginsberg was subjected to what in legal terms is called an adverse employment decision that stemmed from discrimination and academic speech violations perpetrated by members of the NCSU film studies faculty search committee and other NCSU administrators who held influence with that committee. Dr. Ginsberg filed a grievance with the NCSU faculty senate, which recommended that she be granted a campus hearing, but then-Chancellor James Oblinger wouldn't allow it because 1) he lied and said Dr. Ginsberg filed her grievance too late, and 2) he claimed she had no right to a campus hearing because she was not a permanent member of the faculty. Both excuses were violations of Dr. Ginsberg's academic speech and labor rights. No university "is justified" in doing what it did to Dr. Ginsberg, and no court should have denied her due process, i.e., the constitutional right to have a jury decide whether or not the voluminous evidence she supplied, and the careful arguments supplied by her attorneys, justified her allegations. Jasko's response--which also ignores the evidence and legal arguments--suggests, on the other hand, that NCSU's denial of due process was normal and permissible, thus indicating his own lack of knowledge of the facts of Dr. Ginsberg's case as well as of U.S. law and social ethics.

Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).