Columbia College Chicago Is Accused of Violating Academic Freedom

The Illinois Conference of the American Association of University Professors this week accused Columbia College Chicago of violating the academic freedom of an adjunct faculty member who teaches a course about the conflict between Israel and Palestine, in a dispute that stems from what the AAUP said was the college’s decision to cancel a section of his course after a student complained that the instructor was biased.

The college asserted that it was a strong supporter of academic freedom and said the dispute stemmed from demands involving scheduling and enrollment.

The AAUP aired its grievances in a letter to Louise Love, the college’s vice president for academic affairs and interim provost. The letter stated that the adjunct, Iymen Chehade, last fall learned that he was the subject of a student complaint alleging that he had presented the material in his course in a biased manner.

The complaint was said to have followed the screening of Five Broken Cameras, a documentary film about nonviolent Palestinian resistance in a village on the West Bank.

The AAUP said that Mr. Chehade had had an “adversarial” meeting with the chair of the department and that a second section of his course was canceled days later. The AAUP described those developments as “linked events” and said Mr. Chehade’s academic freedom had been violated.

In a written statement to The Chronicle, the college objected to the AAUP’s conclusions and said it strongly supported academic freedom.

“This dispute unmistakably involves scheduling and enrollment demands,” the college’s statement said. “We firmly support academic freedom, and the AAUP failed to produce any credible evidence to suggest otherwise. The college is disappointed that the AAUP relied solely on information from one party rather than gathering facts in a thorough and deliberate process commensurate with a charge of this magnitude.”

The college also said it regretted that the AAUP had “intervened in a pending labor-relations matter involving a unionized part-time faculty member.”

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