Open letter in support of professor Terri Ginsburg; appealing to N. Carolina Supreme Court

Terri Ginsberg was a visiting film studies professor at North Carolina State University when she was dismissed after sharing views critical of Zionism and the state of Israel. (You can read prior coverage of her case in Muzzlewatch, the Electronic Intifada and in Ha’aretz). She filed a grievance with the university, which denied her a hearing – three times. So she took her case to the courts. Two lower courts have decided against her, and she is now appealing to the Supreme Court of North Carolina.

In the words of an open letter co-sponsored by The British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP), the Center for Constitutional Rights, JVP-Westchester and others:

At North Carolina State University, shortly after Dr. Terri Ginsberg made supportive political comments at a screening of a Palestinian film in 2007, she went from being the favored candidate for a tenure-track position to being denied even an interview. Her efforts at redress were summarily rejected by NCSU and two courts.

A jury should be permitted to decide whether NCSU’s real reason for firing Dr. Ginsberg was its hostility to her political views, but this legal right has been denied.

You can sign the letter here.

While the judgments against Ginsberg have been disappointing and frustrating, the litigation process forced the university to go on record citing their suppression of Ginsberg’s free speech. As Ginsberg writes in her blog,

The case entered litigation in December 2009. In May 2010, the parties underwent a mediation hearing mandated by the State of North Carolina at which no settlement was reached. A week of depositions followed, during which NCSU admitted that it suppressed my speech critical of Zionism and supportive of the Palestine liberation struggle while I was under its employ as a visiting professor, and that it chose not to interview or hire me for a tenure-track position because of my scholarship focusing on Palestine/Israel, the Middle East, and the “Jewish.” Amazingly, the University claims that it has the right to suppress, refuse and reject on the basis of these considerations!

Ginsberg’s Supreme Court appeal makes it clear that this case has implications on multiple levels: this is an issue of academic freedom, in which the university dismissed an instructor because they disliked their politics. It’s also a case of employee protections, or lack thereof, because it was Ginsberg’s politics, and not her performance, that led to her dismissal.

In her own words,

On December 20, 2011, we filed a Petition for Discretionary Review with the North Carolina Supreme Court of this outrageously cursory and dismissive  opinion (see new article in Associated Press). The petition argues that the Appellate Court decision, like that of the lower court before it, changes the standard of proof in summary judgment employment decisions, wrongfully preventing the case from a hearing before a jury. The ruling thereby eviscerates the academic freedom protections which North Carolina’s constitution provides, and gives employers carte blanche to discriminate on employment decisions. It also sets a bad example for other states in failing to protect the academic freedom of professors and, in effect, narrowing the scope of speech to which students may be exposed. [emphasis added.]

The news here is that Ginsberg is NOT giving up. The university has admitted that they objected to her views on Israel and Palestine. Ginsberg has lost her job and lost countless other job opportunities because of this experience, and young people in North Carolina and at other schools are missing the opportunity to study with this courageous scholar. But Ginsberg is fighting back. You can support her. Sign this petition.

- Muzzlewatch staff report