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US university fires professor for optional assignment on Gaza 'genocide'

'If faculty and staff are not protected from the swift and severe reprimand of this university, students most certainly are not either,' says Dr. Anne d'Aquino

08:51 - 11/06/2024 Tuesday
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Illinois-based DePaul University has fired a now-former adjunct Biology professor for offering students an optional lesson on the health impacts of the Gaza "genocide."

Protesters have been demonstrating Dr. Anne d'Aquino's dismissal on campus in Chicago, and an appeals board unanimously ruled that her firing was a violation of her academic freedom, according to CBS News. DePaul Provost Salma Ghanem will issue a final decision.

The firing stems from d'Aquino's teaching of Health 194, Human Pathogens and Defense, in May. The class syllabus said instruction would seek to explore the the real-world applications of microbiology research, specifically with an eye toward current events.

She offered students an optional assignement to explore what she called "the impacts of genocide on human biology."

Speaking at a student rally last Thursday, d'Aquino said her case is a reminder "that if faculty and staff are not protected from the swift and severe reprimand of this university, students most certainly are not either."

Administrators had sought to argue that the assignment was unrelated to the course, a claim disputed by d'Aquino, according to CBS.

"For months, scientists and physicians have been warning about the spead of infectious diseases in Gaza due to starvation, malnutrition, overcrowding, destruciton of critical water and saitation infrastructure," she said at last week's rally.

A petition with over 1,500 student signatures demanding her reinstatement was hand-delivered to administration last week.

A letter from the American Association of University Professors said her "summary dismissal" was was taken "in contravention of normative standards of academic due process."

"In addition to our concerns about the apparent absence of academic due process, we have concerns about the stated basis for Professor d'Aquino's dismissal," Dr. Anita Levy, the association's head of academic freedom, wrote in a letter to the Ghanem and other administrators.

"Assuming the essential accuracy of what we have stated in this letter, we urge that the DePaul University administration rescind the notice of termination issued to Professor d'Aquino and that any further action it proposes to take against her be consistent with the applicable procedural standards," she added.

DePaul said in a statement to Anadolu that d'Aquino "has initiated an appeal, as is her right under the Faculty Handbook."

"That process is currently underway and will be completed soon. The university is adhering to the appeal process outlined in our Faculty Handbook and overseen by our Faculty Council," it added.

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#DePaul University
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9 days ago