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Letter to the Editor: Response to coverage of Karl Eikenberry’s appointment

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As individuals quoted in “Saving Karl Eikenberry,” we write to set the record straight. To start, the headline is just wrong.  The article describes the Northwestern administration not saving the appointment of Ret. Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry. As the story unfolds, readers encounter faculty and students saving Northwestern from an appointment that Provost Dan Linzer now admits occurred inappropriately.

Second, the story omits information readers need in order to understand why we were so disturbed by Faculty Senate President Ed Hughes creating a one-sided information packet for a surprise April 6 motion supporting Eikenberry. The article ignores Eikenberry’s deeply disturbing statements on behalf of the Rwandan government and its military, and that Hughes prevented Professor Jacqueline Stevens from sharing this.

We believe Eikenberry’s reported efforts and laudatory statements about a regime the U.S. State Department unequivocally has condemned for assassinating and disappearing journalists and dissidents further illustrates conflicts of interest between the Buffett Institute as a site of independent research and Eikenberry’s odd alliances. Eikenberry will not respond to inquiries about payments from Rwanda or other firms lobbying on its behalf. If the Faculty Senate had access to details of Rwandan soldiers’ claims of Eikenberry’s commitment to procure military training packages, would they have been sanguine about Eikenberry’s refusal to distribute his CV and voted to support hiring him nonetheless?

Third, the article omits mentioning that at the May 4 meeting reviewing the legitimacy of the April 6 resolution, Hughes gagged Stevens and Professor Jorge Coronado, and rejected Stevens’ request to speak for just two minutes. Deprived of the information about what they would have heard April 6, the faculty could vote only on procedures, and thus Hughes continued to hide from the senators the nature of Eikenberry’s entanglements. Moreover, while noting the 32-5 vote affirming the appointment, taken under the watchful eye of the Provost, The Daily article omits reporting the much closer May vote on overturning the resolution, with 14 Senators endorsing this and 24 opposed.

Fourth, the reporters failed to press Provost Dan Linzer on two dubious claims: first, that someone in the Office of General Counsel (OGC) told him Eikenberry might sue for defamation the students who wrote the ASG resolution opposing his appointment; second, that Linzer was concerned about the students’ safety. Why has Linzer refused our request to name the attorney, to confirm this actually occurred?  (Stevens ran the resolution by a renowned expert on First Amendment law who said it was completely fine.) And let’s say there really is an NU attorney whose incorrect analysis prompted Linzer’s concern about the students’ “safety.” Why weren’t these concerns conveyed in a professional fashion to students Matt Herndon (SESP) and Neha Reddy (WCAS) directly days earlier, and not via the ASG President just minutes before they were to speak?

Finally, the headline’s allusion to “Saving Private Ryan” equates those opposing Eikenberry with Nazis, from whom Private Ryan needed saving. To his credit, the one person who knew what was on Eikenberry’s CV and that his record there and elsewhere was inconsistent with the position to which he had been appointed, was Eikenberry himself. We believe his refusal to release his CV speaks volumes. We wish that The Daily had reported on why a Provost would refuse to release a CV for someone the University had appointed to such an important position while NU publishes its faculty CVs online through a commercial vendor.

Since the article appeared we have had an opportunity to hear and see Eikenberry for ourselves.  Eikenberry’s analyses clearly lack the independence from the U.S. military necessary to run NU’s premiere institute for global research, the expertise for which requires scholarly credentials and a global perspective, not occupying foreign countries, Eikenberry’s recent comments to the Washington Post notwithstanding. Eikenberry’s claim there that opposing hiring him is “an affront to any veteran” is jingoistic nonsense.

If Northwestern Hospital fails to hire Eikenberry as a brain surgeon because he lacks a medical degree and has spent 35 years planning military operations, would this also be an affront to veterans? Is the fact that he personally witnessed brain damage and even helped create it a good substitute? Veterans, including Robert Lamont of Veterans for Peace, are on record opposing Eikenberry’s hire. Stevens spoke at an NU art event sponsored by the Tea Project, co-organized by Aaron Hughes, an Iraq War veteran with an NU masters degree who called his enlistment “naive” and opposed the Eikenberry hire. Perhaps, many veterans share our distaste for the yes-men entourage we saw accompanying Eikenberry on campus, and the simplistic, nationalist analyses they find persuasive.

In recent weeks Linzer sent an email to Buffett faculty suggesting a more collaborative search for the Buffett Executive Director; we appreciate this and are confident that together we will find the right person for our institute and our university.

Signed,

Jacqueline Stevens
Professor, Department of Political Science
Director, Deportation Research Clinic, Buffett Institute

Jorge Coronado
Chair and Associate Professor, Department of Spanish & Portuguese Co-Director, Andean Cultures and Histories, Buffett Institute for Global Studies

Michal P. Ginsburg
Professor of French and Comparative Literature

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