Analyzing Maurice Eisenstein, Part One

I had no plans prior to the weekend to immerse myself into Maurice Eisenstein’s case against Purdue University Calumet and Yahya Kamalipour. However, the Chronicle of Higher Education published an article about Eisenstein (sorry, subscribers only), and I found myself spending the majority of the past three days reading and studying the text that can be found. It really is a fascinating and interesting case, and we can easily find the motivations of Eisenstein all over the internet, mostly from his own writings . I’ve also found further evidence for my claim that he is a faulty teacher. I don’t believe there is much merit in the effort to remove him from his tenured position, as Purdue’s expensive legal efforts have failed, but I don’t think he can hide behind the First amendment as a shield to prevent us from seeing he is an unethical college professor.

Unfortunately, the impetus for most all of Eisenstein’s actions and rhetoric can be found within the eternal conflict between Israelites and Palestinians. It’s unfortunate because the long history of violence there and stubborn refusal for consensus over sharing land remains stalemated to this day. I hesitate to even write about this conflict because criticism of the conflict is usually read as aligning one’s self on one side or the other. Eisenstein’s ideologies fall on the pro-Israel side, and he has attacked anyone that disagrees with him (or whomever he perceives as disagreeing with him) as being an anti-Semite. It is difficult to present one’s self as an intermediary in this global conflict, and the complicated clash can even be found on a smaller satellite campus of Purdue University in Northwest Indiana.

The blog article Eisenstein wrote which attacks Yahya Kamalipour supports assumption of Eisenstein’s aggressive ideology. After reading Kamalipour’s retort and Eisenstein’s original attack, I publicly responded to Eisenstein, accusing Eisenstein of being a bad teacher and suggesting methods for the university to counter Eisenstein’s pedagogy. A colleague sent me an e-mail asking that I reconsider my allegiance to Kamalipour. I was implored to research Mark Bruzonsky, who Kamalipour invited to speak at Purdue University Calumet (PUC). The assumption is that since Bruzonsky is an anti-Semite, this proves that Kamalipour is also insidiously anti-Semitic and Eisenstein might be justified in his attack.

I complied by studying Bruzonsky’s credentials and his daily blog. I could not find a recording of Bruzonsky’s speech at PUC, so I had to direct my studies of his ideology within his recorded rhetoric…and there’s plenty to form a studied opinion within his blog.

I will say that Bruzonsky is harsh and highly critical of Israel and Benjamin Netanyahu, but I don’t read Bruzonsky as being primarily anti-Semitic. He seems more to be an equal opportunity critic; if anything, he’s more critical of the United States and Obama with our involvement in the rest of the world. I don’t necessarily disagree with many of Bruzonsky’s criticisms, as America’s recent history in the world resembles a war-mongering nation. Unfortunately, George W. Bush’s presidency grossly smeared our world reputation, and I don’t blame foreign nationals for painting us as war-campaigners. Multiple drone attacks by Barack Obama’s presidency don’t necessarily improve foreign relations, either.

The situation with Israel and Palestinians is obviously a touchy subject, one that I hesitate to even broach, knowing the violence and bloodshed that has taken place there. I notice Bruzonsky has criticisms of Palestinian leaders also (though admittedly not the same number of articles he has that critique Israel). What probably bothers me most about Bruzonsky is how criticism of Russia and China seems to be light, or even promotional of these opposing nations. I will not say that I agree entirely with every statement of Bruzonsky (there were a few points where I raised an eyebrow), but the majority of his writing seemed to be kosher for critical foreign-affairs journalism. After reviewing Bruzonsky’s blog, he seems to be most critical of war, violence, and intimidation. His rhetoric is harsh and adversarial, but he seems to promote the underdog, to use sports analogy. Ultimately, I would like to have heard Bruzonsky’s PUC presentation to make a more educated decision on him.

After studying Bruzonsky, I turned back to Eisenstein’s rhetoric and explored his blog. Amidst his attacks and self-defense, we can find that Eisenstein’s distaste for Kamalipour is rooted in his invitation of Bruzonsky to the PUC campus. By Eisenstein’s own admission, he feels an injustice has occurred because a pro-Israelite speaker, Peggy Shapiro, was declined the opportunity to speak, prior to Bruzonsky’s invitation. Shapiro was invited by Eisenstein’s wife, Marie Eisenstein, who is co-chairperson of the Jewish Community Relations Counsel, a subsidiary of the Jewish Federation of Northwest Indiana. Eisenstein attempted to sponsor the speech at PUC, and it appeared the presentation was confirmed. After some mysterious meeting of the history/political science department at PUC, Shapiro’s invitation was declined, and the presentation was not allowed to happen. Shapiro herself wrote about her disappointment and confusion of the withdrawal of the invitation, and Eisenstein obviously holds a grudge because of this omission. We can assume that Bruzonsky’s presentation and Kamalipour’s involvement, as an Iranian, motivated Eisenstein’s attacks…it’s clearly a motivating factor, identified by Eisenstein’s own rhetoric.

To be fair to Eisenstein, I made sure to study Peggy Shapiro’s blog. If Bruzonsky’s rhetoric is inflammatory, then it’s only fair to analyze counterarguments. Shapiro’s rhetorical arguments are indeed incendiary, pro-Israelite, and anti-Palestinian, but her arguments are no less volatile than Bruzonsky’s. If anything, I found mostly rhetorical similarities between Bruzonsky’s and Shapiro’s arguments, but opposing ideologies within the different claims.

It might surprise Eisenstein to learn that I might agree with him on one point: Peggy Shapiro should have been allowed to speak at Purdue University Calumet. If Mark Bruzonsky is allowed to speak, then it is only fair to assume that Shapiro’s arguments could be presented in a public forum at the college campus. Students can make decisions for themselves about presented arguments, and there are usually opportunities for refutation at these public speaking engagements. If there is opposition to a person speaking on campus, students are allowed to protest en masse, as may or may not have occurred when Bruzonsky spoke on campus.

Campus decisions about who and about what can be spoken was a topic on Up with Steve Kornacki this past Sunday. There is quite a bit of hand-wringing about who is selected to speak at commencement addresses and other campus functions. Apparently, political affiliation extends now even to inane campus traditions and ceremonial student interactions. I agree that censorship is indeed a dangerous practice, and it is not one I would like to see extended to public intellectual forums on university grounds (I do not align public campus speeches with classroom lecturing, as I will write about at a later date). Kornacki and his guests explored the assumed importance of public speeches on campuses, and mostly belittled their function, seen as having little impact on students anyway. However, it was agreed in this forum that the decision to invite speakers is the university’s perusal, coinciding with opportunities for students to provide input (or protest for disagreement).

Herein lies the rub for Maurice Eisenstein. He may have a case of sour grapes about his own preferred speaker not having an opportunity to speak, but he cannot attack another faculty member because that professor’s preferred speaker did get a chance to speak. The decision to exclude Peggy Shapiro was made by his own department; Kamalipour’s sponsorship came from a different department, communications, within which Eisenstein has little input. Eisenstein’s frustration of what he certainly feels is the university’s reneging on his own sponsorship of Peggy Shapiro cannot justify his attacks on Kamalipour. Eisenstein’s impetus can be boiled down to little more than what we would find within the communications of a children’s playground: “How come he gets his way, but I don’t?” (To be fair, I basically did the same in my own fashion in this blog posting.)

Attacking Yahya Kamalipour is unjustified. Eisenstein characterizes Kamalipour as anti-Semetic because of his choice of sponsoring Bruzonsky. This is a tremendous leap, and it is guilt by association. Too many assumptions of Kamalipour are reported by Eisenstein because of Bruzonsky’s speech on campus. As Eisenstein had not interviewed Kamalipour or properly researched him prior to his attack-laden blog, Eisenstein has potentially committed libel with his ad hominem rationale. As PUC professor Colin Fewer has chaired a panel to explore Eisenstein’s libel, Fewer is now included in Eisenstein’s character assault. I would prefer to assume Eisenstein’s attacks are fueled mostly by his indignation at Peggy Shapiro’s omission from public speaking; however, I suspect Eisenstein may also be motivated by intolerance against Palestinians, or those with Islamic faith generally, or simply those who align against what he perceives as necessary, complete support for pro-Israel sentiment. His vitriol does characterize him as possessing these prejudices, but I would like to believe that Eisenstein is merely jealous of Kamalipour. This is reason enough to be weary of Eisenstein’s credibility as college professor. If he is indeed letting his prejudices drive his methodology, then this is a much more egregious case against a college professor who has been charged with educating students at PUC.

Eisenstein has created two strong cases that we can point to concerning his unethical behavior as a college professor. Today, I pointed out how his attack on Kamalipour is unjustified, as he has primarily used evidence of an ad-hominem, guilt-by-association fallacy, unduly connecting Yahya Kamalipour and Mark Bruzonsky. At a later date, I will analyze the second case I’ve found and scrutinize his rhetoric to question his validity as college professor.

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