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University Censured For Feminist’s Dismissal

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has censured the University of Judaism in Santa Monica, California, for its dismissal of feminist poet and liturgist Marcia Falk.

An associate professor at the small Conservative university since 1984, Falk was up for tenure consideration at the time of her dismissal. She had been teaching courses in literature and creative writing.

The association sharply criticized the secrecy surrounding Falk’s review. Contrary to AAUP guidelines and those of the university itself, Falk was never told the names of the professors who reviewed her work, nor was she ever given a proper chance to respond to the report’s contents before her tenure application was denied.

According to Jordan Kurland, associate general secretary of the AAUP the university’s anonymous review committee prepared a “highly negative report” on Falk for the university’s president, despite the fact that six outside individual referees consulted by the anonymous committee had written “very highly of her published work and strongly supported her candidacy for advancement.”

The AAUP report stated, “One has difficulty recognizing that the letters and the report are discussing the same publications and the same person.”

Falk says, “The AAUP report got it exactly right. I’m really concerned with the future of women and feminists in Jewish institutions.”

The university has called the AAUP claims “distorted and unfair,” but on the advice of its lawyers has declined to comment further.

Censure, which lasts at least until the AAUP’s next annual meeting in June 1989, can hurt a school’s reputation, said Kurland.

Falk is noted for her translations of the Hebrew Bible and for her feminist-oriented liturgy [see pp. 10-15], and the AAUP surmised that the university did not want a professor with her strong convictions on the faculty.

Falk, charging sex discrimination, is suing the university for $5 million. The American Civil Liberties Union has “committed to being involved in the case.”