State Board of Education Chairman Joseph Torsella Addresses Lincoln Professor's Remarks

Oct 26, 2010, 18:01 ET from Joseph Torsella

PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 26 /PRNewswire/ -- Below is a letter sent earlier today by State Board of Education Chairman Joseph Torsella to Lincoln University President Ivory Nelson concerning recent remarks by Dr. Kaukab Siddique, an Associate Professor of English at the University.  Please contact the Board of Education office at (717) 783-6808 with any questions.

October 26, 2010

President Ivory V. Nelson, Ph.D.

Lincoln University

1570 Baltimore Pike

P.O. Box 179

Lincoln University, PA 19352

Dear President Nelson:

I am writing to express my deep concern about Professor Kaukab Siddique's continued association with Lincoln University, particularly in view of his recent and disgraceful public comments.

According to public writings and speeches, Mr. Siddique has characterized Israel as a "terrorist entity;" called for its violent overthrow; and peddled anti-Semitic propaganda ("the Jews…are a small minority in America, yet they have taken over this country by devious and immoral means"). Further, I am concerned about statements in, among other sources, the "New Trend Magazine" about Hezbollah and the Taliban that have been brought to my attention as purportedly authored by Mr. Siddique.

As a policymaker with responsibility for the academic expectations we hold for our state's public school students, I am especially troubled that Mr. Siddique has repeatedly denied the existence of the Holocaust—calling it a "myth" and a "story," and promoting the works of Nazi apologists as legitimate history.

If I have been misinformed, or any of the above reports are in error, I would of course welcome clarification.

Academic freedom and the system of tenure designed to protect it are critical elements of higher education. So a professor expressing personal opinions (even extraordinarily objectionable ones) on current events is one matter, and I understand the need to protect these expressions of speech. Denying the Holocaust—a tragic historical fact—is another matter entirely. It is especially troubling that the professor in question teaches at a state-related university, subsidized by state tax dollars.

In my view, Mr. Siddique's Holocaust denials go directly to his fitness to educate the students in his charge (particularly since I understand that he teaches, among other subjects, a course in journalism). As you know, state regulations (22 Pa. Code section 31.24(b)) governing institutions of higher education in the Commonwealth require that faculty "shall be… qualified to teach in their fields of specialization." While the standards for initiating a review of any faculty member's tenure at any institution are appropriately high, the falsification or purposeful misrepresentation of research data, for example, would certainly occasion such a review. Mr. Siddique's misrepresentations of history are equally grave and consequential, and raise questions about intellectual integrity.

In the interest of clearing the air around these unfortunate accounts, I urge Lincoln to:

1. Formally investigate whether Mr. Siddique is, in fact, "qualified" to teach in light of his denial of the indisputable historical facts;

2. Formally investigate whether Mr. Siddique has used ANY university resources (e.g., office support, email and computer system, research facilities) to convey his personal views or in support of his efforts such as "New Trend Magazine";

3. Communicate the results of those two investigations to the State Board of Education's Council of Higher Education at the earliest possible opportunity; and

4. Make a clear public statement repudiating the substance of Mr. Siddique's views and underscoring that they are in conflict with the university's values and mission.

As Chairman of the State Board of Education, I am proud of all the fine institutions of higher learning in the Commonwealth. But Lincoln occupies a special place in our state and nation—for its storied past, it exciting present, and its importance to our common future. For the sake of an exceptional institution, I urge you to take all necessary steps to resolve this matter swiftly.


                                                                      Joseph M. Torsella


CC:       Dr. Francis Michelini

          Chair, Council of Higher Education

SOURCE Joseph Torsella