(NEW YORK)— PEN America today called for the reinstatement of an Indiana University professor who was suspended after he reportedly failed to accurately fill out a form for a lecture involving an Israeli-American writer and activist, which the University subsequently denied. Dr. Abdulkader Sinno was suspended from teaching and advising student groups after the event took place without the university’s authorization. The University has alleged his conduct in the subsequent investigation lacked “credibility,” and raised concerns about the diversion of police resources and the impact of his Sinno’s conduct on students. 

The political science professor had acted as the faculty advisor for the Palestine Solidarity Committee, a registered student group. The university denied the group’s room reservation request, authored by Sinno, and the event with activist Miko Peled took place without authorization, with Sinno in attendance. The University adopted the major sanctions against Sinno without referring the results of the investigation first to a Faculty Misconduct Review Committee, as is required by university policy. 

In response Jonathan Friedman, PEN America’s director of the Free Expression and Education team, said: “It’s difficult to see this as anything but an extreme overreaction. While the university was right to investigate and make clear what rules were violated, the failure to follow the applicable faculty process was flawed, and the punishment – suspending him from teaching for his actions as a student club advisor – is excessive. This action from the IU administration flies in the face of established norms of faculty governance and deprives Sinno of due process. He should be reinstated to his teaching duties immediately.”

Sinno received a letter detailing his suspension on December 15, in which the university cited a “pattern of unethical and unprofessional conduct.” Over 300 faculty members have signed a petition stating that the administration violated a policy granting professors facing major sanctions a hearing before a faculty board. 

Sinno’s suspension comes amid questions of political pressure from a member of Congress. In November, Indiana University President Pamela Whitten received a letter from US Representative Jim Banks asking for information about how IU has handled allegations of antisemitism on campus, adding: “If IU administrators condone or tolerate campus antisemitism, the university could lose access to federal funding.”

In December, the IU administration also canceled an exhibition by Palestinian artist Samia Halaby that was set to premiere in February.

“It’s concerning that a legislator’s request to be tough on antisemitism has apparently been construed as license to sanction and censor,” Friedman said. “For the university to blatantly violate academic and artistic freedom following Representative Banks’ letter should concern anyone who cares about the intellectual integrity of our colleges and universities.”

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], 201-247-5057