Officials with the Thomas More Law Center say they have filed a formal complaint challenging the accreditation of the National Defense University after officials there disciplined an instructor for teaching an approved course on Islam.
The law center said the complaint was filed with the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, which accredited NDU as a degree granting university, and the organization confirmed a preliminary review was launched.
TMLC said its complaint “provides overwhelming evidence that several NDU and Department of Defense (DoD) policies relating to academic freedom were violated when Lt. Col. (LTC) Matthew Dooley was removed from his teaching post as a result of demands by Muslim organizations that all training materials offensive to Islam be purged and instructors using the materials disciplined.”
Richard Thompson, law center president, said, “The actions taken against LTC Dooley are astonishing. NDU’s own policies recognize that academic freedom is essential to the integrity of the university classroom setting as well as U.S. national interests. In fact, the Department of Defense had specifically directed the National Defense University to establish a climate of academic freedom within the university, with the directed purpose to foster lively, classroom debate in the examination of national security issues. Contrary to these established policies, NDU and DoD have subsequently gone on to violate their own rules in handling this incident concerning the ‘Islamic Radicalism’ elective.”
TMLC also asked the commission to conduct its own confidential on-site interviews of NDU faculty members to determine the extent to which academic freedom has been diminished and what measures should be taken to insure the future integrity of NDU as a university.
Dooley had been assigned, as an instructor at the NDU, to teach “Perspectives on Islam and Islamic Radicalism.”
But when Muslims complained, it was no less than Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, who publicly criticized Dooley, characterizing the course Dooley has been assigned to teach as “against our values.”
His criticism “was in stark contrast to the glowing reports from those who witnessed LTC Dooley’s abilities as an instructor first hand, namely, his students and superiors at NDU,” the legal team said.
“Clearly, the inaccurate prejudicial narrative that was permitted to persist against LTC Dooley clashes with the positive narrative, voiced again and again, by the students who were actually in Dooley’s classroom and by his immediate superiors at NDU who witnessed his teaching methods.”
The lawyers noted that after Dooley was dismissed and given a bad review, other faculty members at NDU began voicing concerns about academic freedom there, because the NDU policy assures “freedom to pursue and express ideas, opinions, and issues germane to the university’s stated mission, free of limitations, restraints, or coercion by the University or external environment. Academic freedom is the hallmark of an academic institution.”
Dooley is a 1994 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy and had received commendations for exemplary service over nearly 20 years of service.
Dooley is now engaged in the first stage of a two-pronged effort to exonerate himself and restore his career. Right now, he is appealing his negative officer evaluation in the military legal system, but Thompson said that effort is unlikely to succeed since Gen. Dempsey is publicly on the record supporting the negative review. So Thompson and Dooley are preparing a federal lawsuit to reverse the negative review based on Dooley’s free speech rights and the academic freedom provided through the university. Thompson said complaints about teachers or courses at National Defense University are normally handled by the provost. In this case, the provost was never involved since Gen. Dempsey acted so quickly.