A professor who taught history this semester at Fairleigh Dickinson University made disparaging remarks about blacks and Jews on an Internet broadcast and is an active member of a group that calls itself “America’s Nazi Party.”
The university last week relieved Jacques Pluss of his classroom duties, but not because of his white supremacist views. Officials at the Teaneck campus said he missed too many classes.
Pluss said his membership in the National Socialist Movement, the largest neo-Nazi organization in the country, did not color his teaching. The derogatory remarks were made during a Web cast he hosts called “White Viewpoint” on the organization’s site.
“I do feel my First Amendment rights were violated because I hold unpopular views,” Pluss said. “It was my association with the NSM that brought this about.”
Officials at FDU, however, said Pluss was replaced because of the missed classes, about “four or five” this semester, but he won’t be allowed to return because of his views. They say his Nazi affiliations and white supremacist viewpoints didn’t come to light until after he was told not to return to class. Pluss has taught at FDU’s Teaneck campus since 2002. He formerly was a tenured professor at William Paterson University in Wayne.
“As they say in the Midwest, we were snookered,” said John Snyder, dean of FDU’s university college.
“It’s not politics, it’s hate mongering,” Snyder said. “It’s just hatred directed at the very students he taught. His position would be untenable on the basis of student welfare. It’s our job to see to it that students are treated with respect and security.”
On a show first broadcast on March 22, the day after he got the ax, Pluss said FDU “has traditionally been a heavily Judaized institution” that has now become dominated by minority students who “float their way through school on scholarships and fellowships that are paid for by our tax dollars. It is a school that has been singed -not just browned, but singed.”
He attacked basketball players attending FDU on athletic scholarships, referring to them with a racial slur.
“I have had many in my class of those on-scholarship, basketball players of ours who sit in the back of my classroom, all 6 feet 10 inches of them or whatever it may be, while they listen to their portable CD players with their earphones on.”
He also criticized minority students attending FDU because of affirmative action and financial aid. “We’re handing educations to people who are not capable by nature or by training,” he said. “They’re not capable of assimilating this education. Therefore, it devalues the education. And many of these minorities will graduate from the university with a toilet paper degree, as I call it.”
Snyder said Pluss was informed on March 21 that he was relieved of his teaching duties, but would be paid for the remainder of his contract through the end of the school year. The arrangement was made on the advice of the university’s legal department, Snyder said.
Pluss, 51, was an adjunct or part-time instructor. He was teaching one course this semester, History of Western Civilization II. Adjuncts are paid $1,500 to $3,000 per course, said Gretchen Johnson, spokeswoman for the university.
Pluss was a tenured professor at William Paterson from 1984 to 2000, when he resigned, the university confirmed. Stuart Goldstein, spokesman for the university, said he was unable to comment on Pluss’s tenure.
Pluss, who lives in Bergen County, said he has long been involved in training show horses and left WPU to co-own a horse farm. He has advanced degrees from the University of Chicago and Oxford and is an expert in dowry law. Since becoming a part-time instructor at FDU, Pluss has taught both undergraduate and graduate history courses.
Pluss said he believes that his political views had been discussed, and denounced, at a faculty meeting earlier on the day he was relieved of his course. But Snyder insisted the decision was made based on the professor’s attendance, and said he knew nothing of the faculty meeting.
Pluss said he was contacted by history department Chairman Faramarz S. Fatemi by cellphone on the evening of March 21. In a later radio broadcast, Pluss called the conversation “a cowardly Jewish plutocratic phone call.”
Both Snyder and Pluss said the instructor had received good student evaluations. And, indeed, students seemed stunned at the racist rhetoric on broadband.
“He never showed his point of view,” said Natalia Galbetti, a freshman in his Western Civilization class. Galbetti, who is from Brazil, said it was hard to square the anti-foreigner comments she heard on his Internet show with his conduct toward her.
“He was always so nice to me,” she said. “He knew that I was a foreigner. He definitely kept it out of the classroom.”
In his classroom lectures about World War II, Pluss focused almost exclusively on Nazism – Adolf Hitler, the movement’s rise in Germany in the 1930s and its beliefs, said Adam English, a political science major from Montvale. But Pluss never hinted that he admired Nazis, English said.
“Even though he was mostly focusing on that aspect of World War II, it didn’t disturb me whatsoever,” English said. “A lot of teachers have partialities to certain aspects of history. I just assumed that was his interest.”
What most bothered Galbetti and English was Pluss’s string of absences. He canceled two or three classes in a row just before spring break, English said, and at least one other class sometime earlier in the semester. Sometimes he didn’t give students any notice.
The dean said a replacement instructor, a doctoral candidate, was assigned to the class this week but that instructor has now asked to be replaced because of the controversy.
In a broadband broadcast this week, Pluss derided the new instructor’s ethnicity and belittled her questioning the students about whether they studied the Holocaust.
In a telephone interview Friday, Pluss said it is the university, not he, that was harming the students. “To change instructors on students in the midst of a term is an unfair thing to do to the students, especially when the professor is perfectly competent and unbiased in the classroom,” said Pluss.
He said he missed class only three times this semester and had called in to his department, as required, before each absence.
Pluss said he joined the National Socialist Movement in February and is active in the group’s “ministry of information.” He said he hosts “White Viewpoint” on broadband weekly and has done six or seven programs. The group’s Web site features swastikas and racist rhetoric and on Friday had posted a condemnation of FDU on its home page, saying the school had engaged in acts of “left-wing McCarthyism.”
When asked if he was a Nazi, he said “not in the sense of a 1930s Nazi, no.” When asked if he was a white supremacist, Pluss said that “white supremacist viewpoints are part of the movement and anyone in the movement will hold those viewpoints.”