Coalition calls for Koocher’s removal as DePaul dean

Gerald_Koocher-2013_11
A coalition is calling for College of Science and Health Dean Gerald Koocher’s removal. They will hold a press conference Oct. 1 at 9 a.m. (Photo courtesy of DEPAUL UNIVERSITY)

A coalition of student groups, faculty, alumni and human rights groups are calling for the removal of Gerald Koocher as dean of the College of Science and Health amid the continued controversy over his role in the American Psychological Association (APA) when it colluded with the Department of Defense during the Bush Administration.

The formation of the coalition, which includes student organizations such as Feminist Front, Men of Vision and Empowerment (MOVE) and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), is another indicator of the pressure both the university and Koocher are under after the release of the 543-page Hoffman Report in July.

The coalition will meet at 9 a.m. Thursday in front of the southwest corner of DePaul’s Student Center in Lincoln Park to hold a press conference to call for Koocher’s removal. The group released a press release Wednesday, announcing their intentions.

The report found that Koocher played a significant role as the APA board liaison for the Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS), the group tasked with creating ethical guidelines for psychologists involved in the interrogation of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. According to the report, Koocher act as an enforcer of sorts by dismissing opinions that did not agree with his own, most of which were in line with the interests of DoD.

more2In addition, while Koocher was found not to have known about torture taking place, the report said that he did not act to investigate claims despite media reports of such abuse and other allegations that were later found to be true.

Joining the student groups are human rights groups such as World Can’t Wait and Voices for Creative Non-Violence as well as prominent emeritus law professor M. Cherif Bassiouni, who taught at DePaul for more than 40 years. Bassiouni is the former president of and one of the founders of the International Human Rights Law Institute, which is based out of the College of Law. He also served as a commencement speaker last year.

“Torture is an international crime and anyone who aides and abets the commission of torture is criminally responsible,” Bassiouni said in a press release. “More importantly, it violates the fundamental values of humanity. And it is incumbent on all of us that believe in these values to make sure that those who violate them do not escape accountability.”

Many faculty expressed frustration with the Koocher situation in a closed session of the university’s Faculty Council meeting earlier this month and in interviews with The DePaulia. Faculty in CSH have described a culture of fear and intimidation in the department under Koocher’s leadership.

While Koocher recently held a Q&A session with faculty to try and address their concerns, many left the room with their opinions unmoved. An online petition seeking Koocher’s removal as dean has more than 500 signatures, with many describing themselves as DePaul students, alumni, or psychology professionals.

The university, however, has largely stood by Koocher throughout the past few months.

At a recent Student Government Association meeting, Vice President for Public Relations and Communications Cynthia Lawson, when asked about the situation by an SGA senator, compared it to a game of basketball.

“Hindsight is always great. How many of you watch football? How many of you watch basketball? Do you ever, after you watch it, the reruns, say, ‘They should have. They could have, had they done this,’” Lawson said.  “But you make the decisions based on the information that you have at the time. And so if you don’t have the information, you make decisions based upon the information that you’ve got. Have you ever made a decision where you found out later, if you had additional information, you might have decided to do something different? And I think that’s what Dean Koocher would tell you.”

Also participating at the press conference will be Northwestern professor Frank Summers who also served as a past president of the Division of Psychoanalysis in the American Psychological Association.